This has never happened to me before. I had three strangers on the same day tell me how much they liked the look of the Toyota FJ Cruiser I was driving. Two were men in their 50s and the other was a woman in her 40s. One of the men guessed the price of the FJ at $50,000. He was shocked when I told him it was half that amount.
What attracted these people to the FJ was the familiarity of the design. The FJ borrows heavily from the popular and highly collectible 1960s-era FJ40 safari vehicle, with its box-like shape, grille and headlight configuration, wrap-around rear windows and signature white roof.
What I loved about the FJ, though, is its simplicity. With the exception of perhaps the Jeep Wrangler, most SUVs today look like high-performance luxury sedans on steroids. This has driven SUV prices through the roof and led to a lot of uninspired designs. The FJ stays true to its rugged heritage with its black rubber carpets, water-repellent cloth seats and large manual control dials. The dash layout is uncluttered, thanks to the dearth of digital distractions.
Although rugged in appearance, the FJ has a remarkably quiet and smooth ride for an SUV. The driver sits high off the ground, and the sweeping rectangular windshield offers a panoramic view of the road. The rear, pint-size suicide doors make entering and exiting the back seats a breeze, and the peppy V-6 engine makes for a fun and nimble ride.
Two complaints--the FJ is plagued by blinds spots that make lane changing and reversing somewhat nerve-wracking maneuvers. It also only gets about 20 miles per gallon.
At a base price of $21,910, it's easy to overlook these shortcomings. And although the FJ was created and priced to appeal to younger buyers, its retro styling will make it a popular choice for those with a touch of gray in their hair as well.