Toyota’s 4WD and SUV range – how do I choose between RAV4, Kluger, Fortuner, Prado, LC200 and FJ Cruiser? Oh and Hilux and Landcruiser 70?
We explore Toyota’s 4WD and SUV range (one of the biggest on the market) to work out which one you should choose depending on where you want to drive. Do you need an off- or soft-roader?
LET’S START WITH splitting the range into three — SUVs for mostly onroad use, and 4WDs for offroad use, and utilities:
- SUVs – RAV4, Kluger;
- 4WD wagons – Fortuner, Prado, LC200, FJ Cruiser; and
- Utilities – 70 Series, Hilux.
SUVs vs 4WDs
The SUV range — RAV4 and Kluger — is definitely oriented to onroad use, and will be fine on dirt roads but much beyond that and they start to struggle as they lack low range, proper offroad electronics, recovery points and the like. The RAV4 is a five-seater, smaller than the 7-seat Kluger and not as well specified. It is however available in petrol or diesel, auto or manual compared to the petrol-only, automatic-only Kluger.
If you want to drive offroad, or start to tow larger trailers then you need to look at Fortuner, Prado and LC200, which are three very fine 4WD touring vehicles. Essentially, the difference is price and size. The LC200 is the largest, and one of the best towcars on the market with a good 3500kg rating, albeit with a very limited payload. It is large, very capable offroad, and a good cruiser onroad. However, that capability comes with a penalty on both price and size.
The Kluger and RAV4 are in general cheaper than the 4WD range, better on-road drives, more fuel efficient and have a range of features more suited to suburban daily duty life.
One question people seem to have is this:
Is the Fortuner a diesel Kluger?
Definitely not, despite the fact that Toyota seem keen to position the Fortuner as some sort of diesel alternative to the Kluger. The Kluger is a soft-roader, suburban family wagon full of family-focused features. It has little towing capability for its size (2000kg braked) and even less off-road capability, and is available only with a petrol-engine and automatic.
The Fortuner is a rough, tough 4WD wagon that happens to have seven seats, based on a design from 20 years ago. It can also work as a family wagon.
If you don’t intend to drive anything more adventurous than a dirt road then buy a Kluger. If you want a diesel Kluger then buy a Hyundai Santa Fe. If you want a family touring 4WD wagon then consider a Fortuner. If you want a petrol Fortuner then reconsider and buy a diesel instead; you really don’t want a petrol 4WD wagon these days but if you must, then the Prado is there for you. And the Kluger is a fair bit cheaper than Fortuner. You would need to drive hundreds of thousands of kms to recoup the extra cost in fuel efficiency.
The other question many people have is:
Should I buy a Fortuner or a Prado?
This is an interesting choice, because Prado and Fortuner are both very capable five-door wagon 4WDs and almost exactly the same size. Fortuner is 4795mm long, compared to the 4780mm Prado without door-mounted spare wheel (Prado is 4935mm long with door-mounted spare, another 155mm). Prado is 1885mm wide, Fortuner 1855, a difference of 40mm.
For many people the Fortuner will be all the Toyota 4WD they need, and it is certainly capable of driving anywhere a Prado will go. But for others there will be many reasons to buy a Prado. Here are some of them:
- Seven seats – the Prado’s seven-seat system folds down flat into the floor and is generally superior to the Fortuner’s.
- AWD – all Prados are all-wheel-drive, giving surety of grip. The Fortuner is not bad, and Toyota’s electronic aids are well designed, so this is not a major difference, but given the choice you’d opt for the all-wheel-drive system over part-time 4WD.
- Safety – higher spec Prados offer blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
- Base features – Even the GX Prado has keyless entry and a 220v socket, and alloy wheels, more than GX Fortuner.
- Luxury features – the top end Prados have lots of features such as moonroofs, coolboxes and heated seats. There is no Fortuner VX, Grande, Sahara or Kakadu.
- 150L fuel tank and door-mounted spare – both important features for offroad tourers, standard on most, but not all, Prados.
- Tailgate style – Fortuner has a one-piece lift up, Prado a one-piece that opens sideways. It’s a personal choice, but shorter people prefer the Prado.
- Offroad features – higher spec Prados have Multi-Terrain Select, CRAWL control and Multi-Terrain Monitor. These basically mean the Prado is easier to drive offroad rather than giving it extra capability. A Fortuner with a decent driver is going anywhere a top-end Prado is going, but the Prado will require less skill. All Fortuners have rear cross-axle lockers, but Toyota’s traction control is so good not having it is no longer the disadvantage it once was.
In many ways the Fortuner is a budget Prado. The Fortuner manual starts at $47,990 plus onroads for the GX, whereas the GX Prado diesel is $52,990 for five seats, or $55,490 for seven, and add $2000 for autos for both. Touring offroaders need to consider that a wheel carrier and long-range tank for the Fortuner would eat up a fair bit of that difference.
Are there any reasons to buy a Fortuner other than price? The other advantage the Fortuner has is towing. Prado tops out at 2500kg, whereas Fortuner is 2800kg auto, 3000kg manual. Prado fights back with a greater payload, provided you choose a low-spec diesel model that weighs around 2135kg as opposed to the Kakadu diesel auto which is rather porky at 2435kg. The Fortuner is not exactly a rocketship but is quicker than Prado as it has the same diesel engine but is lighter by around 100-300kg depending on spec, and that is reflected in slightly better fuel consumption figures.
A good way to start would be to consider Fortuner the default choice, then look at the list above and decide what features are worth making the step to Prado. Expect aftermarket support to be the same, especially as Fortuner shares Hilux underpinnings.
How does Fortuner compare to the Landcruiser 76 wagon?
It doesn’t really. The 76 is very old and not only looks it, but feels it. The 76 has next to no safety features, handles like a barge even when empty, has only five speeds so is noisy at cruise, luxury is defined as power windows, there’s no seven seat option and it is relatively thirsty as well as expensive. However, people love it for the pretty much unbeatable toughness, rugged bush simplicity, load carrying ability and 3500kg towing capacity.
There is also the dualcab 70 series, same comments apply. Toyota have however promised some minor safety upgrades.
What about Hilux vs Fortuner?
The Fortuner is basically a wagon Hilux, so this is the classic wagon vs ute choice which we will cover in detail another time. From a technical perspective the front end is the same, and the difference is the wagon vs ute rear, but also rear disc brakes and coil springs for the Fortuner in place of the Hilux’s leaf springs and drum brakes. Wheelbase and length are 4795 / 2745mm for Fortuner and 5330 / 3085mm for Hilux. Hilux can tow 3500kg braked, and is a little bit lighter so the dualcab has a payload of close to a tonne, much more than Fortuner.
In practice, this means the Fortuner handles and rides a bit better, offers seven seats and has an enclosed cabin. The Hilux is longer, less maneuverable, not quite as good offroad but has better payload, towing and bulk carrying — however you need to sort out the tub with a canopy and dustseal or perhaps a service body.
Who should buy an FJ Cruiser?
So many potential answers to this question but let’s run with anyone that doesn’t mind the relative lack of cargo room relative to Prado or Fortuner, the smallish, high set windows and the fact it is petrol / automatic only. The FJ is a great car, looks distinctive, cruises well and is superb off-road. It has a strong and enthusiastic fanbase in Australia.
The RAV4 and Kluger are SUVs ideal for those wanting such cars for onroad and dirt-road use. The Fortuner is your budget choice for offroad touring, with Prado as an option for those who want some extra features. The LC200 is the king of it all — brilliant offroad and for towing, very spacious but the most expensive and largest of the bunch. The FJ Cruiser is a niche market as it is smaller than the others, and the 76 wagon is for those who prioritise robust ability above safety, handling, price and everything else.