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by Tim Beissmann

Toyota and Nickelodeon have joined forces to create a unique 2014 Toyota Kluger inspired by children’s cartoon favourite SpongeBob SquarePants.

The brightly coloured Kluger – called the Highlander in North America – will headline Toyota’s promotion of the all-new third-generation SUV as it completes a four-month road trip around the US.

Toyota Motor Sales marketing vice president Jack Hollis described the new Kluger as “family friendly and just plain fun”, attributes shared with Nickelodeon’s popular animated program and the show’s sponge-based star.

The one-off Kluger is covered from nose to tail with larger-than-life images of the smiling blue-eyed yellow sea creature, while its interior is equally in your face, featuring a unique ocean blue headliner and white and yellow leather upholstery with the faces of Bikini Bottom’s famous dwellers embroidered on the headrests.

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Unveiled at April’s New York auto show, the next-generation Highlander gains an extra seat – giving it eight in total – in North America, though Toyota Australia has confirmed our Kluger will stay capped at seven when it arrives on our shores in the middle of 2014.

The new Kluger has grown only marginally on the outside, however Toyota says emphasis on repackaging the SUV’s interior has led to significant growth in terms of cabin width, rear-seat legroom and boot space.

The 2014 Toyota Kluger will retain its existing 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine while the current five-speed automatic transmission will make way for a newer six-speed unit, which promises driveability, refinement and fuel-efficiency improvements.