After landing on the Philippines shores back in 2014, the retro-styled Japanese SUV has created a mark in the society with its uncommon character and style. Inspired by the Land Cruiser 40 Series, the FJ Cruiser doesn’t fall under everyone’s umbrella of cars. Prior to its official release in the Philippines, the SUV was imported via gray market. But, since its inception in the country, it has garnered love and praise from the auto enthusiasts and has been able to build a special place in the hearts of locals. We at CarBay focus on evaluating what Toyota has to offer with this retro SUV.
After being displayed as a concept at the North American International Auto Show in 2003, the final production of this Toyota compact SUV came out for grab in 2006. Pronounced to run on difficult terrains, its styling and other structural underpinnings were shared from the popular FJ40 Land Cruiser. Finally in 2014 after the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), it was brought officially to the Philippines. However, it seemed too late as the SUV is already running on its final production cycle in Japan. None the less, it managed to create its own name in the market with sturdy appeal and unmatched off-roading capabilities.
One look at the Toyota FJ Cruiser makes it apparent that the brand’s design team has tried every trick off their sleeve to make it as hard and tough as possible to capture the attention of auto experts. Their efforts haven’t gone in vain they have managed to grant it a look that reflects power, strength and toughness from the word go. It’s bold and rugged character is good enough to mesmerize your senses at a cost of just one glance. Accounting for its nostalgic character are the protruding and stylish front fenders, contrasting white roof and a pair of circular headlamps that encapsulates inside an individual cluster of honeycomb front grille. The turn indicators come with an exclusive design that is placed beside the headlamps in a wrap-around fashion. Plus, its chunky C-pillar design, uniquely designed rear tail lamps and a big spare tire at the tailgate provide an ideal ending to this sturdy retro-styled road machine. 17-inch alloy wheels fitted beneath those plastic cladded wheel arches act as a catalyst for your off-roading purpose while ensuring the comfort quotient is intact at every point of time.
Dimension Wise, it can be regarded as a compact SUV, which might sound bit strange but that’s what we have on our hands. It is much smaller than its Land Cruiser Prado while a little longer than 5-door RAV4. But, it certainly helps the cause of adorning a tag of an off-roader by its considerable ground clearance of 224 mm and a wheelbase of 2690 mm.
The door configuration is pretty unique as well. It only has two main doors for the driver and passenger's entry while the rear occupants can get in via pair of coach doors. In addition to this, there is a large tailgate with the spare wheel mounted on it for an easy access to the trunk.
The exclusivity and retro-style have been carried over to its interior as well, which is good enough to fantasize you from the moment you step inside this SUV. The coolness, style and playful exterior appeal aren't just limited to the outside but the designers have done pretty well to carry that splendour inside too. The dash is vertical with controls and buttons placed ergonomically while the exterior color further grace up the inside atmosphere. The layout is similar to what we generally get in the trucks, but that doesn’t a matter of concern as far as the styling of the SUV is concerned. The young and fashionable interiors are on hands. The plastic floor is easy to wash and clean while there is a single layer of mats between your feet and the floor of the car. The mats are made up of cloth, which is again to remove and wash. The cloth isn’t hard and you can enjoy the journey bare foot if you like to. The knobs, controls, and buttons are quite chunky with nice touches. There is a triple-meter cluster above the dashboard, which further adds to the unique character of this SUV. The triple meters are the compass, the thermometer and the inclinometer that are quite purposeful and effective for the driver while on the go. The front windscreen is pretty flat, like in the case of trucks, which accounts for a clear vision of the driver.
The space it offers is suited for both, short height and tall people, whether it’s the front row or a rear bench you’d not feel uncomfortable at any instant. However, a thing of worry at the rear seat was its confinement. You might feel uneasy on long trips or journeys due the confined spaced back there, but that’s only for a few who suffer from claustrophobia. Apart from this, there is ample room for your legs, head and arms.
Entering the SUV is a bit of a task especially if you don’t fall in the league of tall people. Short height people would certainly face issue entering this SUV and hence due to this fact it is advisable to have your FJ Cruiser fitted with step boards. This would not only grant an uber-cool look to your tough road machine but would also help the cause significantly.
Talking about the storage, there isn’t much to talk about apart from the large 790 litres of cargo space, which can further folded down in a 60?40 configuration to enhance this limit to 1891 litres that are quite impeccable especially when you need to load it with your trip baggages and stuff for weekend getaways. Adding to this, there is a deep glove box and a bottle holder next to the gear knob helping your purpose. The doors don’t get any storage compartments for your knicks and knacks while the door panels get a flat design from inside.
Toyota development team has bestowed this SUV with a 4.0-litre V6 24-valve DOHC dual VVT-i engine that comes with the ability to churn out a max power output of 268 hp at 5600 rpm alongside a peak torque of 380 Nm at 4400 rpm. Mingled to a five-speed automatic transmission system, this SUV comes with an additional gear lever for transfer case allowing the driver to control between the Low, High 4WD and 2WD modes. The SUV is fun to drive on every possible terrain you can imagine. Be it paved surfaces or the surfaces that aren’t suitable for driving, in every situation, FJ Cruiser performs well. In congested traffic prone areas like we generally see in Manila, it is quite easy to maneuver, which we generally don’t see in most of the SUVs prevailing in the country. The visibility, cornering and comfort aren’t the issues for a person driving this SUV. Toyota has done every bit of it to make things easy from the word go.
While on the highways, the performance it shows is incredible again. It is stable, in control and nicely grips to the surface offering comfort to the highest quotient to the passengers throughout their journey. The lane changing is also up to mark. It is easy to cruise in an FJ Cruiser that underpins a reliable Land Cruiser Prado chassis. Lastly, what it is actually meant for that is off-roading. It is absolutely brilliant off the roads and guiding it through the most difficult terrains won’t be an issue at all. The Double Wishbone suspension at the front, 4-link with Lateral Rod at rear allied to sturdy 17-inch alloy wheels and a ground clearance of 244 mm, this Japanese SUV is an ideal machine to own. The spectacular splendour doesn't end here as its water wading capacity of 700 mm adds icing on the cake. Passing through uneven terrains sounds tricky to all of us and a jerky ride is expected but with the resources it has including all-terrains tires, suspension system, best in class ground clearance everything is done with ease. Adhering a large displacement engine, the concern remains for most of us is its fuel economy, but guess what Toyota hasn’t left us in middle of an ocean on this front as this SUV manages to yield out a considerable fuel economy of 6 Km/l in city while on highways this number goes up to 11.
Safety front hasn’t left unnoticed by the brand and has loaded it with features like ABS (Anti-lock braking system) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) that comes quite handy on surfaces aren't really good for driving. Dual Airbags, 3 point ELR seatbelts are there to help the cause both for the front as well as rear occupants. An Anti-theft system is also in charge of the security front of the vehicle.
After spending most of its life abroad, we can be thankful to JPEPA, which made a dream come true for many of the Filipinos to own an official FJ Cruiser rather than importing it through the gray market. Star in many ways, FJ Cruiser is definitely a worthy buy if you look to own a compact SUV with all the off-roading capabilities covered.