I drove my first Kluger in 2007 when the second generation was launched in Australia. At the time it was the perfect family car offering a large interior with a third row of seats and a V6 petrol engine with AWD. It felt like a revolutionary change in the market when novated lease buyers were looking for a large SUV but didn’t want the 4X4 ride quality that you got with a Landcruiser Prado.
The fourth generation is the latest Kluger on the market which was launched in 2019. The biggest change for Australian new car buyers was the introduction of a hybrid powertrain. At the time fuel prices had been stable for several years and CO2 was only emerging as a challenge for Fleet Managers. So while it was a novel idea in a large SUV, novated lease buyers didn’t stampede dealerships for the hybrid model.
In 2023 fuel prices have remained stubbornly high, so the Kluger hybrid is looking attractive with a stated combined fuel economy of 5.6 L/100km. I achieved 7.1L/100km with mainly short cycle local commuting which is an impressive number for a large SUV.
If you’re looking to buy the Kluger with the hybrid powertrain for your novated lease, you’ll need to buy the AWD drive and the GX version is priced around $64k driveaway. The Grande which I drove is closer to $87k, or $84k for the non-hybrid version. So it’s not the cheapest low emission vehicle on the market.
For a family, it’s one of the most versatile SUVs on the market. As a parent of young kids you always seem of have stuff to entertain, feed or wipe them. So when I review family cars I’ve always got storage on my mind. When I jumped into the latest Toyota Kluger I was instantly impressed with the storage options for the driver and passenger.
Large smartphones have been around for over a decade now, or at least two car model cycles. So I’m astounded went I jump into a family car and there’s no obvious place for two phones (mum and dad). Often the cup holders double as a phone holder but what if you have a morning coffee or lunchtime smoothie? Where does the phone go? There’s always plenty of charge ports, but no places to put your phone.
Designers of the latest Toyota Kluger interior have excelled in solving this first world problem. Firstly the passenger has a small phone-sized shelf above the glove box. Then there’s a second space below the main screen which can fit two phones and the keys if not in your pocket.
The centre console is cavernous with another phone storage location just under the lid which slides back to reveal wireless phone charge as well. Overall, a really impressive interior layout combined with smart storage solutions.
In the boot there’s still a comprise between seats and storage. If you need to carry a pram and nappy bags, then it’s a five seat SUV. Though as they grow and you ditch the baby accessories you can take advantage of the two extra seats in the third for transporting friends or family.
You’ll be reminded of the Kluger’s versatility as the kids grow, It may have seemed like the perfect car when your kids were little, but having the extra ‘personal’ space of a large SUV when they are teenagers reduces the tension on long, and short trips.
Driving the Kluger is a pleasure. Especially the Grande AWD with all the little extras and sound dampening. My favourite feature is the programmed electric seats. There’s three settings which makes alternating drivers so much easier. No more complaints over seat positions, or realising the seat’s too close to wheel when you’re halfway in. Just press a button to reset to your preferred alignment.
There’s enough power from the hybrid powertrain however you sometimes get the sound of the engine and CVT groaning as they negotiate the transfer of power under load. It’s common with all of the hybrids from Toyota and less noticeable in the Kluger.
Large SUVs are my preferred mode of transport. I love the ride quality and space. It had been a while since I had driven a Toyota Kluger so I wasn’t sure if they had kept pace with the improvements and refinement of other manufacturers.
I shouldn’t have doubted Toyota. I think the third generation may missed a step with the interior design but the Kluger’s reputation as a family favourite has been redeemed in this latest version. I loved the storage options and the new infotainment interface with wireless Apple CarPlay makes a big difference. A great family car that will work with you through all stages of life.