UNMISTAKABLY popular, the 2021 Toyota Kluger GX AWD is like that kid you envied in high school. They had the looks, and the personality, and always seemed to have everything that you couldn’t.
But the affordability and practicality of this entry level 7-seat SUV means that now, you can be that kid.
Splashed in Predawn Grey, the 2021 Kluger looks the goods. We thought the best way to find out if it had them was to really put it through its paces, and there is no better way to do that than to move a house with it.
Not literally, but we moved most of the interior of a household with the Kluger, in a grand total of five trips. Impressive to say the least.
The ageing Kluger was last updated in 2017, but an all-new version, built on Toyota’s TNGA architecture that was introduced just last year, is set to arrive later in 2021, bringing with it a hybrid variant. It’s still one of the prettier SUVs you’ll find though.
There are plenty of sharp and curvy body lines, noticeable especially in the fairly aggressive flaring on the front and rear fenders.
The front headlights are a touch disappointing though as they only come with halogen bulbs rather than the LEDs we’ve come to expect. It’s a reminder that this is the base model.
Inside, you’ll find manually adjustable cloth seats, and basic 6.1-inch infotainment and media system, along with grey plastics across the dash. If you came to read this expecting an abundance of leather goods and trim, then you’ve come to the wrong place.
The 6.1-inch screen is in desperate need of a technological refresh and only supports Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are non-existent in the entire Kluger range, with only the GXL and Grande spec providing satellite navigation as standard.
The Kluger also lacks dual zone climate control, however makes up for it by adding climate controls to the second row. That aside, there is a large amount of storage space in the cabin.
You’ll find two cup holders next to the shifter, a glovebox, a bottle holder in each of the four door cards, and one of the largest centre consoles we’ve ever seen (with a total capacity of 24.5-litres).
It’s large enough that it almost warrants having its own separate interior light within, as it gets dark down in those depths. There’s two more cup holders in the second row and then you’ll find another four cupholders in the third row.
Space and storage are the most prominent features of the Kluger GX, proved because as we previously mentioned, we completed a house move with one.
The second row is spacious, with plenty of legroom and headroom, and is able to seat two or three adults comfortably. You won’t find any issues sitting here.
The third row is comfortable enough to seat an adult for a short period of time too, with plenty of headroom, but long trips will punish you.
Getting out of the car will be a breath of fresh air for the bones and muscles in your lower extremities, as the third row is more suited to children.
With the third row up, there’s 195-litres of boot space; large enough for a few bags of groceries. Fold the third row down and suddenly you’ve almost tripled your boot size, with a total of 529-litres.
Fold down the second row and that balloons to a whopping 1,872-litres, the same space we used to transfer boxes upon boxes of items from house to house.
With this much storage space, you don’t even need a mortgage. You could slap a king single mattress in that space, add a pillow or two and a blanket and you’d have the basics of a home. We’re joking of course. You shouldn’t live in your car.
The Kluger is powered by Toyota’s 2GR-FKS engine, which is part of a series of 3.5-litre V6 2GR engines which you’ll find in the likes of the Camry, the importable Alphard and Crown, and a few Lexus variants, such as the GS350 and RX350.
Some of these applications are supercharged from the factory and have some impressive power figures.
Only available in a petrol variant, it makes 218kW of power and 360Nm of torque, which is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and delivered to all four wheels.
In the Kluger, the 2GR feels a bit underpowered, but there’s plenty of low to mid-range power in it, and you don’t need to bounce off red-line to get around town.
We saw an average fuel economy of 12-litres/100km, which is appalling compared to Toyota’s claimed 9.5-litres/100km. It is a very thirsty V6.
You might want to wait until Toyota releases the hybrid version of the Kluger that we mentioned earlier, which will save you a few dollars.
Handling is how you’d expect a large SUV to be, like sitting on a cotton swab which has been enlarged to the size of a family wagon, with some body roll and sliding around in your seat.
But it doesn’t feel overly large on the road, and takes corners quite well, even when packed to the brim with kitchenware, while Tupperware flies around the cabin.
The Kluger lineup scored a 5-star ANCAP rating and the entire Kluger range’s safety tech has been updated to include autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, to name a few.
This is thanks in part to it being loaded with version 2.0 of Toyota’s safety suite. Pricing starts at $44,850 for the 2WD Kluger GX while the AWD spec starts from $48,850. Both prices exclude on road costs.
Toyota also offer a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, so you can drive this all day everyday knowing they have your back. It’s good enough that we’d love to have kept it, and continued moving homes but unfortunately, we had to give it back.
Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Toyota Kluger GX, contact your local Toyota dealer. Pictures courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography.