SMALLER and lighter than the Prado, the Fortuner’s biggest sales pitch is its price. We chose the GXL trim, at $54,990, which undercuts the Prado wearing the same nomenclature by $7000. Granted, you miss out on sat-nav, but it picks up smart key entry instead.
Still, with the Fortuner it’s easy to see where money has been saved. For example, the third row seats fold against the side of the car, taking up valuable luggage room. Occasionally, too, the straps holding them in place unclip, requiring a quick tighten up. There’s also only a single zone for the ventilation, so all occupants have to agree on the same temperature. Like the Isuzu, the bonnet misses out on the Prado’s struts, so when it comes time to clean out the air filter you’re manually propping it open. Oh, and if you get a puncture, the spare that’s tucked underneath is only a steelie. Speaking of tyres, like the Prado the Fortuner gets tougher A/T tyres, whereas the Isuzu and Ford get H/TS.
The Fortuner’s smaller stature is most noticeable with its limited head room and cabin width. That said, for a couple or a smaller family it’s adequately capacious.
On the road the Fortuner immediately asserts itself as a capable companion. Its overly light steering that lacks meatiness on country roads is less of an issue once on the tracks of the CSR. It doesn’t take long for the Fortuner’s Hilux genes to shine through. Great ground clearance ensures it is well elevated over rocky sections, with ample articulation to keep the wheels in touch with the track. The traction control system is also excellent,
ensuring easy progress up sand dunes and through creek crossings. Less impressive is the suspension tune, especially in the rear. Dial up the pace and the coil springs soak up imperfections, but the movement is not as well controlled as it could be.
At least the 2.8-litre engine gets on with things nicely. With less weight to deal with than the Prado, it’s fractionally more responsive, and the easy accessibility of its 450Nm rarely leaves you wanting. However, despite its 80-litre tank, the Fortuner often called for a drink sooner than its rivals, even though its overall fuel use hovered around an impressive 11.0L/100km.
The big difference between the Fortuner’s drivetrain and the Prado’s is the 4x4 system. The full time system has been replaced by the Hilux’s parttime setup, which in practice means it needs wider turns when manoeuvring in campsites or around tight turns.
Speaking of campsites, like the Prado the Fortuner insists on beeping every time it’s locked and unlocked; not really ideal if you want to dive into the cabin for a midnight snack.
Weeks later we were still finding red dust.
What’s that saying? Too many cooks...
225mm of ground clearance is great for the rocky stuff.
A quick bush fix helped it arrive – just.