Car reviews - Toyota - Fortuner - Crusade
Family-friendly interior is attractive and spacious, smooth round town but unstoppable off-road
Room for improvement
Third-row seats stowed vertically, on-road dynamics compromised by off-road ability
Click to see larger images
7 Mar 2016
Price and equipment
THE top-spec Fortuner Crusade costs $59,990 plus on-road costs, with another $2000 for the automatic transmission and $550 for the deep liquid-looking, almost black Phantom Brown premium paint applied to our test vehicle.
With the addition of third-row seating, a powered tailgate, rear parking sensors and a leather/wood steering wheel, the Crusade’s spec-sheet resembles that of the $57,990 HiLux Dual Cab SR5+ diesel flagship ute on which it is based.
Considering the cost of adding a canopy and parking sensors to a HiLux, the $4000 Fortuner premium looks like good value. The wagon rides on comfier coil springs, has paddle-shifters for the automatic and has a slightly nicer interior too.
Cosmetically differentiating the Crusade from lowlier Fortuners are auto-levelling LED headlights, chrome-finishes on the radiator grille, tailgate trim, exterior and interior door handles, power-retractable and adjustable exterior mirrors, leather and wood-look cabin highlights, a 4.2-inch colour trip computer display and 18-inch alloy wheels (with full-size spare).
A unique dashboard design houses a 7.0-inch central touchscreen providing access to satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, Toyota Link apps and the reversing camera.
There is also climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, an anti-theft alarm, a 220V electrical outlet, a multi-function steering wheel with tilt and reach adjustment, a rear differential lock and electronic four-wheel-drive transfer case control.
Once optioned with sat-nav, the auto-only Ford Everest Trend comes in slightly cheaper than a Fortuner Crusade and apart from a lack of leather upholstery, runs the Toyota close for equipment while including dual-zone climate and driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, driver alertness monitoring and automatic headlights/wipers. The Everest’s seats also fold flush with the boot floor rather than being clunkily stowed at the sides as in the Fortuner.
The Fortuner scores well for interior ambience and comfort compared with other ute-based wagons such as the Holden Colorado 7 or Isuzu MU-X and provides a substantial step up from a HiLux, from which the dashboard architecture is familiar but less driver-oriented with its central touchscreen mounted flat and unique – and classier – instruments.
Details such as contrast-stitched leather (not sure if it’s real or not) trims on the centre stack, instrument cowl and upper glovebox lid lift the Fortuner’s dash and make the cabin a more inviting and attractive proposition than its workhorse cousin, while retaining the familiar uncluttered and intuitive layout.
But in addition to being a questionable shade of brown, the leather seats of our test vehicle felt tough rather than plush and like the HiLux, the front two lacked thigh-support. Not sure about the fake wood on the steering wheel or centre console either.
Also, given the effort lavished on much of the Fortuner’s interior, we felt let-down by the hard plastic door caps that make them uncomfortable to use as an armrest (the actual, leather-trimmed armrests are positioned a bit low).
Clear dials made us forgive the clear colour-screened multi-function trip computer’s lack of a digital speedometer readout.
Apart from Toyota’s woeful voice control, the majority of Fortuner functions are slick and intuitive. The clear, sharp reversing camera display is usefully supplemented by rear parking sensors and we found the sat-nav accurate with clear graphics and useful traffic alerts. Sound-system quality was good too, with easy Bluetooth pairing, although it would sometimes distort at higher volumes.
Cabin storage is a plus point, including twin gloveboxes, hidden cupholders at the far ends of the dashboard and in a lidded centre console compartment, generously sized door bins moulded to accept large drinks bottles, a large space for smartphones beneath the central stack and a big bin beneath the central armrest.
The rotary controlled single-zone climate control system is easy-to-use, and there are vents for both rows of rear passengers in the ceiling.
The Fortuner’s sliding and reclining central-row seats looked suspiciously familiar from a Prado and were more comfortable than the front two.
Even with the front seats positioned for tall occupants and the centre row slid all the way forwards, there is heaps of legroom, which in turn is good news for those in the third row, where apart from slightly restricted headroom for fully grown tall adults, is an impressive amount of space with a deep footwell and height from the floor making them usable by long-legged folk.
Unfortunately, the third-row seats fold up to the sides of the boot, obscuring the windows and taking up boot-space in quite an old-school arrangement.
Deploying them requires unlatching their supporting straps, folding out a plastic cover to reveal the metal floor anchors and pushing them into place. It’s not difficult but it’s not as easy as just lifting seats up from the boot floor.
Centre-row passengers get a pair of big bottle-holding door bins, a central armrest with dual cupholders, plenty of grab handles, map pockets and hooks on the front seat-backs. Outboard positions have Isofix child seat anchorages and there are three top-tether points. Third-row passengers also have drinks and oddment storage available to them.
Like the HiLux, the Fortuner cabin is peaceful (although full of children it would be a different story). Some rustling around the windscreen was about the limit of wind noise intrusion while road noise was also well-suppressed even on coarse-chip bitumen or ridged concrete.
At idle or with the accelerator pushed past half way on its travel and the engine spinning above 2000rpm, there is no doubt about what fuel is being combusted under the bonnet. But once underway it quietens down nicely and is generally kept to acceptable levels.
Not so good were the cabin creaks and rattles we experienced when driving on rough dirt roads.
Engine and transmission
The Fortuner’s engine is the same all-new 2.8-litre turbo-diesel fitted to the HiLux and recently added to the LandCruiser Prado, producing an identical 130kW and 450Nm when paired with a six-speed automatic as in our test vehicle.
In the significantly heavier 2435kg Prado this engine can feel lethargic but in the 2120kg Fortuner it was much more responsive, especially in point-and-squirt power mode, which sharpens throttle response. On the subject of weights, one advantage of the HiLux over the Fortuner is its superior towing capacity, to the tune of between 400kg and 500kg depending on automatic or manual transmission respectively.
Compared with the older but pricier and more luxurious Prado with which the Fortuner shares an engine, its diesel clatter is markedly less audible from both inside and outside the cabin. We could understand the extra gruffness under load owing to the Prado’s extra weight but we noticed the difference even at idle.
The six-speed automatic is also better than the new one fitted to the Prado, with none of its sudden jerks or flaring. It’s smooth and unobtrusive during everyday use and the kickdown response readily drops a couple of ratios for overtaking.
Manual mode will allow the driver to hit the rev-limiter rather than automatically changing up, but sensibly it refuses to change down if the result will be over-revving the engine. Sometimes it seemingly arbitrarily refused down-changes, but we suspect this was to prevent the wheels locking up under engine-braking.
Our on-test fuel consumption of 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres was almost a litre higher than the official figure of 8.6L/100km.
It was almost exactly a litre higher than the figure we achieved in a manual HiLux SR5+ diesel too, which is consistent with official figures that say the manual ute is a litre more frugal than the automatic Fortuner. The difference is mostly due to losses in the automatic transmission as an auto HiLux is just 0.1L/100km less thirsty than the wagon.
In any case, for us the Fortuner was much more efficient than a Prado Kakadu using the same engine.
Ride and handling
Owing to the coil-sprung rear-end and more weight over the back axle, the Fortuner’s ride comfort and handling provide meaningful benefits over a dual-cab HiLux and are also better in most circumstances than the more expensive Prado.
Around town the Fortuner is at least as pleasant to drive as the impressive HiLux, sharing its pleasantly weighed, accurate and direct steering, and is pleasurable threading through traffic.
The Fortuner’s 11.6 metre turning circle is just 0.2-metre smaller than the HiLux, but it makes a lot of difference to its urban manoeuvrability. While the steering is quite sharp, direct and accurate around the centre, at higher speeds it requires a fair amount of lock winding on.
The Fortuner also feels much more neutral and pleasant to drive round town and along a twisty road than the understeery HiLux and wobbly Prado. Body-roll is not too bad and like the HiLux, the wagon settles nicely into sweeping bends.
Michelin Latitude tyres fitted to our test vehicle felt less like they were about to fold under the rims under hard cornering and generally performed better on-road than the more aggressively treaded Dunlop Grandtreks fitted to the HiLux, without discernible downsides off-road. It doesn’t take much to get them screeching, though, and it’s the rears that squeal first.
Mid-corner bumps are dispatched with ease and the chassis also feels as though it rebounds from electronic stability control interventions less than a HiLux.
There’s still typical separate-chassis shudder on uneven roads but the Fortuner’s suspension tune provides both comfort and composure that make a Colorado 7 or MU-X look old-fashioned.
Although the brakes take little provocation to activate ABS and the Fortuner never feels like it is truly digging into the road under hard braking, neither effects are as pronounced as on the HiLux.
As with the HiLux, high-range four-wheel-drive can be activated electronically on the fly at up to 100km/h via a dashboard knob, while low-range requires a halt and neutral to be selected before it will engage.
We took the Fortuner on the same muddy, rutted forest tracks as the HiLux but there had been some rain in-between, causing the water crossings to be deeper and the going sloppier. Good outward visibility and low-speed steering accuracy also helped us make the most of the Fortuner’s off-road abilities.
Even with less aggressive tyres than the HiLux, the Fortuner felt just unstoppable in the rough, impressing with its huge levels of traction in awful terrain and plentiful ground-clearance. We never resorted to low-range, rear diff-lock or lowering the tyre pressures from road-spec.
Despite the best intentions of electronic stability control, the Fortuner will go impressively sideways on gravel but was not anywhere near as upset by a mid-corner dip on a corrugated gravel road as the HiLux was.
Safety and servicing
The Fortuner is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty and service intervals are every six months or 10,000km.
Under Toyota’s capped-price servicing scheme, the first six scheduled services cost $180 each when carried out within the first 3 years or 60,000km.
ANCAP awarded the Fortuner a maximum five-star safety rating based on performance of the related HiLux and evidence from Toyota proving it would perform the same, earning it 33.95 points out of a maximum 37. It scored 13.45 out of 16 in the frontal offset test and perfect scores of 16 out of 16 in the side impact test and 2 out of 2 in the pole test. Pedestrian protection and whiplash protection were judged ‘good’.
Because only the first two rows of seats have seatbelt reminders, ANCAP docked points for the lack of reminders in the third row, making the Fortuner’s overall points score slightly lower than the HiLux.
Standard safety gear includes dual front, side curtain (for all three rows) and driver’s knee airbags, electronic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, hill-start assist and emergency brake assist, trailer sway control and anti-whiplash front head restraints.
We enjoyed how easy the Fortuner was easy to live with compared to a Prado, which feels over-compromised in the city by its mountain goat-like go-anywhere abilities and suffers from its bloated weight when paired with the same diesel engine.
But as good as the Fortuner is to drive and travel in, and it’s better than established truck-based rivals, for it to deserve a place in your shopping list you have to be sure you will use its off-road abilities enough to justify the compromises.
In most on-road conditions it drives better than a Prado (which admittedly can he had with superior levels of luxury and technology) but it’s still worse on bitumen than most road-oriented car-based SUVs, which tend to be quieter, ride more comfortably and handle better.
The good news is, some of the Fortuner’s on-road inadequacies are more than made up for by its extremely impressive off-road skills.
We have not driven a Ford Everest as extensively on- and off-road in Australia as we have the Fortuner, but it impressed with its ride and refinement during a quick spin on some poorly surfaced roads. The mid-range Trend also makes a credible spec-sheet rival to the flagship Fortuner Crusade.
Let the battle commence.
Ford Everest Trend from $60,990 plus on-road costs
Choose the right options and a mid-spec Everest gives a Fortuner flagship a hard time in the value-for-money stakes. Expands on the Ranger ute’s impressive ride and road manners and it’s more of a bargain Prado rival than a pricy Fortuner-fighter.
Holden Colorado 7 LTZ from $51,490 plus on-road costs
Old-fashioned off the pace, plasticy inside and noisy compared with the Fortuner. But it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Isuzu MU-X LS-T AWD from $54,000 plus on-road costs
Closely related to the Holden Colorado but with some chassis, equipment and interior differences plus a different engine and five-year warranty. Underbody armour makes this one tough off-roader.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed from $52,750 plus on-road costs
Value pricing and a long warranty add to generous amounts of equipment and formidable off-road ability, but it’s not the most spacious truck-based SUV.
All car reviews
Click to share