NEW It began with the Mini, then came the Beetle and the Cinquecento or Fiat 500, and finally there was the FJ Cruiser, Toyota’s retro salute to the FJ45 LandCruiser.
It’s easy to dismiss such sentimentality as all style and no substance but the FJ Cruiser was more than a retro styling exercise.
It had to be because Toyota is rightly proud of its off-road credibility and building a model that couldn’t cut it in the company of such greats as the LandCruiser and Prado just wasn’t going to happen.
So, if you look past the oldtimer styling you find a proper off-roader capable of mixing it with the legends.
That’s because the FJ Cruiser was based on the Prado with the same underpinnings as the highly regarded off-roader.
It has the same full-time four-wheel drive with lowrange ratios to get up and over rocks and logs it might encounter deep in the bush.
Together with the goanywhere drive there’s also the same amount of ground clearance and the same wheel articulation from the coilspring suspension.
If there was disappointment, it was because Toyota only fitted the FJ Cruiser with a petrol V6 — still, it had some serious grunt with 200kW and 380Nm on tap.
The downside of the petrolonly option is fuel economy, which at 11.4 L/100km claimed average isn’t great.
On top of that you need to shell out for premium unleaded instead of the regular stuff the Prado uses.
There was no choice in transmissions either; Toyota specified only a five-speed automatic.
At first sight the FJ Cruiser appears to be a two-door wagon but on closer inspection you find it’s really a four-door with the rear doors working in conjunction with the front doors to provide access to the rear seats. NOW As it’s based on the Prado, there’s little that’s likely to go wrong with the mechanicals of the FJ Cruiser. The engine, gearbox and drivetrain are well proven and give little trouble.
Instead, focus on the underbody and the components under the car.
This is a capable off-roader, built with the intention of being used off the black top so it’s well worthwhile checking for evidence of off-road use. Not driving along the beach or a forest track but the heavy stuff, crawling over rocks and logs on tracks that are barely visible.
Look for bashed bodywork, bent brackets, flattened exhausts, split rubber bushings and seals.
Consider walking away if you find anything that suggests hard use, because there are plenty of other FJ Cruisers that have never been through anything more testing than the local school run.
There have been three recalls to be aware of. The first was in 2011 to check the side airbag sensor that could result in the side airbags being incorrectly triggered in a crash.
Another in 2013 related to cracks around the front seat belt anchorages in the side pillar. The concern was that the anchorages could pull out of the mounting panel in a crash.
In 2014 there was another to check the material and routing of the fuel tank breather hose (main to sub-tank), which could be affected by heat from the exhaust and leak with the possibility of causing a fire. OWNERS SAY
We’ve just done a trip around Australia in our FJ Cruiser and it did it easily. We climbed sand dunes, drove through rivers, went up steep climbs and clambered over boulders. Didn’t miss a beat.
I absolutely love my FJ Cruiser. It’s so nice to drive, the interior is beautiful and it’s so different from anything else out there.
I had misgivings about buying an FJ Cruiser after owning a Prado but I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s brilliant offroad, tows easily and we’ve had no trouble with it.
The FJ Cruiser looks amazing, the interior and exterior rock. It’s excellent.
My FJ Cruiser has surpassed all my expectations.
SMITHY SAYS More than a familiar face, the FJ Cruiser is a reliable and capable off-roader.