2021 Toyota Prado review: Family favourite still going strong
2021 Toyota Prado review: Family favourite still going strong

Why Aussies are obsessed with this car

 

The Toyota Prado has been one of the most popular family cars for a long time, we find out if it still lives up to the hype.

VALUE

The Prado is a value-driven entry point to Toyota's LandCruiser family. Making do with HiLux power rather than the big V8 engine of the full-size LandCruiser 200 Series, it's a more affordable ticket to a family car ready for off-road adventures.

The Prado range starts at about $65,000 drive-away for the entry-level GX and runs to about $94,000 drive-away for the range-topping Kakadu, making it nearly $30,000 cheaper than the larger LandCruiser 200.

The Toyota Prado is beloved by Aussie families with a sense of adventure.
The Toyota Prado is beloved by Aussie families with a sense of adventure.

The mid-range VX tested here costs about $83,000 drive-away.

Running changes to the Prado brought a more powerful engine, bigger touchscreen and extra driver aids in August 2020. The changes are important, as they bring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality that make the Prado a relatively modern proposition.

Like most new cars, the Prado is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing costs $240 per visit for the first three years or six services.

The Prado will go places most cars won’t.
The Prado will go places most cars won’t.

COMFORT

Though it shares mechanical elements with the work-ready HiLux, the Prado is a much more comfortable proposition. It's quieter on the road, with a smooth ride that doesn't have to try and take a tonne of cargo in the tray.

High-grade models are well-equipped with leather seats loaded up with electric adjustment and a handy heating/cooling function. Three-zone climate control is also good to have - it even chills the enormous centre console enough to keep drinks cool. A 14-speaker JBL hi-fi system drowns out the "are we there yet" chorus from the back seats.

Less impressive is the Prado's side-hinged tailgate and spare tyre, a heavy unit that requires a lot of space around the car.

It is starting to show its age.
It is starting to show its age.

A no-cost-option "flat tailgate" relocating the spare wheel under the car makes life a touch easier. But it takes the place of a second fuel tank that stretches the Prado's diesel capacity from 87 to 150 litres, reducing the flat door's cruising range from 2000 kilometres to about 1200 km.

SAFETY

The Prado has seven airbags and a five-star safety rating from 2011. It has the basics covered with auto emergency braking, active cruise control and lane keeping assistance, but misses out on tech such as reverse auto braking or passenger exit assistance found in more modern rivals.

DRIVING

The Prado balances off-road ability with everyday comfort. Unlike most high-riding wagons, it's genuinely capable off-road, able to take you places off-limits to road-focused models such as the Toyota Kluger. We've been on adventures in the Prado that you would not attempt in lesser cars, resulting in a satisfied sense of achievement - and spectacular views highway drivers won't see.

Buyers can option to have the heavy spare tyre added underneath the car.
Buyers can option to have the heavy spare tyre added underneath the car.

The trade-off is that the Prado's rugged underpinnings make it feel heavy and a little unwieldy in town. It lacks that smooth ride and easy agility of less compromised models in town, but that's a trade-off thousands of customers are willing to make. Toyota's upgraded 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine is quieter than expected, and punchier 150kW and 500Nm outputs translate to less laboured performance than pre-2020 models. The six-speed auto is a smooth unit and the Toyota has strong brakes, but all-terrain tyres call for caution on wet tarmac.

VERDICT 3.5/5

Toyota's Prado is a winner - and one of the most popular cars in Australia. Few machines match its combination of value and rugged ability, though the current version is showing its age.

ALTERNATIVES

Ford Everest Titanium, from $72,690 drive-away

Based on the well-regarded Ranger ute, the Everest is a big truck with impressive driving manners on dirt and tarmac. It's a good truck that makes more sense at lower price points, when luxuries such as 20-inch wheels and a panoramic sunroof are left aside.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, from about $81,000 drive-away

One of the few four-wheel-drives with more off-road potential than the Prado, Jeep's Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has sophisticated air suspension, a smarter transmission and more powerful V6 diesel engine. The brand promises to address a troubled reputation for quality.

Land Rover Defender, from about $85,000 drive-away

A better drive than the Prado in town or the wilderness, the new Defender has design flair Toyota can't hope to match. The down side is that it's quite expensive once you add an optional diesel engine and try to match the Prado's standard kit.

TOYOTA PRADO VX VITALS

Price: About $83,000 drive-away

Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 150kW/500Nm

Warranty/Service: 5-year/unlimited km, $1440 for 3 years

Safety: Five stars, seven airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keep assistance.

Thirst: 7.9L/100km

Cargo: 553 litres

Spare: Full-size

Originally published as Why Aussies are obsessed with this car