Want a station wagon? Don’t get the Wingroad, go for the Toyota

Wednesday January 27 2016

I want to buy my first car, preferably a

I want to buy my first car, preferably a station wagon. Price-wise, a Nissan Wingroad is much cheaper than a Toyota, but it has enough critics. PHOTO| FILE 

Hi Baraza,

I want to buy my first car, preferably a station wagon. Price-wise, a Nissan Wingroad is much cheaper than a Toyota, but it has enough critics.

Some say the Wingroad has many sensors, and that when one gets faulty it triggers many complications or depreciates at an alarming rate. These might be Toyota-syndrome advisers, but I would love to know the truth. There are also good reviews.

I prefer the older version, that is from 2005/2004

What are the pros and cons of each car? 



Listen to the naysayers. A Nissan Wingroad is a headache waiting to happen. Few are the people who claim to have had no issues with them. Many are the wearers of sack-cloth, renders of hair, gnashers of teeth and smearers of ash as they drown in

anguish over what they put their money into. Electronics, sensors, throttle bodies, transmissions, suspensions, fragility... all these are things I have heard spoken and seen work against a Nissan Wingroad.

It might sound a bit cliché, but you really are better off with a Toyota.


Hi Baraza,

I have driven a saloon car for nearly 10 years and wish to upgrade. I want a spacious second-hand 4x4 vehicle that can withstand rugged terrain, accommodate my expanded family, and also satisfy my love  for big trucks – of course without hurting my

pocket too much. I am zeroing in on the Prado, J90 or J120 although the J120 has won my heart because it is newer, spacious, stable, better looking, etc. I would like your opinion on the different options available under the 120.

1. The 2700cc petrol:  I am told it’s grossly underpowered.

2.  The 3.0 turbo diesel:  I have received recommendations on this one for its torque and ability to  tackle difficult  terrain, plus its fuel consumption is good for a vehicle its size (give me your review on this, especially on engine sizes 1KZ-TE and 1KD-FTV D-4D. There is a lot of praise for the power in the D-4D, but I have been warned about maintenance issues, especially the expensive engine overhaul and the fact that mechanics in Kenya don’t understand the engine).

3. The 3.5 V6 petrol: I have not heard much about this one.

4. The 4.0 V6 petrol: The few people I have talked to who have experience with this one tell me about its speed and power. They also say it is smooth, but thirsty.

5. You can also throw in a word about the older 1KZ turbo J90: I have received many good reviews about this one – that it is easy to maintain, is good off the road and affordable on the second-hand market. But I have received negative reviews about its stability and outdated look.

Eighty per cent of the time I drive in urban areas  (I will not say tarmac because of the number of times my salon car has been damaged by potholes and bumps in the places I live) and 20 per cent off the road.

 I would appreciate your comments.

John Maina


Hello John

It seems like there is no end to Prado discussions on this page, right?

1 The 2700 4-cylinder is not half as bad, but its biggest weakness, as you state, is that it is underpowered. It will struggle at highway speeds, more so if you tote a load. The V6es are far better, but you will pay for them at the pump.

As for reliability, you can’t do any better than this. A four-cylinder petrol engine is as reliable as any engine can ever hope to be, and keep in mind this is a Toyota SUV, built to last forever. I don’t know what you were warned about. Perhaps it is the embarrassment of being left behind by those in V6s and V8s. It can’t be any worse than that.

2The diesel engines are not only powerful, but also economical. The downside is that they have shorter service intervals, cost more, and turbo failure will be expensive. It is uncommon, though.

The D4-D engines, in particular, need care, but nothing that a sober mind cannot properly handle. This is the thinking man’s choice of vehicle. The 1KZ engine is the older, more rugged unit carried over from the 90 Series and would be ideal for very tough

conditions where help is distant and parts are scarce. It is a “bush” engine, capable of taking the worst you can throw at it while easy to fix in remote areas. Because of the use of indirect injection, economy and efficiency suffer, so 130hp is just about the best you can hope for.

The 1KD uses common rail direct injection to achieve 172hp and much better economy figures, so it would be the ideal engine to go for. However, the use of extremely high fuel pressures and direct injection make it a bit “delicate” in comparison to the 1KZ. The increased complexity also makes it more difficult to work on.

3 The 5VZ-FE V6 petrol engine is a 3.4, not a 3.5. This is one of my favourite engines in Toyota’s line-up, though it is no longer available. Four valves per cylinder and sequential multi-port fuel injection make for a smooth engine, and power at 190hp seems

more than adequate. If you get overtaken at high speed by a J120 on the road, it probably has this engine. The unit is also tuneable, more so when it comes to forced induction. The  Toyota Racing Development (TRD) supercharger nestles comfortably in the valley of the V formed by the cylinder banks.

4The 4.0 V6 is the reason the 3.4 isn’t in production anymore. It superseded the smaller unit. While I might not have had much experience with this 1GR-FE, better believe the hype: the engine is powerful and smooth, but very thirsty when pushed.

5 Well, you seem to have answered your own question. The J90 does look funny, but it is the perfect balance of the entire Prado lineup. The J70 is an ageing metal box – slow, uncomfortable, inefficient and aerodynamically unsound.

The J120 is newer, looks sharper, is more complicated and is roundly chastised for heralding the descent of Toyota’s SUVs into the realm of street-biased construction, a descent whose culmination is manifest in the 200 Series.

The J90? That falls squarely in the middle. The 1KZ diesel is rugged and torquey. The 5VZ petrol is smoother and faster. The car is comfortable without being unnecessarily complex, which is a boon to overall reliability and it will go anywhere the J70 goes

without a fuss, but this comfort and off-road ability is at the expense of road manners. The J90 does handle like an empty ship on a rough sea. A good suspension set-up should alleviate this problem, and what you will end up with is the perfect Prado.

From your conclusion, I think you are best off with the 2.7 J120. Urban use does not call for the kind of power that the 3.4 and 4.0 put down, while the turbocharged engines need more open-road use and are unfriendly when it comes to short runs or start-

stop driving.


Hello Baraza,

I intend to buy a saloon car next month and I’m torn between a third generation  Premio 2000cc, Mark X and Crown. I am looking for strength, speed and availability of spare parts. Help me make a choice.



By strength I guess you mean power. So, for power and speed, gravitate towards the Crown. The new Mark X comes with options of a 2.5, a 3.0 or a stonking great 3.5 litre V6 engine good for 305hp. Forget the Premio; the best it can muster is a naturally aspirated 2.0 litre, which is a bit meh in comparison.

The Crown shares some engines with the Mark X, but it has the option of a 4.6 litre V8, which is where the Mark X gets left in the dust. The choice here is fairly obvious. Also obvious is the fact that these are popular Toyota models on our roads, so I do not understand why you are still asking about spares.


Hi JM,

I have had my first car, a Mazda Demio, for one year. It has served me well but now has some noise coming from the engine (on the right side near the front wheel) and also vibrates when I start accelerating. It sounds like I am driving a lorry! Once the vehicle has picked up (by the second gear), the noise disappears. The noise and vibration disappear when I am going downhill but are very loud and clear when I am going uphill. My mechanic has not been able to diagnose the problem for the last two weeks, so I sought  advice from another mechanic, who told me I should change some engine belt(s). However, my mechanic rubbished this diagnosis.

What might be the problem? I am confused regarding whom to listen to? I want to address the problem urgently and have the vehicle as quiet as it used to be. I am still using the car but fear this could make the problem worse, leading to damage to other parts. 


This sounds like a problem with either the engine or the transmission mounts. That it occurs only when the engine is under load/high torque situations (low gear operation, only felt when going uphill) strengthens my belief that it is, in fact, the mounts that

need changing. I have no idea where the mech  got the belts hypothesis from: loose or worn-out belts tend to generate a loud, screeching noise rather than cause vibrations, and also not in particular situations like in your case.


I have a 2006 Premio with a D4 engine which has served me faithfully. The problem  is that, of late, there is this “explosive” and “miss-like” sound from the exhaust when I start the car in the morning or after long inactivity, but it disappears after a few minutes. I service the car regularly and change plugs at right the intervals. What could be wrong? 



This could be a problem with the fake-sounding “air injection system” in general, and the system’s diverter valve in particular. Never heard of it? Not many people have. It is a form of “reverse” exhaust gas recirculation and works like this:

The air injection system is an emission control system whereby fresh air is pumped into the exhaust manifold to combust any unburnt gases before they exit the tail pipe into the atmosphere. Now that you say the explosive miss only occurs on a cold start (early morning or after an extended period of inactivity), it is safe to assume that the air-fuel mixture at that time is very rich, in the ECU’s quest to warm up the engine to optimum operating temperature as fast as possible. This also explains why the idling engine speed on a cold start is relatively high.

The rich intake charge (air-fuel mixture) means that a lot of unburnt gases make it into the exhaust manifold, and if these unburnt gases come into contact with fresh air, they explode (the backfiring you hear). It is thus the work of the diverter valve to channel fresh air away from the unburnt exhaust gases while the car is running rich.

A malfunctioning diverter valve means that fresh air is still getting into the exhaust manifold via the air injection system even when it is not supposed to.

Quick question: is the backfiring also apparent when decelerating? It should be.


Dear Baraza,

I have a  year 2008 2.0 litre Toyota Allion that runs on an engine called valvematic.  Kindly give me any maintenance tips, dos and dont’s regarding this type of engine.



Just maintain it like you would any other engine: well, that is. Oil is very important, as are timing belts.


Hi Baraza JM

Advise me whether to do an engine rebuild or risk importing a  “low mileage” engine for a Toyota Kluger that has 250,000 kilometres on its odometer. The body work and interior are in tip-top condition. What other mechanical parts should I consider for change. At that mileage, what are the most noticeable things in the car’s performance.


A quarter of a million kilometres is quite some mileage, I must admit. Now, is the engine showing signs of fatigue? Issues like compression loss, faint buzzing or grinding noises, oil consumption and/or blue smoke? Rattles?

Given how cheap engines have become nowadays, I would say just get another one. Rebuilds are not guaranteed to work, and in the same vein, are not meant for all engines. At that mileage, you should also check the suspension and steering geometry. They might have gone off kilter a little. That is not a short distance the car has covered, and I can bet not 100 per cent  of it was on smooth tarmac.