Toyota‘s cars have always had a reputation for being reliable, safe, durable and economical. From their sedans, pickups, vans to even their SUVs, seeing the three rings on the hood instills a sense of confidence in a buyer. When it comes to SUVs, the Japanese giant has always competed with European and American counterparts, often leading the way with more reliable builds and less cranky machines.
But like any good car brand that’s been in the auto industry for as long as Toyota, the automaker has also made some bad decisions and produced cars that just didn’t come close, let alone get there. While Toyota SUVs are almost always at the top of new buyers’ shortlists, there are some instances where Toyota just dropped the ball. Here are five of the best and worst SUVs to ever sport the Three Rings.
10 Best: 2021 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is one of Toyota’s most famous SUVs and also one of their best-selling. It has always been an SUV that is well made and has proven itself over the years to be robust and robust no matter what. Built with the family in mind, the 4Runner is just as suitable for a daily driver as it is for going off the grid and tackling any terrain possible.
JD Power gives the 2021 4Runner an 81 out of 100 in reliability, which is hugely impressive. While it’s a capable off-roader, it’s also fun to drive and easy to handle, something many SUVs aren’t. Despite all this, it would be wrong to think that the 4Runner is skimping on technology as it comes with plenty of technology and features to keep everyone engaged and comfortable. Truly, this is one of the best generations of Toyota’s iconic SUV.
9 Best: 2021 Venice
The 2021 Toyota Venza is a crossover SUV that hits the right note. It was a vast improvement over its previous models, and Toyota made sure they ironed out all the kinks and issues the car faced, leading to its temporary retirement in the mid-2010s.
The Venza is only sold as a hybrid crossover SUV, making it on every shortlist for fuel-conscious buyers. With an economy of 40 MPG on city streets and 37 MPG on the highwaythe crossover houses 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that comes with electronic motors developing 219 combined horsepower, which is certainly more than some other crossovers in the segment.
8 Best: Sequoia 2023
As the Land Cruiser bids farewell to the American shores, the Sequoia 2023 has now come to take its crown. While the previous generation Sequoia was a more than capable SUV that got the job done expertly, customers have always had issues with the rough and flawed cabins, namely the interiors that were never in order.
Increasing interior comfort and technology, the new Sequoia has been completely redesigned from the ground up, and will no doubt lock heads capably with the likes of the Chevy Tahoe and the Ford Explorer. Based on the same architecture as the global Land Cruiser, the new Sequoia is sure to become one of the best Toyota cars ever, one that is just as capable of off-road driving as it is of hitting the mall in utter luxury.
7 Best: 2016 RAV4
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is by far the most impressive and reliable RAV4 model ever made, making it one of the best Toyota crossover SUVs ever made. Half a decade later, time has shown how remarkable the 2016 model year RAV4 was. With an excellent rating of 86/100 for quality and reliability on JD Power, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 is one that Toyota simply couldn’t pass up.
On RepairPal, the crossover SUV has a solid reliability score of 4.0 out of 5, and even has an impressive annual repair cost of just $429, which remains as easy on the wallet as possible. To make it even better, it wears the crown on a safety rating of five out of five†
6 Best: Land Cruiser 2020
How could the Land Cruiser not be on this list? The pinnacle of luxury, power and pure, no-nonsense off-road capability, the Land Cruiser has always defined what it means to be an SUV – a true, purebred Sport Utility Vehicle. The Land Cruiser has been Toyota’s flagship for decades and has never skimped on luxury, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of power inside and out.
The 2020 model of the Toyota Land Cruiser was the culmination of a long history of Land Cruiser evolution, resolving mistakes and flaws of the past. It came standard with an extensive list of features, and the Heritage trim upped the ante even further. With a muscular 5.7L V8 engine that delivers 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, the 2020 Toyota LC is real was the pinnacle of Toyota SUV engineering†
5 Worst: 2007 RAV4
Despite its solid credentials, not every Toyota RAV4 model has been a success or a good car. The 2007 RAV4 is one such example, which consumers have complained about left and right, whether engine problems or transmission shift problems†
Further, the car seemed unquenchable when it came to oil, and it was also widespread with minor and major technical failures. To compound the owner’s problems of a 2007 Toyota RAV4, he also had faulty piston rings that made even everyday driving feel questionable.
4 Worst: 2003 Highlander
2003 was a bad year for the Toyota Highlander, which, as can be seen, has been a problematic car for Toyota. Technical issues plagued this SUV in this model year, and buyers reported problems with the ignition coil and faulty oxygen sensors.
In addition, sludge build-up was another problem, along with the car’s habit of idling roughly. Even the airbag sensors were faulty! To top it off, it also had very expensive repairs, and just after the 100k mark on the odometer, buyers also reported coolant leaks. Engine block bolts also broke down around that time, and some customers even reported problems with brakes, which they had to replace without using them roughly. All in all, the 2003 Highlander was easily one of the worst cars to get off the Toyota assembly line.
3 Worst: 2007 FJ Cruiser
At first glance, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser may seem like a capable off-roader worthy of taking on the competition. That’s what original buyers thought too. However, for all its attractive features and a V6 mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it had such flaws that it left a bad taste in his mouth.
The FJ Cruiser’s fuel economy was never impressive to begin with, at 15 and 18 MPG in the city and on the highway respectively† But more worrisome were the massive design flaws Toyota was not aware of. The SUV had some terrible blind spots, it had a pretty cramped interior despite being an SUV, and it was never aimed at regulars to begin with.
2 Worst: 2002 Sequoia
The 2002 Toyota Sequoia has the honor of receiving the most complaints from owners about the car in any model year. In fact, CarComplaints rates it as the worst model year in the SUV series. These complaints included a transmission failure, engine die in neutral, and braking problems.
It also had a pretty bad problem with the tailgate handle breaking, which always had to be replaced, and the engine had a habit of dying when the car came to a stop, which was rated as a ‘really terrible’ problem when it came to seriousness†
1 Worst: 2008 Highlander
The Highlander, as mentioned, has been a problematic car for Toyota several times, 2008 is one of them† The SUV did have a V6 engine that produced 270 horsepower, but it came with a host of issues that just couldn’t be ignored. For starters, fuel economy on the 2008 Highlander was just 19 MPG combined†
In addition to a faulty ignition coil and a buildup of sludge, the 2008 Highlander was also plagued with problems that were also present in the 2003 model before it. In addition, owners even reported errors such as major oil leaks, making it an even worse experience than the 2003 model year. For example, 2008 was one of the worst model years for not just the Highlander but Toyota in general.