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Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser Prado - ZR 3-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Superb off-road technology and technical ability, interior presentation and comfort, towing capacity
Room for improvement
Expensive, lack of cargo capacity, ride compromise

9 Jul 2010

SOMETIMES introducing a niche model is a sound marketing move, especially when a manufacturer is trying to pump up its sales base.

Bring in a model that builds on its novelty – from whacky to wonderful, they all find a willing buyer somewhere, sometime – and hopefully they will be considered cool and exclusive. Niche models, if they succeed, tend to have a nice fat profit margin attached to them too.

The three-door version of the 150-series Toyota Prado slides into a three-door medium 4WD niche market peppered with heros and has-beens. The Jeep Wrangler has become a consistent hero with plenty of trendsetters still happy for a short-wheelbase slice of American pie, but Wrangler sales clunked into an unyielding and not particularly high ceiling some years ago.

More mainstream models such as the 2008 NS Pajero three-door is one of the segment’s has-beens, even though the vehicle itself was not bad. The Mitsubishi not only failed to ascend to its maker’s modest sales altitude but barely managed lift-off. Mitsubishi pulled it after barely more than a year.

Maybe Toyota has exactly the marketing might and brand name to pull-off a short-wheelbase revival. Or not, but it’s a pretty gutsy move.

The Prado ZR is in essence an abbreviated Kakadu (although featuring an abbreviated features list, missing Kakadu features such as the KDSS suspension and rear-seat entertainment), so it is well-specified, although Toyota displayed no generosity in pricing the ZR, which will put a $71k-plus dent in your savings once you get it on the road.

The interior is all glam, with beige leather everywhere and a nicely hewn from rock feel to the whole set-up. The step up to the cabin is not onerous and while the seats are a bit flat, they have padding that is about the right firmness and the seatback side support is not enveloping but you don’t feel as if you are going to slither around on the leather, either.

Clear and simple instruments and controls are a Toyota specialty, and so the Prado has big, clear buttons and controls, and the backlighting to the instruments gives them sharp definition.

With its high seating, large side mirrors and phalanx of cameras giving front, rear and side views – and 10.4-metre turning circle – the Prado ZR is a surprisingly versatile city vehicle

Climbing into the rear seats takes a bit of tail-wagging as you manoeuvre up and around the front seats to the back, but it is a minor inconvenience not atypical for a three-door vehicle. Once past the entry hurdle, passengers will find the rear accommodation plentiful.

The load area is not quite so generous, and it would be a squeeze fitting luggage for two let alone four on a weekend away. The seat-folding design doesn’t allow a great deal of front seat travel if you’re two-up and elect to fold rear seats for better luggage space, either.

The Prado doesn’t flop over at the sight of a corner but it is not the most responsive of tall-timbers SUVs. There is that safe, if somewhat cloying feeling of typical Toyota vanilla about it – not dangerous, not daring but dull. No shame in that, really, but if buyers wanted a sports car, then $71k would buy a good one.

The Prado three-door has a 3000kg towing capacity, but with its short wheelbase, load levellers and anti-sway devices would be needed to make the most of it. Without them, the three-door would develop a nervous twitch when towing heavy loads compared with SUVs with a lankier wheelbase.

The Prado might be big and boofy, but fuel consumption is light for something this size. We achieved about 10.0L/100km driving in a city/highway mix, although when testing the Prado with a van behind – the three-door has a 500kg advantage over the five-door model with its 3000kg towing capacity – fuel consumption rose to a more than 15.0L/100km average. The fuel tank is 87 litres, missing the auxiliary tank of the long-wheelbase Prado that bumps its fuel capacity to 150 litres.

The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel is a middle-of-the-road performer, not really having the smoothness, power or torque of the better engines in the class but neither is it a poor example.

The pause that is a signature trait of turbo-charged diesels off-idle is not the exasperating experience some can be, in the mid-range it is responsive and the 3.0-litre will rev quite willingly. It shoulders towing loads well also, and the smooth five-speed auto has a well-spaced set of ratios to keep the 3.0-litre on the boil.

The Prado three-door is a competent 4WD, is well equipped and comfortable and also has ample towing capacity for those who need it.

It is a nice adjunct to the Prado range for buyers who would like the safety of a mainstream Toyota purchase, yet want something a little different. Where it fits in the market – and for how long – is more the problem than the vehicle itself.

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