In short: The Toyota Prado 3-door SX is ideal for a two-person family.
• It’s comfortable
• It’s easy to drive
• It’s a genuine off-roader
• It’s cheap on fuel
• It will eat up the kilometres effortlessly
• And if you’re a grey nomad it won’t entirely destroy your kids’ inheritance
The longer story: Toyota released their three-door Landcruiser Prado in Australia last November and it’s the first time in over 20 years that Toyota has had a three-door short-wheel base Landcruiser of any sort in their line up.
If you’ve ever driven one of those early three-door Landcruisers you may find it hard to believe that something as smooth and refined as today’s three-door Prado could have ever descended from something like that early three-door Landcruiser.
I occasionally get to drive one of those early short-wheel base Cruisers and I have to tell that they’re a beast. Back then hairy-chested blokes loved their Cruisers and today’s grey nomads are going to love the three-door Prado just as much.
Today’s short-wheel base Prado comes in two varieties … the SX and the ZR. The base model SX can be yours for $56,000 plus on-road costs while the very up-market ZR will set you back $65,000 plus on-road costs. Both are powered by a turbo-charged 3.0litre diesel coupled to a five-speed auto transmission.
Despite being the base model the SX comes with a range of features and creature comforts that will appeal to most people.
The standard SX comes with a reversing camera, dual-zone air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, centre diff lock, headlight control, traction control, stability control, ABS, limited slip diff, side-curtain airbags, Bluetooth intergration, a three-tonne towing capacity … and that’s just a few of the items on the extensive list of standard equipment in the base-model.
The ZR comes with such extras as leather upholstery, heated seats, a sun-roof and a range of computer controlled presets that will help the novice four-wheel driver get over a wide variety of terrain that he or she might not otherwise feel confident in tackling.
Despite having played in some of that terrain in the ZR at Toyota’s Prado media day back in November I came away from a week in the SX thinking that, while all those extras in the ZR are nice, the SX would certainly be my choice of vehicle.
Engine and transmission
As I said a moment ago, the short-wheel based Prados are powered by a 3-litre turbocharged diesel. Now I have seen several reviewers who suggest that this engine is old and tired and you could do so much better with some other maker’s four-wheel drive but seriously … what were they expecting?
Do they expect the Prado to perform like a V8 Supercar? This is a big, heavy four-wheel drive so you’re not going to get neck-snapping acceleration when you put your foot to the floor. What you do get is plenty of acceleration … more than enough to pass the next caravan … or three … and enough torque to tow your own van, boat or trailer at speeds that won’t make you look like you’re leading a funeral procession.
Sure there is some lag from a standing start while you wait for the turbo to cut in … and that nearly got me into trouble on several occasions … but as far as performance is concerned the Toyota Prado has nothing to be ashamed of.
The transmission is smooth and even though it comes with the option to let you change gears yourself you’ll probably never use it. For the optimum economy all you need do is put it into drive and let it look after the gear changes for you.
Toyota claims 8.3L/100km for the three-door Prado in combined city and highway operation and that’s probably about right … but maybe you can do better.
On the trip down the highway from Hervey Bay to Brisbane I set the cruise control to the maximum permissible speed of 110k/h and the onboard computer showed a steady fuel consumption of 8L/100km while the Prado just cruised along.
In the city, when we swapped drivers and were struggling through fairly heavy traffic, the fuel consumption figure dropped to around 7L/100km and my partner who was driving at the time wasn’t using any special driving techniques.
So maybe Toyota’s figures aren’t too hard to beat.
I have to say that I found both front seats to be outstanding … I spent a lot of time driving the Toyota Prado and a lot of time as a passenger. The rear seats … well they’re hard to get into and hard to get out of and they seem ok for a short trip but I’m not sure I would want to travel far as a backseat passenger.
If you have a child who needs to be fitted into a capsule or child’s seat then you’re going to struggle to get them in and out of it. If you’re child tends to get a little car-sick on long journeys … well you’ll probably wear it before you can get their straps undone and get them out of the vehicle.
You may wonder why such a relatively small vehicle as the three-door Prado would need dual-zone air conditioning … I know I certainly did when I first got into it but not any more. It’s surprising what constitutes a comfortable temperature level for two individuals and being able to vary the temperature by one or two degrees from one side of the vehicle to the other can make quite a pleasant difference.
We managed to test the Toyota Prado in what has been one of the hottest weeks in coastal Queensland this summer and I have to say that the air conditioning in the SX was outstanding. Outside the temperature might have been creeping up to the mid 30s but inside it was a very pleasant 22.
The front passenger seat does not have as much rearward travel as the driver’s seat does and I guess that because there needs to be some access to the rear seats. That means that front-seat passengers with long legs can’t stretch out quite as far as they might like to.
At first I thought that this was going to be a problem for me but on long trips I didn’t even notice it.
Ride and Handling
Make no mistake about it, despite all the creature comforts the Toyota Landcruiser Prado is no soft-roader. It’s build to take on the toughest terrain so you have to be prepared for a firm … but definitely not harsh … ride.
That’s perhaps one of the biggest differences between the old and the new short-wheel base Toyotas. The beast from the 1980s that I occasionally drive is choppy and harsh and a ride in that will compact your discs and damage your kidneys. Hit a corner hard and it rolls like a drunken sailor on shore-leave
In the latest short-wheel base Toyota there’s very little chop and your spinal chord and kidneys are safe. Hit a corner hard in the three-door Prado and there’s almost no roll at all … certainly none in comparison to its hoary old ancestor.
On tar the Prado SX handles like a much better than average car while on corrugated dirt roads it will rock along at the speed limit without any hassles at all. While you may want to back off on the curves it will still take you through them without coming close to setting off its traction control alarm.
If you’ve read Toni’s account of her experiences in the Prado SX that you can see here you will have noticed that she drove the Prado out of Brisbane when we picked it up. That was her first experience of driving a big SUV and she had no problems with it at all.
The steering is light and there’s great visibility from the driver’s seat so you shouldn’t have problems in heavy traffic. Getting into parking spots in shopping centre car parks is something else and it may take you a little while to master the art of parking the Prado in just one parking spot.
The SX Prado will certainly keep you honest off-road because it lacks all those computer pre-sets that come with the ZR. The ZR can fool you into thinking that nothing will stop you while the SX will keep you honest because it will get you to wherever you want to go if you have the skill needed to tackle the terrain.
Ground clearance in the Prado three-door is outstanding and, because it’s a short-wheel base vehicle it will clamber over terrain that would snag any long-wheel base four-wheel drive.
Dashboard and Controls
Basically everything is within easy reach of the driver and some controls are even duplicated on the steering wheel. Strangely, even when you look at the instruction manual, finding the button for the fuel filler cap can be difficult the first time. It’s not clearly marked and it’s tucked away almost under the dash.
All other controls are clearly marked so you’re not guessing at what they might do if you press them. I know that gives me no excuse for turning the hazards on while we were in the middle of the Gateway Bridge but I swear we hit a bump and I missed the button I was aiming for and hit the hazards instead.
The gauges are clear and easy to read and I really did like the lighting on the instrument panel for, even in daylight, the instruments are illuminated. That might sound a little strange but even here in Queensland you can find yourself in the dark in the middle of the day.
The Prado comes with an interesting array of bells, whistles and warning tones too and I’m sure there are a few that I didn’t encounter during our week-long test. Perhaps the most important warning tone is the one that tells you that whoever happens to have the key has moved out of range of the vehicle.
That’s one of the joys of keyless entry and keyless start. If you happen to leave your keys in the house and the vehicle is still close to them it is possible to start the vehicle and drive away and then you’re really in trouble because once you turn it off you won’t be able to start it again … hence the warning tone.
Of course, if you want to really annoy your wife or partner, you can leave the motor running while they wait in the Prado as you go into the bank or the post office … and out of range of the vehicle. By the time you get back they’ll either be insane or ready to amputate several important parts of your anatomy.
For a relatively big vehicle the amount of space in the back of the three-door Toyota Prado is a bit limited and that rear door is big and heavy. Fortunately on this new Prado Toyota has introduced a locking mechanism that allows you to lock the door open.
However, there is one word of warning about that locking mechanism … if you’ve been doing some dirt road running you will find that it gets very dirty … so don’t brush up against it if you’re dressed for a night out.
Of course the luggage space can be increased by folding down the rear seats and that’s not a difficult operation at all … but getting them back into place is another story.
Like the tailgate, those rear seats are heavy and take a real effort to pull back into place. Even with my gorilla arms I had to climb into the back of the Prado to drag them back into place and they’re damn heavy!
After we returned the Prado the early-morning regulars at our favorite coffee shop asked me if I was sorry to be back in our regular drive … and I had to say that I was. The Prado SX is a vehicle that is fun to drive … it’s comfortable and it’s incredibly economical on fuel … far more economical than the 2-litre 2000 model Honda CR-V that I usually drive … and it will take me into some rough terrain where other vehicles won’t.
So would I buy one? Well there’s no doubt that the Prado SX is not perfect but most of the niggles that I have with it are minor things that may not bother other people and certainly may not bother you.
They certainly don’t bother me so much that the Toyota Prado SX won’t be on the top of the list of vehicles that I will be considering when I want to retire and travel. While I may never tow a caravan I still want to be able to ride in comfort and watch those kilometres slip by as I head for Cape York or somewhere equally as rough and challenging.
19 thoughts on “Toyota Prado SX 3-Door – Full Review”
I took the new Prado SX 3 door for a test drive and must admit was a little disappointed with it. I have had Prado’s for a number of years now and pretty much as soon as I drove out of the dealership on this test drive, got around the corner I felt car sick. The suspension is not setup very well on the shorter wheel base, the cars rocks too much, bit like being on a boat. I had my mate sitting in the passenger seat and he too felt about sick when we were driving. Over all it is a nice vehicle and what not however the setup of the car is not the best in terms of suspension. Just on that I wouldn’t purchase the 3 door, the 5 door is the way to go.
Thanks for your comments Ben … they were definitely interesting to read.
That early model short-wheel base Cruiser that’s pictured in the review is my son’s so I get to drive it quite often and I can believe that it would make people feel car-sick. But neither Toni (the other tester) nor I had any problems with it making us feel unwell … even on some quite rough dirt roads.
I’m not sure though that I’d like to travel too far in the back seat – I travelled around the block in the back seat and that was enough for me 🙂
However, when it comes to what’s comfortable and what’s not it’s all fairly subjective so it’s interesting to hear from someone who had a quite different experience to what we had.
All in all it is a great car and features etc. I didn’t take it off road as dealers don’t allow that 🙂 I am sure it would handle off road quite well like the current one I have, 5 door 2006 model. After test driving the 3 door I jumped straight into the new 5 door and noticed the difference straight away with the setup of suspension. Other than that the car is great. I would have purchased it if I didn’t feel car sick from the test drive.
Hi Stuart ,
My wife had a Rav three door and while I the beginning
I was trying to work out why she picked that car,
after cruising from Adelaide to WA along the coast right up to Cervantes where the pinnacles are and back
through Kalgoorlie I was impressed it never missed a beat and to be honest they are very well made!
So I got my three door SX on order hopefully I will
get it mid june and we will do WA again I can’t wait!
not to mention on a test drive I felt very good and
was nice to drive ! Salute
in 3 door prado (2010) cruiz control is avilable
We bought a Prado ZR in June 2010 and we absolutely love it. We brought it to tow our caravan which weights a tad over 2500 kg with about 285kg on the ball.Certainly the two doors pose a little bit of inconvenience some times. However, the overwhelming advantages are it has all the Toylota creature comforts, compact and easy to park, excellent turning circle, takes up much less room in the garage and we save on ferry costs across Bass Strait with the van. Yes we are grey nomads.
I’ve bought the ZR with every extra invaluable and what a beautiful car it is. But the rear seat space is basically not useable. The front doors are doors from the 5 seated and even when fully open it’s a real pain to access anything – even a pullover or groceries on the back seat or floor. I’d love to hear from someone on how to optimize use of the space, to my mind it’s a lost metre in an already short car. Folded down or fwd the rear seats create space – buts it’s so far fwd and put of reach you need a ladder to climb up to get to it, and get over stuff you have packed near the door. If anyone has bought a drawer system please let me know, it’s only a few months old but I’m heading for a five door and a povo pack to get a usable car out of this. Yes grey nomads, need to get the engel in, the gear and somehow find a place to put a jacket, the newspaper or a book without having to twist my back or go mountaineering or diving to retrieve it from the wasted inaccessible behind me.
I’m looking at the 3 door prado and i want the 3 door so i’m not the one that has to drive everyone around but i do want to test drive one and i don’t have a partner or children so it would be perfect but i would consider bf goodridge tyers and i almost ripped off the side steps off my last diesel prado on the rocks from the beach bypass track on fraser island queensland
I’m looking at the 3 door prado and i want the 3 door so i’m not the one that has to drive everyone around but i do want to test drive one and i don’t have a partner or children so it would be perfect but i would consider bf goodridge tyers and i almost ripped off the side steps off my last diesel prado on the rocks from the beach bypass track on fraser island queensland.
One thing i like about the 3 door is that is that it has one fuel tank and if i wanted a larger tank i would goto arb but i had diesel that almost went off because it didn’t have a switch to use the fuel from eather tank that was in the 90 seriese prado and the landcruser and not in the 120 seriese model but if i went for a 5 door i would goto arb if the new model hasn’t got a switch and it is a big problem and it is a problem with unleaded fuel if you don’t do many km.
Does any-one know where there is one that I can take for a test drive ??? I’ve been told that there is up to a “6” month wait to buy one..For the amount of money that dealers are asking as a deposit I want to drive one before i commit to the purchase..
I referred your plea for help to my contact at Toyota and they came up with three that might be close to you … only one is a demo though … and I’ve sent the information the gave me direct to you via email.
Stuart..since I paid a deposit and ordered one (Frankston Toyota) I have had a few phone calls from them..and the delivery date has now gone from September to October..I wonder if they will pass the discounted price on with the 90 day wait !!
G’day Vinnie – I think that once you pay a deposit and agree to purchase the vehicle there might be some form of contract that would bind them to the purchase price at the time you placed the order … but I’m not a lawyer so don’t quote me on that.
I know how frustrating it can be when you’re waiting for a new car and the delivery date keeps on being pushed back. I also know that Toyotoa is having ongoing supply problems because of the tsunami – the new HiLux is due for release next month and the press days were set for the end of this month but they contacted us the other day to tell us that the press days have been postponed till August because the press fleet have been delayed on the production line.
I know that doesn’t help when you’re itching to get into your new Prado but …
Yep got another phone call to-day..Looks like the end of October..I’m starting to wonder if it will be a 2012 model when it gets here..I’ve just done some pricing around and it looks like for Insurance purposes I’ve already done a few thousand dollars and I havn’t even got it yet..
Yep got another phone call……NOVEMBER now !!! Its no wonder that certain people are now bringing in “Grey” imports..some are even badged as 2011..Unfortunately they are all petrols..Maybe Chrissy..
Vinnie I feel for you but this might be the last delaying phone call you get mate.
I was up in Townsville for the press release of the Hilux on Wednesday/Thursday and the PR people were telling us supply should be back to normal sometime this month.
I know that Toyota Australia have been grinding their teeth over the supply problems so hopefully what they told us wasn’t just PR hype.
Sorry to say this but I’ve cancelled the order..Not sure what to get now but that is another story..
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