With used values for a 2007 model in the $15,000 to $20,000 range, picking up a good, low-mileage FJ Cruiser for dedicated off-road duty makes good sense.

2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

Because despite how much I like the FJ Cruiser for cruising around the bush, cruising around the city is a pain in the firm seat and the less firm part that sits on it.

Toyota has been lauded for building an off-road vehicle with respectable on-road ride and comfort and it is respectable for an off-road truck, which is the caveat most everyone else leaves out. With its relatively short wheelbase and high centre of gravity, the ride has a tendency to choppiness, particularly over roads marked by horizontal frost heaves and cracks.

The driving position is upright for a good view down the road, but not so good looking up or over the hood, and downright disaster-looking-to-happen bad in the right rear quarter. Despite fussing with the skinny optional power adjustable mirror, I couldn’t get rid of the blind spot. Backing up is nerve-racking and the tiny image in the optional mirror mounted rear-view camera is too small and fuzzy to be reliable.

On the road, there is the ever-present drone of the 4.0L V6 that packs enough power to move the FJ forward with authority, a practice that will grow tiresome when the fuel bills roll in. With a city rating of 12.4 L/100 km (9.5 on the highway), the FJ can be thirsty under a heavy foot. Just cruising is what the Cruiser likes best. And not too fast unless you want to hear lots of wind noise. All those upright retro bits hit the wind hard.

The FJ Cruiser is a four-door vehicle with all the convenience of a two-door. The rear half doors open only after the front door is open and rear seat access is not as good or as convenient as a real door. The rear seats are firm (you know what that means) but they can be flipped up or removed entirely if cargo space is a concern (which is what I would do rather than buy an off-road package just to get a roof rack). The spare tire is mounted on the rear door, which swings open toward the curb (urban convenience) instead of toward the driver’s side (off-road convenience).

Despite the faux pas with the rear door, the FJ Cruiser should be on your list of off-road specialists if your idea of a fun vacation is driving the Rubicon Trail or the Mojave Desert. But if you’re really looking for a capable vehicle for foul weather and rough roads, look elsewhere — even in the Toyota showroom. They’ll be just as happy to sell you a RAV4 or Highlander.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Base price: $32,725
Options: Urban Package, $5,020; automatic transmission, $1,000.
A/C and environmental fees: $135.20
Freight: $1,635
Price as tested: $40,515.20

2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser

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