Are we ready for the next Harrier?

Thursday March 18 2021
By Mustafa Ziraba

To answer this question directly, we have to understand that when one is asked whether they would like to get the bad news or the good news first, chances are they will opt for the bad news first.

Taxes on the first model year 2014, the third generation Toyota Harrier in the used car market in Japan, can go up to $18,000 (about Shs65.9m) cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) to Mombasa. The good news is that model year 2014 today does not attract environmental levy scoring a tax bill of about Shs30m. That is still a lot of money, but stay with me.

Think about fresh lettuce, add avocado and finally salad cream. What you get in the end is this generation of Harrier with the first being lettuce only, and the second gen being the lettuce plus avocado.

In the used car market, one can always get a good deal with different variations of the usual factors such as mileage, colour, transmission (CVT or automatic). Either way, the car shall cost more than Shs100m. Is it a worthy successor to the revered second generation also known as Kawundo? Let’s find out.     

While the first and second generation with model years 1997 through 2003 and 2004 through 2013 respectively had parallel Lexus RX models, the third generation was a departure from tradition with a new path by sharing the platform with the relatively new Lexus NX.



The Harrier has always been a favourite, right from the first generation. The fact that it is not a parallel model to the Lexus RX, there is room to try new ideas and they are quite evident. It looks sharper, with Toyota describing the exterior design as “elegant velocity”, which is about as meaningful as “wild but formal”.

It is certainly a handsome machine, especially in business-like black. I will admit that the grill is quite unusual. It is really neither excessive nor offensive, but quite polarising. The car looks wide, smooth, yet classy with its accented styling and forward-leaning stance giving it a speedy or sporty SUV appearance.


The Harrier is very well appointed. Open the door and you are greeted by typical Toyota luxury. Because this is a true Japan domestic market car, a number of items a step or two into the entertainment system shall be in Japanese, a small inconvenience really.  The interior is beautifully made and offers great front seats and a multi-adjustable driving position. The rear seats as well offer great room with flat floor. Yes, three adults can still fit in the rear seat but they better be prepared for some shoulder rubbing throughout the journey. These fold to present huge boot space for large cargo.

Driving dynamics

With the Toyota Harrier, the drive feels firm and comfortable, which makes long distance travels with the family a lot more tolerable. It would seem that the suspension does a great job in absorbing impact, such as driving through uneven terrain, rather than being a jumpy ride.

One would think that the height would cause the ride to feel a little wobbly but that is definitely not the case here. In fact, the car feels solid with an adequate amount of soundproofing, which adds to its comfort factor. It is also thanks to its height that you will get a clearer view of the roads.


It does not seem to struggle with accelerations and maintaining speed, and its ECO mode helps improve the Harrier’s fuel consumption, which is a major plus point for many. Gear shifts are buttery, smooth and quiet. Furthermore, its seven-speed transmission allows it to maintain speeds at lower RPM, which means lesser engine noise, improved fuel efficiency, and a more comfortable driving distance if you happen to go for a long distance adventure with the family to visit relatives or just a simple road trip.

The Harrier’s fuel efficiency is rated at 16km for every litre under mixed driving conditions. If you ever require more power from the Harrier, there is a ‘PWR’ button that can be activated for a livelier pick up, but that will definitely affect its fuel efficiency.

Toyota Harrier comes with three engine variants a 2.0L 4-cylinder, with 149bhp of power and 193Nm of torque, another 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, with 230bhp of power and 350Nm of torque.

The third is a 2.5L 4-cylinder hybrid outputting 194 horsepower with a massive 409Nm of torque. This hybrid has a fuel economy of 21 km for every litre.


The original Harrier has now aged and many have moved on to the second generation popularly known as the Kawundo. This is still a favourite among Ugandan buyers and seems a better value proposition based on price. That said, this Harrier is a great example of what a good crossover SUV can be. Excellent performance, a large interior and unique features make it stand out in an already competitive market. Even with new competitors cropping up,it remains one of the best cars in this segment.