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Hello Paul, I plan to buy either a used full size SUV of this category: a. Prado 1998-2002 b. Prado 2004-2009 C. Hilux surf 2000-2009 or a small SUV a. Toyota Harrier b. Toyota Krudger C. Toyota Rav4.  Help me to narrow my shortlist.


Hello Eric, if you are looking for a used full sized sports utility vehicle (SUV), then you ought to consider the third generation Toyota Prado J120, which was built from 2002-2008. The J120 Prado is a full size 4WD which bridges the gap between the bigger Land Cruiser station wagon and the smaller cross over SUVs such as the Harrier and RAV4. The J120 has some notable carry overs and improvements from its predecessor the 2nd generation Prado J90 (1996-2001) and is reasonably priced either as a fresh import or the locally used option you are considering.

Like the J90 Prado, the J120 retained cross country capability with the body on frame design and a more user-friendly 4WD system. J120 Prado offers revised front suspension, better reliability, an engine immobiliser and more comfortable spacious seating and wider loading space.

The Prado J120 design and looks were improved with emphasis on enhanced aero dynamism and a wider wheel base for better road stability. You have to slow down through sharp bends on the highway as it is top high and tends to roll excessively during high speed cornering manoeuvers.

The Prado J120 shared some engines with the J90 but also introduced improved engines both for the petrol and diesel versions. In 2004, Prado J120 dropped the petrol 2.7 litre 3RZFE 150 horsepower engine for the more powerful, reliable and fuel efficient but sluggish 2.7 litre 2TRFE which delivers 158 horsepower.

Personally, I prefer the sprightly more powerful but slightly thirstier petrol 4.0 litre 1GRFE which delivers 236 horsepower. In 2006 the J120 dropped the 129 horsepower 3.0 litre 1KZTE turbo diesel for the 170 horse power 3.0 litre turbo diesel 1KDFTV. This engine is more sensitive to fuel quality and engine oil maintenance. The popular, more reliable but less powerful (94 hp) non-turbo 3.0 litre 5L is a rare find.


I just purchased a refurbished Suzuki Empreza from the bond and I am the first user.  Do I have to wait for the mileage to take it for service? Which is the best way to maintain the vehicle. For now I have not yet received my driving licence and I depend on my partner driving me to work and yet he is a reckless driver.           


Dear Akiiki, do you mean the Suzuki Vitara or Subaru Imprezza? You may have the two mixed up. Nevertheless, all used cars just acquired have the same maintenance challenges. Often, the previous owners do not provide readable full service history. As a new upcoming driver, it is better to get a local assessment of the car’s service and maintenance needs by having it inspected in the garage.

A decision on what needs to be serviced or replaced should be informed by mileage based service recommendations; 100,000kms for timing belts and fuel filter. 40,000-60,000kms for gearbox oil and brake fluid and 20,000kms or two years for engine coolant and 5,000kms for engine oil. Other parts replacements such as suspension, tyres and battery, among others can be determined after a physical inspection.

Once you start to record your own service or maintenance history of the car, it becomes easier to follow through based on the manufacturer recommended guidelines. The other important aspect is correct choice of manufacturer recommended oil grades and fluids for the engine, gearbox, brakes and cooling system.

Manufacturers even recommend gasoline fuel octane rating eg the premium 95 octane or main grade 93 octane. Octane is how controllably the fuel burns in your engine. The higher the octane the more controllable the fuel tends to burn for more power and fuel economy. A good garage provider will help to guide you and point out these salient features about your new car’s maintenance.

It is good to take charge of the quality of your car’s maintenance regime, which will save you lots of money and give you reliable, trouble-free motoring.


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