Point to note before I start this review, I don't own the Kluger that I’m writing about, however I've spent 9 days living with one due to renting the vehicle.
From the outside it looks okay, certainly not standout good looks that’s for sure, but it’s not the ugliest thing running around either. Very Toyota neutral in looks if you ask me, however in saying that I’m not personally a fan of the bulbous round look.
For its size it’s a very wide vehicle, and feels wider than my personal full size 4wd behind the wheel. One thing I particularly don’t like is the shape of the bonnet, each side has a high ridge and from the driver’s seat it makes judging where the front left is difficult as anything on the other side of the ridge is not visible.
From the inside I found things continued to be typical Toyota, not really stand out of the pack material, but functional and does the job that’s asked of it. The dash is very functional, whilst at first I didn’t like the mid-level tray that’s built in, I did in the end appreciate the functionality of it being there. It’s a great spot to store phones, wallets etc… Being the GX version the entertainment unit is basic, but it was perfectly functional and I had no issues syncing my phone to it. My minor criticism of the dash layout is the air-con temp control as its too far to the left of the dash making it a bit of a stretch from the driver’s seat. The centre arm rest contains what can only be described as amongst the largest I’ve ever come across, it is simply huge. Big cup holders on the centre dash and more in the door pockets mean you’ll never go thirsty. I was pleasantly surprised with the drivers seating position and comfort. Visibility was acceptable and several stints of highway cruising for 2 1/2 hrs non-stop I was perfectly comfortable, more so that previous Toyotas that I’ve owned and driven.
Due to the external width there’s no lack of the feel of space inside the Kluger and this width made easy work of installing 3 kids seats in the 2nd row. Basic rear air-con temp and fan adjustment is available for rear seat passengers which is a plus (unless they argue over the temp like my kids!) and there’s no shortage of storage space for drink bottles back there either. 2nd row seats can slide forward to give the 3rd row seats a bit of extra leg room.
Speaking of the 3rd row, its nice and easy to put up and fold down. It's defiantly a space only for smaller kids as the legroom is limited. My nine year old could sit in there reasonably comfortably; however I feel that the seatbelt upper mount is too high (and not adjustable) which means the belt went over his neck and not his shoulder. There’s no child seat anchor points for the 3rd row so using a booster in this position is not an option either.
Cargo space is very good with the 3rd row seats folded down. I would not be much less than some full size 4wd's on the market. With the 3rd row up there is very little space available – but that applies to pretty much every SUV I’ve come across with three seating rows. No power outlet in the cargo area is a bit of a disappointment considering that I found three elsewhere in the Kluger (dash, centre console cubby box and at the bottom back of the centre console).
I was quiet happy with the driveline combo. The engine has plenty of power for highway cruising and demolishes overtaking triple road trains with very little effort. The engine note is quite pleasant as well and pulls smoothly to 6000rpm. While the 6 speed auto does the job, I found it a little slow to change when in manual mode. I didn’t take any physical fuel consumption figures, however the dash readout has it hovering around 10L/100km when cruising at 110km/h
Road noise I didn’t feel was all that flash (my personal car is 11 years old and is much quieter) and in all honesty I think Toyota could have done a better job to minimise it. Handling I was also a bit let down with, whilst it steered okay I found the body to wallow a bit on rough corners and it felt a little weird to be honest. Steering wheel weight is nice but I didn’t really feel like it was connected to anything as there wasn’t any feedback that I noticed (didn’t really push the boundaries of grip with it).
All in all, I found the Kluger to be typical Toyota. It doesn’t set the world on fire but does the job that it was intended to do. I did find little things that I wouldn’t typically expect from Toyota build quality. The driver’s side wing mirror vibrated badly at highway speed, warning rumble strips setup a resonate vibration throughout the interior and I just didn’t get that nice solid thud when I shut the doors. Would I personally buy one? Most likely not, I’d want to check out the direct competition first before I decided it was the best.