The Toyota Harrier is a well-known name amongst Malaysians, as the model has long established itself as a premium crossover with solid Japanese reliability.
But despite its long history in Malaysia, the model was never offered as an official Toyota product in Malaysia – instead it was sold by recon dealers.
That soon changed with the third-generation model, as Toyota Malaysia finally realized the popularity of the Harrier in Malaysia, and brought the model in officially in late-2017.
So what’s new?
When the Harrier made its local debut, it had several aces up its sleeves, chief amongst was its 2.0-litre turbocharged mill that delivers 231 PS and 350 Nm, a healthy increase over the recon models, which sported a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine that does 152 PS and 206 Nm.
But that soon changed after recon dealers got their hands on the facelifted Harrier.
Which one to pick?
Apart from the turbocharged engine, official units sold by Toyota Malaysia get LED daytime running lights, English language infotainment controls and owner’s manual, support from Toyota’s extensive after-sales network.
Furthermore, Toyota Malaysia has adapted the Harrier to suit our local climate, on top of tuning the turbocharged engine to suit our local petrol.
But crucially, what sets the official Harrier from recon units is the former’s 5-year/unlimited mileage warranty coverage, something that isn’t present on the recon units.
In terms of pricing, a quick check on online classifieds indicate that recon units are cheaper than Toyota Malaysia’s units, but not by a lot.
The Harrier is priced from RM 243,000 for the Premium variant, while the Luxury variant is priced from RM 266,000.
Recon units, on the other hand, carry a starting price of RM 200,000 for a 2017 unit.
But why pay for much for a Toyota?
The Harrier, in its Luxury trim, gets Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats with power adjustment, air purifying system, panoramic moonroof, power backdoor with memory function, and a power-adjustable steering column.
Both variants (Luxury and Premium variants) also get the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense suit of Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which includes Pre-Crash System (PCS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), and Adaptive High-Beam System (AHS).
How well does it drive?
In short, the Harrier drives well, but far from challenging the cheaper Mazda.
This is due to the fact that the Harrier is now powered by the very same turbocharged engine that powers the Lexus NX and RX – the 8AR-FTS.
Unlike its European counterparts, the turbocharged mill of the Harrier does not shove you back into your seat as you accelerate off – instead, it delivers a gentle wave of torque, much like a large capacity naturally-aspirated engine.
As such, the Harrier is better suited as a long-distance highway cruiser, less so a performance SUV, which it clearly isn’t.
The Harrier also won’t be challenging the cheaper, but more talented Mazda CX-5 Turbo (RM 181,770, 230 PS, 420 Nm) on twisty roads, as body roll is rather noticeable.
As a whole, the Toyota Harrier is a capable all-rounder – not only does it offer a luxurious interior, the Harrier also offers a near-Lexus-like refinement levels but at a much cheaper price point, all wrap into a handsome exterior design.
Recon vs official Toyota Harrier, avoid recon units
It's really a no-brainer, comparing the recon units versus the officially imported units, as the price gap isn't as much what many think. Saving RM40k to RM50k on what is a two-year old used car with questionable history doesn't seem like a good deal at all.
Buying a recon unit carries with it a huge risk, as there is no clear cut method of finding the car's history, whether was the said unit involved in a prior accident or not.
Then there's the issue of mileage, as these recon dealers have a nasty habit of rolling back the car's mileage.
Unless you can verify the car's history and manufactured year from its original Japanese language document, walk away.
Bear in mind, however, that recon units are also riddled with hidden costs.
On top of the advertised selling price, recon dealers will impose several thousand Ringgits more in "processing fees", meaning that you aren't saving as much as you think you would against a new officially imported Toyota Harrier.
Moreover, as cars get more and more complex, support from manufacturers become more crucial.
Tough luck getting a recall notice or anything fixed if anything goes wrong with your recon Harrier.
The car's controls are all in Japanese, so what's the point of having more features if you can't read the text to enable/disable the functions from the systems menu?
But it's still a quarter million Ringgit Toyota!
Nevermind about debating between a recon Harrier or a new officially imported Harrier. Once past a certain treshold, it makes little sense to buy a Toyota when you can get a Mercedes-Benz.
Do you know for the same price as a new Toyota Harrier, you can get a certified pre-owned, one year old pre-facelift Mercedes-Benz GLC 200 with less than 10,000 km mileage? Nevermind a recon Toyota Harrier, this is a fully warrantied, almost new Mercedes-Benz. Unlike the recon car, this has verified history and is supported by proper after-sales.
While there's no denying the appeal of the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star up front, bear in mind that the GLC 200 is rather spartant inside - you don't even get keyless entry or engine push start button with the GLC 200. Nevermind driving aids like Toyota Safety Sense.
So the question is, which do you prefer? A highly equipped new Toyota Harrier or a poorly equipped, almost new Mercedes-Benz GLC 200? The allure of the three-pointed star versus getting more features for the same money, which is your pick?