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Car reviews - Toyota - Kluger - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
More contemporary styling. Versatile and spacious interior. Smooth ride. User-friendliness
Room for improvement
Diesel or hybrid engine option needed. Bottom-end performance of V6 engine. Lack of feel from electric steering system

15 Nov 2010

THE strengths of Kluger are its practicability, versatility and ease of use and it maintains these attributes with this upgrade while adding some value to the total package.

The interior features Toyota’s typical practical placement of controls and functions all in easy-to-find locations and within easy reach of the driver. The starter button on the dash is concealed behind the steering wheel and takes a bit of finding the first time, but you soon learn where it is.

The functionality of the interior continues as you work back through the seats with the second row spit-folding and sliding fore and aft to accommodate various passenger configurations.

The third row is split now too, so you can have one side as a seat making a six-seater and the other folded flat in to the floor to give luggage space.

Both rear seats are easily folded from either the second row or the tailgate door. The top-hinged tailgate also has an opening window for simple loading of goods to the back without opening the whole door. The rear door is power operated on all grades of Kluger.

This ease of use and flexibility make the Kluger a great family car but it isn’t what you’d call a driver’s car. It accelerates swiftly, the transmission shifts smoothly and it turns and rides as well as you would expect any family wagon to do. But push it hard and it does little to reward the keen driver.

The engine is tuned to give its best performance up high in the revs and deliver that 201kW kick but even with VVTi, the top end stick comes at the expense of bottom end grunt. It’s more of a sporting tune but it’s in a car that would benefit from more pulling power down low and in the mid-range.

The AWD Grande has a quoted fuel consumption of 11.6L/100km while all the other models in the range are quoted at 11.0L/100km.

Our drive was of an AWD Grande which rides on 19-inch alloys with low-profile tyres and it tours in comfort and with ease, delivering neutral handling with a small amount of bodyroll. But the electric-assisted power steering gives very little feel for the road at any speed.

The AWD model’s only concessions to all-road ability are its modest ride height, electronic traction control and hill descent control. Prado and LandCruiser remain the real 4x4 off-roaders in Toyota’s extensive line-up.

The Kluger is more of a people-mover with SUV looks and aspirations. It’s no genuine off-roader by any means and it’s certainly no sports SUV. It fills the void in the Toyota range left by the lack of a Camry or Aurion station wagon and like those two sedans it’s a vehicle that does its job with no fuss or fanfare.

Buyers of this style of vehicle aren’t likely to notice the lack of feel in the steering or missing grunt from the engine, but they will feel the cost of the fuel use of the V6 petrol engine if they want the efficiency of a modern diesel.

This is where Holden’s Captiva succeeds and why Kluger will continue to play catch-up to it and the Ford Territory if it delivers the potential it promises in 2011 when it, too, benefits from diesel economy and power.

Those same buyers will appreciate the great interior, quality feel and ease of use while Toyota’s Service Advantage offers the first six scheduled services for a $170 fixed price so you know what to expect for the first three years or 60,000km of ownership.

But these attributes won’t be enough to turn Kluger’s fortunes around in the face of more efficient competition.

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