What stands out?

The Toyota Kluger is a roomy seven-seat SUV with a powerful V6 engine and responsive eight-speed auto gearbox. It is smooth and quiet to drive, and its comfortable cabin has thoughtful storage touches and deeply cushioned seats. Even the rearmost passengers are protected with airbags. All Klugers offer auto braking and other advanced driver assistance features as standard.

What might bug me?

Manoeuvring the Kluger for parking: the steering feels heavy at very low speeds.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

Toyota offers front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions of the Kluger. AWD Klugers drive the front wheels all the time, and the rear wheels if the front tyres start to slip.

The Kluger is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Klugers have?

Adaptive cruise control, reverse parking sensors, and a reversing camera.

A pre-Crash Safety System that incorporates high-speed automatic emergency braking, and a driver-assistance suite that includes lane-keeping assistance, a rear cross-traffic alert, and auto-dipping headlights.

A colour touchscreen: 6.1-inch for the less costly Kluger GX, and 8.0-inch for the GXL and Grande. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. An audio system with iPod, Aux and USB inputs, and six speakers.

Controls on the steering wheel for the audio system and your phone.

Seating for seven people.

Headlamps that switch on automatically in low light. Daytime running lights near the headlamps, which make your car more visible to others.

Aluminium alloy wheels (which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels), and a full-sized spare wheel.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid or a slide and is mandatory on new cars. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Kluger safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Kluger is covered by a five-year, unlimited warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

There is only one engine available in the Kluger, a 3.5-litre petrol V6. In all-wheel drive Klugers, it consumes 9.5 litres/100km in the official test (urban and country combined). Front-drive Klugers do a bit better.

That figure is for the revised engine and gearbox package that arrived in February 2017. The new engine was the same size and type as the old one, but adopted direct petrol injection, which adds power while saving fuel. The auto gearbox gained an extra two ratios, for a total of eight.

What the Kluger consumes in real-world driving depends a lot on how and where you are driving it. In easy highway cruising at 100-110km/h, you can expect the new, direct-injected V6 to use between 10 and 11 litres/100km. Throw in some stop-start driving and fuel use will quickly rise past 12 litres/100km. Once your driving mix becomes more urban than open road, expect about 14 litres/100km.

The eight-speed auto transmission is fitted to all Klugers.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Step up in price from the Kluger GX to the GXL and you get three-zone air-conditioning: you can set different temperatures for the left and right sides of the cabin in front, and a third temperature for those in the rear.

The GXL also gains rain-sensing windscreen wipers, blind spot monitor, and rear-cross traffic alert that senses cars coming from either side when you’re reversing out of a driveway or parking spot.

There’s also smart key entry, which allows you to unlock the front doors or power-opening tailgate while the key remains safe in a pocket or bag. Heated front seats, a power-adjusted driver’s seat and partial leather trim are also part of the GXL deal. There is the bigger – 8.0-inch – touchscreen, and it comes with a digital radio and satellite-navigation. And there are roof rails, for fitting the optional roof rack.

The most expensive Kluger, the Grande, comes with a sunroof, ventilated front seats (they circulate cool air), power adjustment for the passenger seat, and a memory for the driver’s seat (which makes it easy to restore your settings after a companion has driven the car).

The Grande is distinguished externally by its 19-inch wheels (other models have 18s), fitted with tyres of a slightly lower profile – essentially a cosmetic change.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Headroom in the front of the Kluger Grande is about 3.0 cm less because of the sunroof, but that will affect only very tall people.

The 19-inch wheel and tyre combination fitted to the Grande is less suitable for driving on rough and unsealed roads than the 18-inch wheels and tyres on less expensive Klugers.

Black is the only standard colour, with the other eight costing extra.

How comfortable is the Kluger?

The Kluger’s cabin is stylish and functional and looks well put together, with a quality feel. There’s a sense of formality, thanks to the darker hues. Kluger Grandes in some colours can be ordered with a paler interior.

There is a broad storage tray on the passenger’s side that is good for holding phones – it even has a hole for power cords, which slot through to charging outlets below.

Big door pockets and a deep centre console provide ample space for bottles, handbags and the like.

Seats are supple and supportive, for good long distance comfort. Ventilation controls are big and easy to operate, and produce superb results. Some people might have to lean away from the seatback to reach the touchscreen.

Vision is good to the front and side, but not good at the rear, where the camera comes in handy.

At very low speeds you might find the steering slightly heavier than you expect, with some effort required when parking. It’s a big car and this reminds you of its bulk.

The V6 engine is smooth and feels very eager when you press the accelerator. On a country road or freeway, the Kluger is impressively quiet inside and rides comfortably.

What about safety in a Kluger?

Every Kluger has a reversing camera, electronic stability control, and seven airbags. Auto-on headlights and daytime running lights enhance visibility at dawn and dusk.

Two of the airbags are placed directly in front of the driver and front passenger, and there is a knee airbag for the driver. The duo up front also get a side airbag each, which protects them from side impacts at chest level. And head-protecting curtain airbags stretch all the way to the back of the car, extending past passengers in all three rows of seats.

In January 2018, Toyota rolled out active safety features to all Kluger models that were exclusive to the most expensive Kluger, the Grande.

Perhaps the chief of these is radar-based autonomous emergency braking that works at city and highway speeds – part of what Toyota calls its Pre-Collision Safety system. It detects obstacles in front – typically a sharply slowing car – and warns you if it deems a collision likely. If you do not react, it will brake automatically – with the aim of reducing your speed at impact.

The Kluger also warns you if it begins to wander out of its lane – perhaps because you are distracted or sleepy – and can nudge the steering in an attempt to wake you up and guide you back on course.

The GXL and Grande feature other radar sensors look behind you, alerting you if you are about to change lanes into the path of a nearby car, or if you are about to reverse into the path of a vehicle crossing behind.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the Kluger’s safety at its maximum of five stars, most recently in April 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Kluger is a pleasure to drive provided you respect its bulk and refrain from forcing the pace.

The pleasure comes from how comfortable and quiet it is to travel in. It’s like driving a luxury limousine.

But it’s also a big and heavy car, so while it’s nicely stable through corners it is not particularly agile in and out of corners. Quick direction changes are not what the Kluger likes, and it will tell you so in the way its body rolls from side to side.

If you are driving near the limits of tyre grip, the Kluger’s stability control system also intrudes more on the driving experience than those in most cars. Sometimes it will disconcert you by cutting power for a moment, rather than stabilising the car in a more subtle fashion.

The V6 gives the Kluger great performance, especially when you encourage the smooth engine to spin up. The eight-speed gearbox that arrived in February 2017 helps you do this, allowing the engine to attain and hold its best power more easily. The current Kluger feels more responsive than its pre-update predecessor, which had a slightly less powerful V6 and six-speed gearbox, and it’s the extra ratios in the gearbox that make most difference.

The 19-inch tyres on the Grande bring you marginally better steering response and accuracy than the 18s on other Klugers, but they diminish ride quality and puncture resistance on rough or gravel roads. The upgraded Kluger retains the Australian-tuned chassis of the car it replaces.

All-wheel drive versions of the Kluger are designed for off-bitumen driving rather than off-road driving: think gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads, and farm tracks. (You can even press a Snow button near the gear selector, which reduces the chance of wheelspin on slippery surfaces.)

How is life in the rear seats?

The middle row of seats has ample head room and excellent leg room. The seats split-fold 60/40 and can also be slid forward and back, for distributing leg room between the second and third rows.

There are three child-seat anchor points for the middle row of seats but none for the back row. That middle row works well for carrying two or three children, and there’s enough head and leg room to keep adults content, too.

However, the third-row seats are difficult to access when child seats have been clicked in to the second row.

The relatively high rear floor makes it easy to clip children into their belts. The lip on the floor at the tailgate is small, a win for getting prams in and out easily.

Ventilation to the rear is good, too, with air-conditioning vents in the roof for the rearmost passengers. The independent control of rear temperatures in a GXL or Grande helps keep the clan content. The Grande also has retractable blinds for the rear doors.

How is it for carrying stuff?

As with most SUVs, there is not much storage space if you’re using all seven seats. But with that third row folded there is a broad, deep load area. You can also slide the second-row seats forward to maximise luggage space. There’s a small covered binnacle on the left side of the boot.

The rear window on Kluger GXLs and Grandes can open independently of the tailgate, making it quicker and easier to load small items.

The Kluger is rated to tow 2000kg, which is sufficient for a medium caravan or single-horse float. Expect the fuel consumption to rise noticeably when towing anything heavy or large.

Where is the Toyota Kluger made?

All Klugers are made in the USA.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

A diesel or turbocharged petrol engine that uses less fuel than the Kluger’s petrol V6, as available in the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento or Mazda CX-9 and Mazda CX-8.

A middle row of seats that split-fold 40/20/40, for added load flexibility. The Hyundai Santa Fe, for example, offers this feature.

You might also be interested in a seven-seat SUV that you can take off road. Among your options here are the Toyota Prado and Fortuner, and the Ford Everest.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

We like the Kluger GXL all-wheel drive. The GXL brings plenty of useful and cosseting features for the money – such as the tri-zone ventilation, smart-key entry and leather seats. The all-wheel drive system gives you extra confidence on dirt roads or at the snow, while also bringing benefits on slippery bitumen surfaces.

Are there plans to update the Kluger soon?

Yes. The current Kluger went on sale in 2014 with a petrol V6 engine and six-speed auto gearbox. About February 2017 Toyota introduced a mildly facelifted Kluger that brought direct petrol injection to the V6 engine and replaced the six-speed auto with an eight-speeder, resulting in a more responsive car. Kluger GXLs gained a bigger touchscreen, satellite navigation, and smart-key entry.

In January 2018 Toyota rolled out the Grande’s advanced driver assistance suite, with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assistance, to the GX and GXL.

In March 2019 Toyota released a limited run Kluger dubbed the Black Edition that was based on the GXL but enhanced with bold black exterior trim, and 19-inch gloss-black alloy wheels replacing the standard 18-inch rims.

In April 2019, Toyota revealed the fourth-generation Kluger at the New York Motor Show. The all-new Kluger is bigger than the current model and will feature the latest infotainment and active safety technology. It will be powered by a choice of V6 petrol and a four-cylinder hybrid powertrains with the latter yet to be conformed for the Australian market.

It was expected in Australia some time in 2020 but it's more likely to arrive early in 2021.