Car reviews - Toyota - Fortuner - GXL
Strong and economical engine, seating comfort, useful oddment storage, fluid steering response, outward vision, off-road prowess
Room for improvement
Third-row access and seat stowage, low beam headlight performance, steering reach adjustment range, tyre hum, audio system quality
The Toyota Fortuner is an economical and capable 4WD SUV, but one that isn’t without its foibles
4 Aug 2022
By MATT BROGAN
TOYOTA quietly updated its Fortuner SUV range late last year with small improvements to the model’s standard equipment list – and retail pricing.
The three-variant range moved to start from $49,715 (+$635) plus on-road costs for the entry-grade Fortuner GX, with mid-tier GXL variants from $55,085 (+$735), and the flagship Crusade from $62,945 (+$1535).
Most of the changes to the Fortuner centred around the inclusion of Toyota Connected Services telematics technology. Now standard across the Fortuner range, the safety-oriented tech provides owners the ability to request emergency assistance from a Toyota call centre via an ‘SOS’ button in the cabin.
Further, in the event of a serious impact, such as one resulting in airbag deployment, the system can automatically call the emergency services and relay the vehicle’s position.
It’s terrific peace of mind for family buyers and gives the Fortuner a clear advantage over many if its immediate rivals. In Crusade variants, that ‘safety factor’ is even further increased by the addition of blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert on top of already standard AEB and lane departure warning.
The Thai-built Toyota Fortuner boasts a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Otherwise, the Fortuner is largely unchanged. It remains powered by the same 2.8 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that serves across the Fortuner, HiLux and LandCruiser Prado range, developing a useful 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Fuel economy is listed at 7.6 litres per 100km (ADR Combined).
All Fortuner variants are offered with four-wheel drive and are paired exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. A braked towing capacity of 3100kg is listed.
Elsewhere, the seven-seat Fortuner SUV – tested here in GXL grade – is equipped with niceties such as 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch infotainment array with proprietary satellite navigation and DAB+ digital radio reception, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, adaptive cruise control, hill-descent control and LED headlights.
Despite its many positives, the Fortuner struggles to match its ute-based rivals on the Aussie sales ladder. To the end of June, year-to-date sales of the Fortuner sat at just 2683, 2219 fewer than the Ford Everest, 2318 behind the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and 2644 less than Isuzu’s MU-X.
It also sits well behind Toyota’s segment leading LandCruiser Prado of which 12,978 units have been sold since the beginning of the year.
One of the Fortuner’s most evident shortcomings, at least in the eyes of this reviewer, is the clunky third-row seat stowage on offer coupled with driver-side-only access to the rear-most pews.
With the rear seats stowed against the windows both luggage space and outward vision are compromised. We’d also prefer to have access to the third of seats from the kerb side of the car, an obvious right-hand drive oversight.
On the plus side, with all seating rows in play, there is sufficient accommodation for taller kids, decent stowage, and roof-level ventilation to both rows of back seats. Top-tether and ISOFIX child-seat anchors are provided, and seating comfort is quite decent, providing good cushioning and support on longer trips, and a good view to outside.
The fitment of grab handles to help entry and exit to the Fortuner is a welcome inclusion, especially when heading off the beaten track – and it’s here the HiLux-derived SUV proves its worth.
Toyota has designed the Fortuner to perform as well off-road as it does on, ensuring generous ground clearance (216mm), water wading (700m), and approach, ramp-over and departure geometry (29.0, 23.5 and 25.0 degrees respectively).
Good forward and side vision from the driver’s seat and a reasonably tight turning circle (11.6m) also improve the models, err, fortunes, in off-road environs.
An 80-litre tank and steady fuel economy of 8.0 litres per 100km (based on our test in city, rural and off-road scenarios) means it should be possible to extract close to 1000km from the Fortuner between visits to the bowser.
Despite its size, we found the Fortuner easy to manage around town with surprisingly good manoeuvrability and responsive steering. The generously sized wing mirrors and full colour reversing camera mean parking is a cinch, even without the electronic self-parking trickery offered in road-focused SUVs of this size and price.
On the open road the Fortuner feels more SUV than four-wheel drive. It’s a comfortable and efficient cruiser with plenty of overtaking grunt in reserve. The six-speed automatic transmission is well paired to maximise the torque offering from Toyota’s 2.8-litre mill and feels appreciably different through its various modes (Economy, Normal and Sport), such that you end up using them.
Sport mode is a particular favourite on winding country roads or when pulling out to overtake. It really wakens the Fortuner’s throttle response and shifts ratios smartly to assist downhill braking as required. Flick the switch back to Economy mode, and the whole driveline instantly relaxes, bringing with it a subtle pedal and outstanding fuel economy.
Combine Economy mode with diligent use of the Fortuner’s adaptive cruise control and not only does the fuel consumption soften, but also the vehicle’s attitude to highway cruising. The vehicle feels docile but at the same time ever-vigilant here, calmly but accurately keeping a safe distance from leading traffic without the clumsy, and often sharp interventions, noted in some rivals.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the lane keeping technology which is a little tactless in its response. The system grabs the brakes quite sharply when avoiding excursions from the lane, which on narrow roads can quickly prove rather annoying. A handy switch can disable the system until you’re back on the open road.
If there are other letdowns in Fortuner it’s the ever-present tyre hum at speeds above 50km/h and the poor quality of the audio system – even when painstakingly adjusted to your preferred input. The JBL system offered elsewhere in Toyota’s line-up would be greatly appreciated in the GXL grade, but as it stands, that sadly isn’t the case.
We’d also have preferred better low-beam headlight performance from the Fortuner, especially when driving on country roads. The reach and spread of beam is narrow and lacks intensity and, especially on wet nights, falls far short of ideal. High beam is better, but obviously use of the ‘big lights’ is restricted when there is other traffic on the road.
Overall, however, the Fortuner GXL is a terrific car, especially for those who enjoy their weekends away from the rat race. It’s the sort of vehicle that is liveable in day-to-day driving and capable when pointed at the dirt.
With most of the versatility and technical offerings of Toyota’s larger, and more expensive, LandCruiser variants, we think the Fortuner makes a lot of sense for new-car buyers on a tighter budget, especially if they’re not interested in owning a dual-cab utility.
The Fortuner is the ideal companion to adventure seeking families wanting a capable off-road SUV right out of the box, and is well worth test driving – especially if the wait time for LandCruiser and Prado models is out of the question.
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