Toyota, Hummer joust
FJ Cruiser, the new kid in the mid-size SUV market, defies H3 and prevails
ANN ARBOR -- The arrival of the retro-inspired 2007 FJ Cruiser may signal some unhappy news for the H3, last year's most notable newcomer in the mid-size sport-utility category.
While each SUV is distinctive, eye-catching and designed for maximum visceral impact, the two combatants could not be more different in terms of their overall philosophy, execution and performance.
The '07 Toyota FJ Cruiser starts at $22,340 for the base 4x2 model and $23,905 for the 4x4 version, including shipping. General Motors '06 Hummer H3 starts at $29,500 for the base model, which only comes as a 4x4.
We tested a nicely equipped FJ Cruiser 4x4 with a bottom line of $30,208 and an H3 with a sticker of $33,059.
Both Toyota and Hummer have opted for out-of-the-box designs, with the FJ adapting some of its styling cues from the vintage FJ40-series Land Cruiser and the H3 borrowing heavily from its military-based Humvee sibling.
Both vehicles have head-swiveling profiles, but the FJ appears to be more polarizing -- indeed, one of us loves it and one is less than lukewarm. The H3 seems to draw raves from nearly every quarter for its rugged exterior.
The FJ has such retro touches as round headlamps, a flat grille with Toyota spelled out in block letters, an upright windshield, wraparound rear side windows and the aforementioned white roof. It also has two odd little rear access doors that open 90 degrees in clamshell fashion and are narrow enough to make entry and exit difficult.
The H3 boasts a distinctive and appealing design that truly captures the essence of the Hummer brand and clearly links this "baby Hummer" with the larger H2 and H1 models. But it, too, has narrow rear doors, which create similar access problems for rear passengers.
There are visibility issues with each vehicle, but they are especially aggravating in the FJ, whose ultra-thick center pillar seriously impedes vision to the side and makes backing up into oncoming traffic a major pain. Rear-mounted spare tires block vision on both vehicles.
The H3 and the FJ are both nicely equipped, with such features as air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry, tilt steering column and AM/FM/CD player standard on both models. Power mirrors are standard on H3, optional on FJ.
The H3's cabin looks great, if a bit on the macho side, with top-grade materials, attractive metal trim and chunky, satisfying controls. The front seats are comfortable, and the gauges and controls are simple and easy to comprehend. There isn't much rear leg room, however, and the rear-seat amenities are virtually nonexistent -- only one cupholder and no vents or reading lights.
We were surprised by the lack of such popular options in the H3 as a navigation system, a rear DVD entertainment system and adjustable pedals. On the plus side, the H3 comes with General Motors' OnStar communications system.
The FJ's base interior is functional and no-nonsense, with water-repellent seat fabrics and floor surfaces covered with a gray rubber-like material. Our loaded test vehicle had lots of extra-cost options, including color-keyed door panels, a multi-information display on the dash, plus an outrageous "FJammer" AM/FM audio system with an in-dash, six-disc CD changer and a massive subwoofer stuffed in the cargo bay.
If the H3's rear seat feels cramped, the one in the FJ is positively claustrophobic. It is pretty spartan, with no vents and no individual reading lights. On the upside, rear cargo space is ample in the FJ, while limited in the H3.
Ride & Handling
Both of these mid-size offroaders are truck-based, which means they sit on a full frame.
Unlike the H3, the FJ is available in a base 4x2 model; the Hummer comes only as a 4x4. The FJ rides on standard 17-inch wheels and tires, the H3 on 16s.
Ride quality is surprisingly tame on both models, at least on smooth roads, with the Toyota's larger tires giving it a slight edge in comfort. The Hummer starts to lose its poise when the pavement starts to get a bit dicey, bouncing its occupants around like rag dolls on the really rough stuff. The FJ stays cool on all but rutted, choppy surfaces. Both vehicles exhibit prodigious offroad capability.
On the highway, the FJ displays a bit more control, thanks in part to its speed-sensitive, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion steering. The H3 has a larger turning circle and is more of a chore to park, although the FJ's visibility problems, as mentioned, make backing up an even bigger issue.
Winner: FJ Cruiser
Toyota is the hands-down winner in this department, with more cylinders, more power, more gears and better mileage.
The FJ is powered by Toyota's sturdy twin-cam 4.0-liter V-6, which delivers 239 horsepower and, in our test vehicle, was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy is 17 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway.
The H3 shares the GM twin-cam 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that makes 220 horsepower and comes with a four-speed manual. The EPA rates the combination at 16/19 mpg.
Over the road, the FJ feels lively and willing at a touch of the throttle, while the H3 always seems to be working overtime. Even with just one or two people in it, the Hummer's five-cylinder engine feels anemic and grossly underpowered.
Winner: FJ Cruiser
Safety is something of a disappointment on both these SUVs, in terms of what comes standard and what costs extra.
The FJ and the H3 both get standard antilock brakes and traction control, and the FJ adds standard stability control (it's an extra-cost option on the H3).
Toyota and Hummer, however, make buyers pay extra for side curtain air bag protection, which will not sit well with parents. The FJ package includes side bags in the front seats. They're not available on the H3.
Winner: FJ Cruiser
In our runoff, the Toyota FJ Cruiser beat the Hummer H3 in the key areas of value, horsepower, fuel economy and safety. If the Toyota's looks, inside and out, speak to you more than its American counterpart, then there's virtually no contest.
Overall winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser