Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Toyota FJ Cruiser
A cutesy yet rugged off-roader with a retro appeal that made it a cult in a crowded market

A tank and a teddy bear: that’s what the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a fusion of. Who knew a huge 4x4 of such merciless off-road ability could look so friendly? Sure, it may be subjective, but we think most would agree there’s plenty of personality on show here. 

In fact, its lovable looks hark back to the classic FJ40 of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The wide-eyed face, boxy wheel arches and overall shape all take inspiration from its iconic ancestor. 

The pair’s cylinder count is also the same at six, with the FJ Cruiser being powered by a 239bhp 4.0-litre V6. If that sounds like an engine you’d see in America, then you’re on the right track. Along with a few other countries – none of which are the UK – the FJ Cruiser was sold to North American buyers from 2007 up until 2014. Sales in Japan ran until early 2018, whilst the model is still alive and kicking in countries such as Chile and South Africa. 

Toyota fj cruiser front off road

That said, due to its desirability, dozens of examples have found their way to British shores thanks to personal imports or specialist brokers – in right-hand drive, too. They aren’t always cheap as chips, rising to £40,000 (or more) in some cases, but you’re getting a good amount of bang for your buck, regardless. 

On the road, you don’t have to work the FJ Cruiser’s engine particularly hard to make progress. It feels mighty to drive, with a suitably high driving position. The suspension is soft and the steering is light, yet it remains relatively easy to place on a twisty b-road (at moderate speeds at least). Regardless, it simply begs you to go off-road and that’s evident as soon as you get moving. 

The SUV is available with a Torsen limited slip centre differential and switch-activated lockable rear diff. With tight approach and departure angles, 244mm of ground clearance, and the ability to splash through water 700mm deep, the FJ Cruiser can take you off the beaten track and far beyond – just like the Toyota Land Cruiser it shares parts with.

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It has a rough and ready interior, too, with a suitably utilitarian design that can be jet washed. It’s ready to welcome you and up to four passengers through the front doors or small suicide rear doors – not something you see everyday, let alone on a huge SUV. Following on with another quirk, you have the FJ Cruiser’s three windscreen wipers. You didn’t read that wrong: if it starts to rain, you have three wiper blades to help you see out of the front. This had to be done because the windscreen is too short and wide for two wiper blades to do the job. 

Toyota fj cruiser interior

This all adds to the charm. The FJ Cruiser has such road presence, quirkiness and rarity that heads turn unlike most other utilitarian vehicles. The available ones are worth snapping up, because importing from Japan isn’t a quick process. When we first spoke to Cabriolet Coupe Jeepster, who kindly provided the FJ Cruiser pictured above, the dealership that kindly lent the FJ Cruiser pictured here, it was waiting 10 weeks for three Final Editions to arrive in the UK.

What we said then

06/01/2006: “The FJ Cruiser makes an accomplished off-roader, but the trade-off is mediocrity on the road, with wallowy handling, ponderous steering and performance and fuel economy commensurate with a 2000kg heavyweight. Those retro looks and bulletproof build quality generated interest Stateside, but Toyota GB already has five off-roaders.”

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An expert's view

Andrew Sacre, Owner, Jeepster: “The first time we had [FJ Cruisers] in, my technician had a chance to have a look at them. They were all three years old or thereabouts – quite low mileage – and my technician honestly thought they were virtually new. We haven’t had one single warranty claim, not one issue. And they’re nice to drive, even after I’ve messed with suspension lifting and terrain tires. I sold one to Steve Grantley (of the rock band Stiff Little Fingers) and he says it’s the best car he’s ever owned – and he has a little fleet of cars.”

Buyer beware


Engine: High oil consumption can be an issue. The oil rings don’t seal properly over time and the oil passes through and causes burning issues. The level of oil will drop and require topping up. Also, black smoke coming from the exhaust will be another symptom of an engine that has oil burning issues, so make sure the engine doesn’t smoke. 

Watch for blow-by, too. This is where the piston rings are not sealing properly and air finds its way through the gaps between the compression rings and the cylinder walls. When inspecting an FJ Cruiser, start the engine and remove the oil dipstick. Place your hand on top of the dipstick pipe and if it blows a lot of air, then this engine has serious issues. A small amount of blow-by is normal, though. 

The water pump can also develop leaks and the front and the rear crankshaft seals can leak oil. The oil pressure sensor can develop glitches and you might see some false alerts. The timing belt tensioner pulley is also known to fail and this can cause the belt to wobble. With a hefty naturally aspirated V6, don’t be surprised if your FJ Cruiser averages around 20mpg – so brace your wallet for the petrol pumps.

Transmission: The gearbox is regarded as pretty much bulletproof. The only problem in some models was a transmission shudder that can cause vibrations.

Interior: Toyota US recalled around 310,000 FJ Cruisers from the 2007 through 2013 model years because of a problem involving the seatbelt retractors. The seatbelts for the driver and front passenger are mounted on the rear doors, and because of the insufficient strength of the rear-door panel, cracks can develop over an extended period of time, especially if the rear doors are repeatedly and forcefully closed. If cracks appear around the lower seatbelt retractor’s anchor, the retractor could loosen and detach.

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Toyota fj cruiser side door open

Also worth knowing

As we touched upon, the FJ Cruiser has a rugged interior, but here are some more details. It has ventilated, water-repellent seats, for example. To help shed liquids, they’re also upholstered with a fabric that’s backed by a special breathable resin coating, while liquids are prevented from penetrating the stitched seams by a sealant. The floor surfaces are covered with a grey, rubber-like material for easy cleaning. 

Toyota GB won’t provide spare parts, but online suppliers should be able to. You can contact Jeepster for any assistance with that or regarding any modifications you would like. Tight parking bays can prove troublesome for the FJ Cruiser, which is taller and wider than the current Toyota bZ4X and RAV4.

How much to spend

£14,000 – £19,999: Early left-hand-drive cars, usually with mileages north of 80,000.

£20,000 – £29,999: Examples from the early 2010s, with a mix of left- and right-hand drive. Mileages tend not to exceed 70,000.

£30,000 – £39,999: High-spec examples, either modified or of later model years.

£40,000 – £50,000: Later cars in showroom condition and minimal mileage.

One we found

Toyota fj cruiser used

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2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser, 49,200 MILES, £27,999: Though some would argue that the FJ Cruiser is already eye-catching enough, if you do want to double down on turning heads, then how about this yellow example? It sits around the middle of the model’s price range, with a good, average mileage and age.

Oliver Young

Join the debate

Add a comment…
ianp55 31 October 2022

The FJ Cruiser certainly looks smart but really it's just a 4 Runner in drag, I wouldn't fancy driving one here with those massive C-pillars and the view from the rear window ain't much to brag about either. The FJ Cruiser is too focused for the US market and what is fine for those  wide open spaces isn't for here,if you've got £50k burning a hole in your pocket for a serious mud plugger try a Landcruiser 


Leslie Brook 31 October 2022

Your used car buying guides always end up disuading me from any inclination I may have had to buy the vehicle concerned. Even Toyota, usually a beacon for reliability has an engine that burns oil, suffers blow-by, failing water pumps, dodgy cam belt tensioner and a potentially vibrating and shuddering gearbox.