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Redesigned for 2010, Toyota’s original SUV is returning to its roots as a pickup-based mudslinger that is also comfortable on the street. Think four-door FJ Cruiser. The V-8 is gone, leaving the choice of a 4.0-liter V-6 or a four-cylinder, with a more rugged face and lower prices.
It’s still a stretched and softened Camry, but the Avalon now has revised styling front and rear, and a new, better-looking interior. Big and quiet inside, the Avalon subscribes to the soft and cossetting definition of luxury. V-6 engine boasts plenty of pep and respectable fuel economy.
The Camry became one of the bestselling cars in America by excelling in quality and refinement, but unintended-acceleration woes and declining levels of fit and finish have dinged its reputation. The Accord and the Mazda 6 drive better, but the Camry remains spacious and comfortable.
The Corolla is like a shrunken Camry in terms of its reputation for quality, its refined demeanor, and its no-fuss operation. Thoroughly competent in every category, the Corolla still fails to exude or inspire any passion, even when equipped with the more powerful four-cylinder engine.
The FJ Cruiser is more than just funky, chunky looks—it’s a capable off-roader, too. And the trails are where it feels most at home, as on-road noise, poor rearward visibility, and a rough ride compromise everyday livability. Access to the rear seats is granted by a pair of rear-hinged half-doors.
Rolling on modified Camry bones, the popular Highlander is a benchmark CUV, with decent handling and a comfortably plush ride. There are plenty of options, and the seating is flexible. It may not be exciting to drive, but it’s satisfying enough and delivers most of what families crave.
The fuel-guzzling Land Cruiser is the most luxurious machine in Toyota’s U.S. lineup. It’s among the most capable, too, as the standard equipment includes advanced off-road tech like Crawl Control, a sort of cruise control for boulder bashing. Still, most of these patrol the suburbs.
Behold the Corolla wagon. Sharing its mechanics with Toyota’s bestselling small car, the Matrix attracts with spacious and practical hatchback utility. The handling is inoffensive, but enthusiasts should look elsewhere. Exterior styling gets a few tweaks this year.
If fuel efficiency is what you’re after, the Prius delivers. Its interior and exterior styling can make it seem like a spaceship, but the latest Prius is a spacious and practical way to save gas. In our hands, the Prius returned an observed 42 mpg, four better than the latest Honda Insight.
The RAV4 is one of America’s favorite SUVs and a two-time comparison-test winner, and for good reason. It’s roomy for both people and cargo, there’s an available third-row seat, and the optional 269-hp V-6 gives it some real muscle. The base four-cylinder is smooth and fuel efficient.
More stylish inside and out, and even more practical than before, the redesigned Sienna offers both a strong V-6 and an adequate four-cylinder engine, the latter a segment-exclusive. Handling is tight and almost carlike. It’s possible to option a Sienna to Lexus-grade luxury, but it’ll cost you.
The mid-size truck segment has been slow to evolve lately, but the Tacoma continues as a competent contender. With three cabs, two box sizes, and two engines, plus numerous trim and driveline choices, there’s bound to be a Tacoma that fits your needs. If not, you could always get a Tundra.
The Tundra is a capable truck, especially when equipped with the powerful 5.7-liter V-8. Those looking for a big truck with less thirst can choose the 4.0-liter V-6—upgraded for 2011 to 270 hp—or the 4.6-liter V-8. The interior is cavernous, especially in the extended-length CrewMax cab.
The Venza is somewhere between a Camry wagon and a minivan. It’s based on Toyota’s popular sedan but gets a higher seating position and a somewhat useful hatch. On the plus side, unlike the Camry, it offers optional all-wheel drive. Skip the 20-inch wheels if you value ride comfort.
Sure, it’s inexpensive and offers decent interior volume for its footprint, but the Yaris isn’t anywhere near as refined or rewarding to drive as its competition. This five-door is the most versatile and therefore the most practical of the Yaris family. There’s plenty of standard safety equipment, too.