Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Toyota FJ Cruiser Family Car Review


A Burst of Fun for City, Suburb, Country Families With Kids

First introduced as a concept car at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota has been releasing a new FJ Cruiser model every year since 2007. Retro in style, it actually has its origins in the original FJ40 Land Cruiser that ceased production in 1984. Definitely reminiscent of the boxy shape vehicle body type that was so popular in the early to mid 1980s.

2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser that I test drove for this review

MBE partnered with Toyota for this post

Fun and practical. Rugged yet elegant. Playful but powerful. Retro and ultra modern all at the same time. These are just a few of the juxtaposed word pairings I'd use to describe the 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Based on the extended test drive Toyota provided for me to try this out, this SUV compact family friendly vehicle is most definitely a blast from the past, both aesthetically and to drive, whether you live in the city, suburbs or country.

See the newest model of the Toyota FJ Cruiser

FJ Cruiser Rear View

I took this vehicle for some drives around the rugged streets of Los Angeles where I live. We have hills, valleys, speed bumps galore as well as a surplus of pot holes in our neighborhood so this was the perfect place to do some city driving to test the four wheel drive which performed flawlessly. I also drove the FJ Cruiser on some of L.A.'s infamous freeways both at top speed (within the speed limit of course) and in stop and go traffic which unfortunately is a way of life here in the City of the Angels. I even took this peppy vehicle down to the beach to watch the sunset. I wasn't able to put this to the true test of taking it off road but everywhere else I drove it handled well.

FJ Cruiser Steering Wheel & Control Panel
FJ Cruiser with Four Wheel Drive System

On the outside the FJ Cruiser sports yesteryear features with lots of sharp angles -- think angular mid-century modern furniture to visualize this compact SUV's style. Built with a stocky body frame, some of the stand out design elements include a big bulky grill and headlight system in front with a 3-wiper windshield that's nearly stands up straight atop the dashboard. Above, the going-on-a-safari heavy pipe luggage carrier looks so stylish and equally practical for hauling luggage, ski gear or camping equipment on a road trip.

FJ Cruiser's bulky grill on the front end
Circular Mid Century Modern Headlights on FJ Cruiser 
Ready for a Safari heavy pipe roof rack

Check out the rear tail lights that are squared off and jut out of the back end, too. That little touch reminds me of the kind of car you might have found in the Jetson Family garage in the 1960s. Also very space-age looking: the rear opening driver and passenger access doors that create a cavernous rocket ship ambiance as you step inside. And while the doors are open you'll notice there's no central beam where the front and back doors join -- like in other SUVs on the market -- because Toyota employed a specially designed super strong steel that protects passengers from impact in the case of an accident. If you ask me, this car's overall sturdy feel brings an army tank to mind and a sense of feeling really safe while driving it.

Rocket style tail lights that jut out from them back
Front and passenger door open complete the spaceship look
Square wheel wells unique to FJ Cruiser

The driver's seat was comfortable and spacious for a 5'9" tall mom like me with the front seat view resembling an airplane cockpit, especially the trio of controls that sit front and center on top of the dashboard. In fact most of the controls on the panel are oversized and easily accessible for a reason: to aid driving especially when you are wearing gloves. The inside of the car also features heavy duty water resistant seat fabric to make cleaning it a snap if you are going on an four-wheel outing adventure or if you have kids that are constantly making a mess in your car like mine do. What's more is that there is a nice size cargo area for shlepping all your kids' gear all over town, too.

Over size controls with vertical front windshield feel like a plane cockpit

Our Miniature Pinscher Dexter takes in the Jetson-like back seat view
Huge square cargo area with side open back door

As with people looks aren't everything and it's what you find on the inside that really counts with this car. The FJ Cruiser comes in both 4x4  -- the model I drove for for this review -- as well as 4x2 WD. Under the hood there's the 4.0 liter 6-cylinder engine that was powerful enough to accelerate easily on L.A.'s freeway on ramps. With so much power I was surprised that this gets decent mileage for an SUV: a full 19.0 miles per gallon.

Guess that's why the 2012 FJ Cruiser has won so many awards including Best Overall Value of the Year and Highest Retained Value in its own class among many others.

Here's the school bus yellow FJ Cruiser

FJ Cruiser as yellow as a school bus

With all that I loved about this car, I have a couple of things on my wish list that could be improved upon. First, it seats only five people so it wouldn't be big enough for our family of six. Still for a family of five or less, I think this SUV would be great for in-town car pool duty as well as to drive on challenging terrain like a family road trip to go skiing this winter. The other thing is my kids and I both think the FJ Cruiser would be even more fun to drive if there was a sun roof either as a standard or factory option.

If you're in the market for a new family vehicle that's fun and functional consider giving the FJ Cruiser a test drive. Then you can judge for yourself if this is the right choice for you.

FTC Disclosure: I completed the extended test drive and review as a member of the Toyota Women Influencers Network TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of Toyota or any of its brands. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.