FJ Cruiser (2011-16)
Price: $27,000-$43,900 (approximate Glass’s Guide prices)
Fuel consumption: Expect 11.5-15.0l/100km in normal use and significantly more off-road. 95-ron petrol is specified.
Safety: Six airbags and stability control. No ancap rating.
Towing: Maximum capacity of 2250kg. Maximum ball load of 225kg.
The competition: Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, Mitsubishi Pajero.
The retro styling of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser gives it a point of difference and it will appeal to the buyer looking for individuality and serious off-road ability.
But that individual design means certain compromises, particularly in access and space in the rear seats and its rather high fuel consumption.
The FJ Cruiser only had one configuration in its five years on the Australian market. It’s a five-door wagon with a 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine, five-speed automatic transmission and heavy-duty dual-range 4WD, so there’s no diesel or manual option. Upgrades in March and October 2013 provided more standard equipment, CRAWL Control, a larger fuel tank and minor cosmetic changes.
Inspired by iconic FJ40 LandCruisers of the 1960s/1970s, the FJ Cruiser captures the nostalgic spirit in a capable, thoroughly modern vehicle. Styling is a blend of the old and new. Plastic trim inserts and the dash fascia have an old-style painted metal appearance, while water-resistant seat trim and rubber floor mats are practical for many lifestyle activities.
Although it’s a five-door wagon, the small reverse-opening rear doors can only be used after the front doors are opened. You’ll need to assess rear access and space for yourself, as owners’ comments have ranged from “a little tight but OK” to “awkward” and “almost claustrophobic”. The chunky body creates blind spots and the rear side windows don’t open.
The FJ Cruiser has the go-almost-anywhere capability we have come to expect from the LandCruiser family. It’s closely related to the well-proven Prado, with the same ladder-frame chassis, driveline and suspension. The 4.0-litre engine produces 200kW and 380Nm, and this strong mid-range engine torque and appropriate gearing are a big plus.
But a common complaint from owners is fuel consumption, which ranges from 11.5-15.0L/100km in normal use and much higher off-road, and that’s on a specified fuel grade of the more-expensive 95-RON petrol. A bigger fuel tank on later versions overcame its range limitations.
The FJ Cruiser has part-time dual-range 4WD, an electrically activated rear differential lock and switchable Active Traction Control. It also has better clearance angles for approach, departure and ramp-over than Prado.
Toyota’s well-controlled, long-travel coil-spring suspension set-up delivers a surefooted, comfortable handling and ride package, on sealed roads and dirt tracks. There are enough driver aids to help deal with difficult conditions but it is not swamped with the sort of electronic gadgets that blunt driver involvement.
Just be cautious of vehicles that have been extensively modified with heavy-duty aftermarket products.
Check the history
As part of the LandCruiser family, Toyota’s reputation is a good start. For a vehicle of this type, however, a good history check on individual vehicles is handy. Ask about not just servicing records, which are important, but also the way the vehicle has been used. While checking for accident damage and poor-quality repairs, look for scrapes, dints and bent components. Areas vulnerable to off-road damage include the exhaust, suspension parts and drive-shaft boots. Also check the air-conditioning operation.
FJ Cruiser has had four safety recalls. Although the issues should have been rectified on most vehicles, it is still worth checking with a Toyota dealer or Toyota Australia that they’ve been done on the one you’re considering.
Also be mindful that on a vehicle of this type, service, maintenance and tyres costs will be higher than for a family sedan.
RACV can help
All your motoring needs are covered at racv.com.au, where you’ll find insurance, finance (including salary packaging options), road tests and great consumer aids such as annual running cost surveys and car-buying tips.