Car reviews - Toyota - Fortuner - range
Cabin noise refinement, materials quality, interior space, flexible drivetrain, off-road ability
Room for improvement
Rear seats not removable, interior colour scheme options, fake wood, front legroom a little tight for width, steering vague at highway speeds.
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20 Oct 2015
SO MANY of the choices in the pick-up-based wagon segment bring both the best and worst of their donor vehicles to the table – towing and off-road ability teamed with rough and ready road manners – but the latest addition changes that.
Following in the tyre tracks of the more refined Ranger-based Everest, the Toyota Fortuner takes a similar, more refined tack on the theme.
The Thai-built Toyota impresses with its manners on the open roads of South Australia's mid-north, with a very quiet cabin, intruded on very little by the much-improved engine it shares with the new HiLux and revamped Prado.
Only vague steering (hydraulically-assisted) at the straight ahead lets it down, something it exhibited less on unsealed surfaces at similar speeds, but once we hit sealed-road corners, the sensation abated.
In automatic guise, the 2.8-litre four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel powerplant was smooth and flexible, with the broad torque curve lending itself to solid – if not stunning – in-gear acceleration.
But once up to the cruise, engine noise is well-quelled and wind noise is minimal, even around the large and useful exterior mirrors.
Power and torque from the turbo-diesel is back in the ballpark at 130kW and 450Nm, delivered in a flexible manner even though the manual version loses out in the torque department by 30Nm, both have a good spread of torque.
Even without the clever electronic throttle aids, the base variant happily idled out of tight turns in a gear taller than you'd expect without complaint.
The ride is well controlled and has only small amounts of 'jiggle' that a body-on-frame construction typically imparts when hitting smaller road imperfections.
Sharing the double-wishbone front end with the HiLux means cornering and ride quality is well above average for the segment aft of the front occupants' shoulder line is new, with a five-link coil-sprung rear end doing duty under the rear.
It delivers reasonable ride, without being exceptional, but the underpinnings continue to impress when the road surface changes.
Bush tracks and worse fail to deter the Fortuner and the presence of low range is testament to genuine off-road aims.
Above-average ground clearance, solid engine braking and a suspension set-up that feels at home in the rough makes the latest Toyota SUV far from just a kid-carter.
Traction is well maintained by wheel travel and the standard rear diff lock was an unnecessary but welcome back-up on the steep and rocky terrain.
Also surplus to requirements – but desirable in some severe conditions – was the descent control system, which is made almost redundant by good engine braking from the drivetrain, even in the automatic.
The cabin is comfortable and supportive, although front occupants might hanker for a little more width in the footwell, but rear passengers get good leg and acceptable headroom with the added benefit of good forward vision.
Rear leg room – even with the bench at its furthest point forward – is still enough for four adults to sit comfortably, with headroom easily taken care of by way of a recessed roof lining that also has vents fitted.
The two third-row occupants are also kept well ventilated by ceiling-mounted outlets and can access their seats via the flip-fold function of both sides of the second row.
Sadly it seems the third row is destined to remain, with Toyota not seeing fit to return to the removable set-up once offered in the 100 Series that allowed relatively easy removal of the rear pew if required.
At least the flip to the side and fold forward function of the middle row allows for a spacious load area if required, something the Holden Colorado 7 and Isuzu MU-X can't achieve.
The Fortuner offers 12-volt outlets (in the front, for the middle row and in the boot), a USB and auxiliary input, as well as a 220-volt household power plug (only standard in the top-spec Crusade) to take care of power supply duties.
Much like in the HiLux, Toyota has made room for a second battery in close proximity to the factory fitted power source, and has also equipped the electrical system to easily take additional wiring for accessories.
Another clever feature retained for the Fortuner and HiLux, from the outgoing utility, is the positioning of the cupholders below the front vents to keep fluids cool or warm, as well as having a temperature-controlled compartment above the glovebox.
With just 500 units a month currently in their grasp, Toyota Australia acknowledges they have undercalled the potential sales volume of the new Fortuner and will need to get more.
Given it can out-tow the Prado, use half as much fuel as a Kluger while going a lot further off the beaten track and do it with more refined road manners than the Isuzu and Holden combatants, it's not hard to agree with them.
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