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  • Excellent off-road capabilities matched with great turbo diesel engine
  • Interior practicality and unsettled on-road handling

7 / 10

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
by Brett Davis

The latest (fourth) generation of the Toyota Prado has been on sale since 2009 and in 2012 it’s on track to be Australia’s most popular SUV despite prices that start at $55,590.

There are five-door and three-door versions of the popular wagon and it’s available in two trim levels, the SX and ZR. The three-door, which we tested, features a wheelbase that is 335mm shorter than the five-door models (2790mm for the GX compared with 2455mm of the SX), and is 445mm shorter overall (4485mm versus 4930mm). It also showcases a slightly narrower track by 20mm (1605mm to 1585mm).

The Toyota Prado three-door doesn’t really have any direct competition in Australia, not since the Mitsubishi Pajero three-door was phased out in 2009. There are some models that are similar in philosophy, such as the Jeep Wrangler Sport which is $24,440 cheaper than the Prado SX (starting at $31,590), and the lower-spec Land Rover Defender 90 which enters the market $11000 under the SX (available from $44,990).

To kick off, the entry-level SX comes with a higher-spec trim and more equipment than the equivalent GX five-door. Standard features include fog lights, roof rails, telescopic steering, premium steering wheel and gear knob, dual-zone climate control, steering wheel-mounted multimedia controls, alarm and a rear cargo blind, all of which the GX five-door misses out on.

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

Under the bonnet, the miniature Prado gets the same 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine as its bigger brothers, producing 127kW and 410Nm. It shares Toyota’s full-time four-wheel drive system which provides high-  and low-range modes, and is supported by limited-slip cross axle differentials front and rear, as well asa lockable Torsen-type centre diff.

The base-model SX is packed full of standard features, including a reversing camera and reverse parking sensors, MP3/USB compatible stereo, 2nd Start (which puts the transmission into second gear, helping the car get out of extremely slippery conditions, like snow and ice), Idle Up (which raises the engine revs for generating greater electrical charge from the alternator), 17-inch alloy wheels, and vast protective plating underneath the car.

Safety-wise, it comes with ABS, Electronic Brake Assist, Active Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control, seven airbags, active headlights and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (ANCAP hasn’t actually rated the three-door Prado but the five-door model has been given five stars). On specification and equipment alone, the SX is a better deal than the GX.

Taking the brunt of the shortened wheelbase is reduced interior practicality. In the back, the rear seats in the Prado SX will accommodate three adults in a fairly similar fashion as the five-door. There’s decent legroom as well as headroom but the rear seat passengers will be subjected to a bouncy ride.

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

It’s entering the vehicle and heading for the rear seats when problems arise, as the front seats do not fold forward enough to allow adequate access. This, paired with the fact that the front doors on the three-door are no longer than those found on the five-door (usually coupes and two-doors feature longer front doors than their four-door brothers), means climbing in and out can become very irritating, especially climbing up to the high ride height.

The luggage space is also compromised thanks to the short-wheelbase design. Additionally, the rear door is very large and very heavy to open due to the full-sized spare wheel mounted on the outside. If the vehicle is parked on a hill or there’s a slight breeze, you wouldn’t want to be the object caught in a pincer movement – literally – when the door begins to swing shut. To counter this there is a lockable strut which will hold the door in the fully open position … but you must remember to engage it.

With the rear seats in the upright position, there’s enough room for a decent tent and some luggage in the back, but obviously nowhere near as much room as in the bigger five-door brother. The floor of the rear compartment is flat with little wasted space. Once the rear seats are folded away, there’s ample room. The seats even flip right up to offer a completely flat loading surface that’s actually quite large. (Here’s a tip: if you are planning doing a long trip and only need the two front seats, you may want to think about removing the rear seats altogether.)

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

Also in the luggage area you’ll find a conventional three-prong 220-volt power outlet which can be used to power various low-current devices using conventional 240-volt alternating current. Thanks to the onboard static inverter that converts 12V DC to 220V AC, you’ll be able to power up things like fluoro lights, electronic devices and recharging camera and laptop batteries.

So how does the shorter wheelbase Prado feel to drive?

Shortening the Prado’s wheelbase is a ‘good news/bad news’ story. It has a huge effect on the way the vehicle handles. On one hand its off-road capability is increased as the undercarriage is less likely to snag obstacles between the wheels (the ‘breakover angle’ of the SX is increased by three degrees compared with the five-door [25 degrees versus 22 degrees], which is quite a significant improvement of around 14 per cent). Because the vehicle’s footprint is ‘squarer’ overall, it is quicker to turn and can be threaded through tracks and tight corners more easily.

On the road, however, the Prado SX’s quicker steering response is conveyed through the vehicle’s taller frame so it has a tendency to sway. It also pitches heavily while driving over traffic-calming measures like speed humps, and it can make you feel a bit seasick under braking. Swinging into roundabouts the vehicle gives off a brief, unsettled wobble as the live axle rear and independent front suspension struggles to cope with the weight transfer. As soon as the power is applied when exiting a corner, the four-wheel drive system pulls the chassis back into line and the platform becomes much more stable. The SX is fitted with 265mm tyres that tend to eliminate tramlining. These are 20mm wider than those found on the equivalent five-door GX (245mm).

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

The payoff here is sensational off-road ability. Skittish handling on-road, and heavy pitching, is common to most short-wheelbase 4x4s (for owners, it becomes less apparent once you acclimatise). If you are interested in doing proper, hardcore off-roading, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is precisely where the Prado SX excels.

On test, the SX never skipped a beat once the going got rough. The limited-slip differentials meant the standard traction control system didn’t need to step in. Even on very slippery, wet uphill climbs in the mud, the four-wheel drive system took it all in its stride. And because of that square footprint, no underbody paint was left on any rocks or logs. Toyota really knows how to put together a heavy-duty off-road vehicle, and has been doing this with great success for years. With the SX, you can feel the heritage.

Engaging the Prado’s low-range transfer is as easy as turning a dial. Once engaged, climbing and descending ability is stretched far beyond the expectations of most new SUV buyers. Because the SX is short, it feels very active and ready to play while four-wheel driving. It feels like it wants to keep going and encourages you to do so with its ‘can-do’ attitude.

Only when we tackled some steep ascents that were embedded with traction-sapping slick rocks, in the rain, at Yalwal National Park (NSW), did the Prado show signs of struggle. Once the centre diff lock was engaged though, the front and the rear axles were locked at the same speed and the package smoothly made every climb we threw at it.

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

The Downhill Assist Control feature also worked quite well. On very slippery surfaces the technology kept the vehicle on track and stopped it running away by automatically applying brake power. Sticking to the low-range gear ratios is an equally safe option too.

A side benefit to the shortened wheelbase is that it makes the SX 230kg lighter compared with the equivalent five-door (2015kg over 2245kg for the auto GX). This means the three-door uses less fuel, offering an average fuel consumption rating of 8.3L/100km compared with the five-door’s 8.5L/100km. It also performs better.

On test, the SX came surprisingly close to the ADR fuel figure with the trip computer reading 8.5L/100km for most of the trip. Expect to get around 800km out of a tank full of fuel under various driving conditions, including dense traffic, off-roading, highway and scooting about town. Not bad for a car; very good indeed for a two-tonne four-wheel drive.

The lighter weight of the three-door also increases the vehicle’s acceleration potential. You’ll be genuinely surprised at the torque delivery in traffic. The little Prado pulls away from a stop very well while highway overtaking ability is satisfactory. It almost feels zippy. There is turbo lag at low revs if you try selecting gears yourself using the tiptronic-style shifter. Fortunately, however, the five-speed automatic does a great job of selecting the right gears at the right time by itself in most situations, so there’s almost always 410Nm at the ready if you leave it in ‘D’.

2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review

It’s easy to jump to conclusions upon first impressions of the Toyota Prado SX three-door. It fits into the market rather awkwardly. It’s also fairly expensive compared with its closest rivals. But if you’re in the market for a Prado but want to do a bit more off-roading than the average SUV buyer and only need two seats (or have only young children), then the Prado SX is a great package.

It’s also a solid proposition for retirees who are about to embark on an extended getaway, and who need the torque and strong chassis of a big four-wheel drive. Taking the rear seats out would yield a massive cargo volume more than adequate for most travellers.

It all comes down to this: If you are serious about off-roading, the three-door Prado is something you should consider. But if you’re not seriously planning on getting right into the rough stuff, there are plenty of small SUVs out there that are far more suitable to city, suburban driving and even highway driving. Our picks among the soft-road set include the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-7, Nissan X-Trail and the Mitsubishi Outlander.
Toyota Prado SX (3dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, five-speed auto – $55,990
Toyota Prado ZR (3dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, five-speed auto – $65,904
Toyota Prado GX (3dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, six-speed manual – $55,990
Toyota Prado GX (5dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, five-speed auto – $55,990
Toyota Prado GXL (5dr), 4.0-litre petrol V6, six-speed manual – $60,904
Toyota Prado GXL (5dr), 4.0-litre petrol V6, five-speed auto – $63,404
Toyota Prado GXL (5dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, six-speed manual – $61,904
Toyota Prado GXL (5dr), 3.0-litre turbo diesel, five-speed auto – $61,904

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2012 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Review
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  • Hearnty Frazzleziieeet

    Wow, great pictures…

  • Sumpguard

    “” Our picks among the soft-road set include the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-7, Nissan X-Trail and the Mitsubishi Outlander.””

    Not a mention there of the two Koreans in this class yet you raved about the Sportage when it came out and were pretty kind to the ix35 which has since had its steering and suspension issues (your only complaints at the time) sorted out.

    What’s changed CA?

    • http://www.patriotqupid.com BP legacy 3.0RB

      Because they don’t sell well.
      Not many Aussie want to buy them after all.

      • idlebrain

        Really? I was able to see only a couple of them last year but I can see them every day now…

        • http://www.patriotqupid.com BP legacy 3.0RB

          What do you think, the world doesn’t revolve around you !!!
          I just wrote my comment based on sell figure in Australia.
          I didn’t say these Korean cars are bad.
          In fact, I was bit wrong.
          Sell number of ix35 in April this year, was third in small SUV category according to Vfacts.

          • Sumpguard

            …and in fairness everyone is after the model that they can’t get which is the highlander and platinum and KIA and Hyundai have been caught by surprise with this. Apparently there is a new engine plant due for completion to fix the supply issue with the diesel powerplant.

            They’d have sold a lot more if they had them in stock.

      • nickdl

        I thought the diesel models had a massive wait – around 6 months – for both the ix35 and the Sportage. Anyway I think the Outlander, X-Trail and Forester would all be much better off road than the Hyundai or Kia, so that makes them much more of a competitor to the 3dr Prado.

        • Sumpguard

          You may be right regarding off road ability but the comment I quoted from the writer is attached to those vehicles being and I quote “far more suitable to city, suburban driving and even highway driving.”

          So the question remains as to why those two didn’t get a mention. Are they suddenly out of favour? Because at the end of last year this site had the Sportage as one of the best! It’s as though they have suddenly fallen out of favour?

          • nickdl

            They probably forgot.

          • Sumpguard


  • nickdl

    I’d rather an FJ Cruiser.

    • http://caradvice OSU811

      no diesel engine option is the only downside to that!
      which is probably the reason they dont offer it with the diesel engine as no one would buy the swb prado!

      • nickdl

        Still I think the $10K saving more than makes up for the fuel bill of the petrol V6.

      • Richo

        Would make sense, but the main reason is the FJ Cruiser was originally designed for the US market where there is very limited demand for diesel.

        Now that global production has begun we might see a diesel FJ in the future

    • maximark

      I’m with you. I got the chance to drive the FJ for about 30 min last week and I am very impressed with the power,torque and comfort of the FJ. It’s also more practical and better designed for off road than the Prado, I wouldn’t bother about the diesel cuz I think the FJ 4 littre engine has enough power and torque for off road anyway.

      • Richo

        Yeah the power of the Diesel is fine, however the problem with petrol is the lack of engine braking for steep decents, only a diesel engine is good in these conditions, also the relatively small fuel tank of the FJ makes the available range in the FJ with the petrol engine a real problem for outback touring.

      • Tomas79

        More practical then maybe the SWB version, but the LWB Prado version is much more practica pradol, with its greater fuel tank and carry capacity…. Not to mention it’s diesel engine.

  • Nick K

    Seems like a pointless car to me… Much rather 5 doors on a car like this.

    • Richo

      The car makes plenty of sense for people without children.

      When Mitsubishi where selling the SWB Pajero they sold lots of them to retired couples who where after a 4WD to tow their caravan, but had no need to carry children, and their luggage went in the caravan, so the smaller interior space of the SWB wasn’t an issue.

  • JD

    the 3 door is a useless car. likewise, today i sy a 3 door pajero, another worthless car.

    • Richo

      Again, you say its a worthless car just because it doesn’t suit you, but clearly there are people who it does suit, hence the fact that they are selling, so clearly they are worthwhile to some people.

      It’s like someone saying a Porsche Boxter is worthless because it has no backseat

      • JD

        i have to agree with u Richo on this one. I doubt the 3 door will suit me, but in terms of pricing, $56k seems overpriced for a 3 door. But hey, thats Australian pricing

    • http://www.patriotqupid.com BP legacy 3.0RB

      Have you heard “Pajero EVO” JD?

    • bangel

      Iam with you JD a total waste of space , if you go this big and heavy go 5 doors , tonka toy .

    • LC

      It serves a purpose to the people who bought it. It’s 2nd to none off road due to the shorter wheelbase and it tows more and probably uses less fuel than your Commodore/Falcon to boot.

  • dazzer01

    Black, Black, Black! Are there any other colours you guys test. How bloody boring! And these things look errr, ummm, unbalanced on the road, to say the least. Actually, to be honest, imho, they really look shouse, no matter what colour, a chop job of the real Playdough, just like the 3dr. Mitsi Pajro. End of rant. I actually drive a 4wd, a proper one, but I’ll let you imagine what brand & model. And for the record I do like the full size Pajros & Playdoughs.

  • Baddass

    You hit the nail on the head about the squashed up styling, Brett. I can’t fathom why one would purchase this over a 5-door Prado? The price and fuel economy aren’t that much better to justify the reduced space and worse styling, in my opinion.

    • Philthy

      It would look much better if they had stretched the front door, rather than just keeping the one from the five door. Odd styling decision.

  • http://Skat ScottyC

    This makes the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee an absolute bargain starting at $45k with lots of goodies and the offroad and onroad credentials

  • http://autotrig.com/ car reviews india

    Prado has done it again..The price tag of $45 could be affordable for a class range of toyota customers. It should’nt be a problem. I think it makes its competitors tough to compete.

  • carlos

    The 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee come close to the competition but Toyota’s reliability and cheaper maintenance will turn people away from the Jeep.

  • Henry

    I like this……..but FJ Cruiser is the go for me ifonlyit had a 220AC thing in the back

  • o

    55k and no Bluetooth.

    • Jim Sim

      All Prados have bluetooth.

  • Sumpguard

    I agree with comments above and would take the FJ Cruiser over this any day of the week. I think toyota are missing a massive opportunity here in Oz by not offering the FJ with a diesel though.

    I’ve never been a fan of the Prado but the cruiser caught my eye from the very first day I saw a teaser pic and I have no love for toyota. The two door prado looks awkward.

    • Ray

      I have spoken to so many people who are in the market for a new 4wd and have said if the fj cruiser came out in a diesel they would have already put an order in for it but not now since it is only a petrol. Even if they were to put this engine from the Prado into the FJ it would go crazy.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au Tiddy

    I dont really understand why people are saying the FJ40 is a better choice, seeing as it has the Prado running gear. Granted the price is substantially lower which is always a major plus.

    I think they are targeted at different markets, there are not a lot of the SWB Prado’s getting around, but most of the ones I have seen are being driven by retired people who dont need or want 4 doors.

    Seems to me though, that Toyota are asking a premium price for the Prado especially in diesel form when compared the recently released Grand Cherokee & when that is released soon with it’s 3 litre diesel it will more than competitive.


  • James

    I’ve been told that the TD engine that the Prado runs would not fit (in its current design) in the FJ Cruiser. No room for the intercooler…

  • michael83

    I Still don’t understand a two door version of the Prado, I know it will be reliable fun off roader, but for around the same money buy the 4 door version.

    If it has to be a 2 door, go the FJ and make a statement.

  • speedyace

    why would anyone bother with this useless mini Prado?? Either get the real big version, or buy a Mini….

  • FrugalOne

    Did this one overheat thr tranny like the last Prado u tested?

  • Rod Fishwick

    The one thing that everyone has missed is the 3 door has  500kgs more towing ability than the 5door, This is why Boat/ caravan owners with no kids are buying them!!! 

  • wife, 2 x kids and a rabbit

    nice truck, all looks good except for that silly small screen in the dash (typical toyota)

Toyota Landcruiser Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$53,680 - $61,000
Dealer Retail
$51,890 - $61,710
Dealer Trade
$41,200 - $48,800
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
410Nm @  3400rpm
Max. Power
202kW @  5400rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
14.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:3500  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
285/65 R17
Rear Tyres
285/65 R17
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
Double wishbone, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
4 links, Trailing arm, Coil Spring, Panhard rod, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Hill Holder, Traction Control System, Vehicle Stability Control
Power Steering
Engine & Transmission
Limited Slip Differential
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler, Side Steps
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Front Driver Side Chassis
Country of Origin