THE AFFORDABLE, RUGGED BUT 'FAMILY-FRIENDLY' NEW FORTUNER PROVES THAT EVEN TOYOTA CAN FIND A NICHE IN ITS ALREADY PACKED SUV LINE-UP .
The concept isn’t new at all; the Fortuner’s Hilux-based underpinnings echo a surfer favourite of decades past, the 4Runner of the 80s and 90s. Of course, back then, there wasn’t a RAV4, Prado, or Kluger all jostling for space in Toyota showrooms.
Nor was there a Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Holden Colorado 7, or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (there was a Ford Raider and Holden Jackaroo, however). So, the demand would appear to be there for something that’s more than just a suburban soft-roader, can tackle the hardest firetrail, but still get the family around in relative comfort.
That's the new Toyota Fortuner.
Vehicle Style: Large 4x4 wagon
Price: $54,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 130kW/450Nm 2.8 turbo diesel 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.6 l/100km | tested: 10.2 l/100km
Sitting in the middle of the Toyota Fortuner range, the GXL model gets a visual boost over the basic GX, thanks mostly to the addition of alloy wheels over the steel rims of the base model.
In automatic form, as tested here, it sneaks in just under $55,000 before on road costs.
There’s more than just wheels of course, with keyless entry and start, roof rails, a colour instrument cluster-display, rear park-sensors, and privacy glass amongst the extra features included in the $5000 step-up to GXL grade.
That’s also an extra $1000 over a Kluger GXL.
And while it can’t match the on-road manners of the city-slicker, the hard-grafting 4X4 Fortuner can venture into the wilderness for those with a yen for adventure. It's the perfect vessel to pack the family into, and head for the hills.
- Standard equipment: Independent front and rear air conditioning with digital controls, power windows, cloth upholstery, cruise control, reversing camera, trip computer, 3 X 12V power, dusk-sensing headlamps, ‘premium’ steering wheel and gear knob, 17-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touschscreen display with AM/FM/CD/USB/AUX audio and six speakers, Bluetooth telephony with audio streaming and voice commands
- Cargo volume: 252 litres minimum, 654 litres with third row seats folded, 1080 litres to window line with second and third row seats folded
The Fortuner manages to balance a contemporary look with the pared-down ruggedness required of 4X4 - one that is going to see its share of mud, deep water and sand.
There’s a fair slab of plastics in the interior, more than you'll find in the Kluger, but they should wipe down easily and deal well with whatever punishment you choose to throw at it. Of the feature list, the only glaring omission is the absence of sat-nav - surely it should be standard in a vehicle of this type and specification.
The brown and black interior colour scheme is somewhat unusual - you can make up your own mind about how it looks, but it’s refreshing to see a break away from basic black. Colour aside though, the Fortuner's interior is a bit of a dust-magnet.
The cloth covered seats certainly don’t feel too bad, they're really quite nicely shaped, and with enough adjustment up front to handle all shapes and sizes. There is also a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel.
The second row is well furnished too, with the same comfy but high-set seating, a reclining backrest and dedicated air-con controls and outlets - ideal for a long, hot Aussie road trip. Unfortunately, though, the 60:40 split for third row access is on the ‘wrong side’ with the smaller section on the street side, not the kerb side.
As for the third row, it comes thinly padded and the seats themselves are small. Knee room is certainly tight if the second row is slightly reclined, but there’s enough head and foot space to get by. These really are occasional-use seats.
They stow to the sides of the boot against the windows, instead of under the floor, meaning restricted over-shoulder visibility with the seats up, not to mention the hassle of pinning them up out of the way with a hook and cord.
Exterior visibility though is good from the Fortuner. The high 'command' seating position and well-placed side mirrors mean there are no blind-spots when driving.
With all three rows in use there’s just enough space to fit a row of shopping bags, which is handy, and with the third row folded the boot is transformed into a massive storage space (although with a high floor owing to the spare tyre stored beneath it).
Cabin storage features dual gloveboxes and a deep centre console, while each door features a bottle holder and a pair of hide-away cup holders slide into the dash. For tucking odds and end out of the way, there are plenty of trays and cubbys for keys and wallets in the centre stack.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 130kW @ 3400rpm, 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm 2.8 litre turbo-diesel inline four.
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, selectable 4WD with low range and locking rear differential.
- Suspension: Double A-arm front, live-axle rear with coil springs.
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated front discs with 4-piston front calipersand two-piston rear calipers
- Steering type: Hydraulic, 11.6m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg unbraked, 2800kg braked
Under the bonnet Toyota has hitched up the same 2.8 litre turbo diesel as found in the Hilux and Prado, and likewise connected it to the same six-speed automatic - although a six-speed manual is available if you’d prefer.
The engine cranks out 130kW at 3400rpm and in auto guise offers 450Nm between 1600 and 2400rpm, an extra 30Nm compared to the manual.
With so much grunt, the Fortuner is untroubled by just about any situation you can throw at it. A full load of passengers or gear, and maybe even something hitched onto the towbar, won’t cause it to break a sweat.
On road, it feels lively with strong acceleration even at highway speeds. While a little noisy down low, it is remarkably and noticeably quiet when travelling.
The tall and narrow Fortuner also does a pretty good job around town: great forward visibility and a narrow body make it as easy to drive in a suburban setting as a much smaller SUV.
That said there’s an obvious load-carrying bias to the suspension - it can jostle about a bit on ripples and hollows of secondary roads. It is hardly uncomfortable, and is settled at the steering (despite what you may have read elsewhere), but it is just itching for the extra weight of some camping gear and an extra spare wheel carrier.
Off road is where the Fortuner really comes into its own. For families looking for adventure, this car will get you there, and back, and in reasonable comfort.
For getting a long way off road, or into 'The Centre', there’s a selectable four-wheel-drive system with a low range transfer case and locking rear differential if things get really dirty.
We put it up over the Pheasant Creek Track and Fulton Track behind Victoria's Thompson Dam (we have also put it through the Flinders Ranges). These are steep tracks - mostly moderate but heavily rutted with high ridged-'berms', some rocky ledges for the unwary, and very steep drop-offs.
There are also some deeper river crossings - we dropped its nose under water - and some really steep un-marked side tracks (if you care to go exploring).
Here, the Fortuner's long-travel suspension and front and rear articulation, and the effortless torque of the engine combined with the locking differential, give it enormous ability in the rough.
There are few 4X4 wagons which will deal with such a workout on these sorts of trails, with such easy and effortless aplomb.
Rural dwellers (or those with a country weekender) will especially appreciate the long travel suspension. While it can feel busy around town, the Fortuner can take a proper pounding on a potholed, corrugated gravel track.
A 2800kg tow rating for the automatic models is 200kg less than you’ll find in manual versions, that’s before passengers are added, but you’ll still be able to put a decently sized boat or caravan behind.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Fortuner scored 33.95 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, traction control, stability control, hill descent control, three-point seatbelts for all occupants and seven airbags (front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) are all standard.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If seven seats and 4X4 ability are an absolute must-have, then the Holden Colorado 7 LTZ is a cheaper way to get them. The same goes for the similar Isuzu MU-X LS-T (which is worth a look), but both feel more agricultural to drive.
Or, for Fortuner GXL money, a base model Ford Everest Ambiente can be yours with a bigger engine and larger interior.
If seven-seats aren’t a priority, Mitsubishi's new Pajero Sport Exceed gives you a few more toys for a few less pennies, while the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo in diesel guise feels more city-suited, while still able to tow and tackle the rough stuff.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For the balance between "work-tough" and "family-friendly", Toyota has got it right with its rugged, HiLux-based Fortuner. It's not quite the Kluger as a suburban wagon, but it succeeds in being 'a LandCruiser for the weekend'.
And while it doesn’t offer the same turn of speed as you might find in the more expensive Ford Everest, its open-road ability, with the engine ticking over quietly at just 1500rpm at 100km/h, is perfectly respectable for the big jaunt around Australia.
It’s better with a boot full of adventure gear and a camper trailer hitched to the towbar than a Kluger could ever hope to be, yet, thanks to its smaller footprint, it also shades the Prado when it comes to in-town driveability.
It also has the pricing thing very well-sorted, with the mid-spec Fortuner GXL matching a base-grade Ford Everest and some $2500 less than a basic Prado with seven seats.
Will it harm the sales of its bigger brother? Probably not - there’s an extra veneer of comfort in the Prado, and a bigger rear to make up the price gap, but for families looking for a rugged wagon that will double as daily transport at a reasonable price, the Fortuner fits the bill nicely.
(Review: with Tim O'Brien)
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