Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring


These rugged offroaders sell on the promise of exploring the great outdoors


Our love of the great outdoors has driven a boom in seven-seat offroaders based on one-tonne utes.

Three of the most popular, Ford’s Everest, Isuzu’s MU-X and Toyota’s Fortuner appeal to buyers’ sense of adventure by delivering rugged off-road prowess, formidable towing ability and family friendline­ss. But which does it best?


Sharp styling makes it easy to pick the Isuzu MU-X as the newest model, helped by suave 20inch alloys.

Its modern cabin has a 9-inch touchscree­n, electronic parking brake, wireless Apple CarPlay and a front centre airbag you won’t find in the Ford or Toyota.

It has a steering wheel that adjusts for both rake and reach, but loses ground with a flat and firm driver’s seat and less generous rear legroom.

The MU-X is the only car here rated to tow 3500 kilograms (as opposed to 3100kg) and the largest boot makes it a practical pick. Normally priced from about $71,000 drive-away, the topend MU-X LS-T is currently $65,990 driveaway, making it the cheapest here.

It trumps the Ford and Toyota’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranties with a six-year, 150,000 kilometre guarantee. Servicing is $2315 for five years.

The MU-X has soft suspension that isolates occupants from bigger bumps but feels soggy at speed, accentuati­ng its size. That sense of heft is magnified by a motor that uses the most fuel to produce the least power here – the 3.0-litre, 140kW/450Nm unit isn’t particular­ly impressive.


The oldest car here might well have been named the “Evergreen”, such is its enduring appeal.

A midlife update brought a bi-turbo 2.0-litre engine that uses the least fuel (7.0L/100km of diesel) to make the most power (157kW and 500Nm). That’s impressive considerin­g it is the heaviest car here. You can credit a 10-speed automatic and stop-start fuel saving system for that. It’s also the least costly to service ($1556 for five years), even if the mid-range Everest Trend isn’t cheap at $68,000 drive-away.

Our test car misses out on luxuries such as heated seats, but otherwise largely matches the equipment of the other cars. All three models have auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Ford’s 8-inch touchscree­n is a little smaller than the Isuzu’s unit, but twin digital driver displays either side of a central speedomete­r work well.

Impressive body control makes the Everest the pick on the black stuff, with fast steering that makes it feel more agile than it should.

It’s also adept off-road, where the Ford feels planted and predictabl­e, inspiring confidence in tricky situations, helped by the only multimode terrain management system here.


The Fortuner is the black sheep in Toyota’s four-wheel-drive, SUV and ute family, which dominates the sales charts. While the HiLux, LandCruise­r and RAV4 seem unstoppabl­e, this HiLux-based wagon has not gelled with Australian families.

Priced from a little more than $68,000 driveaway, the Fortuner is expensive to run due to six-month service intervals that return a $3521 maintenanc­e bill over five years. It has a good degree of equipment, including an 11-speaker JBL stereo and a useful household power point outlet, but it feels dated thanks to a fussy infotainme­nt layout and old-school fake wood veneers. Third-row seats that flip down from the sides rather than fold under the floor are trickier to wrangle than its rivals.

Toyota’s off-road chops are let down by the least generous ground clearance here and 700 millimetre maximum water wading depth that falls 10 centimetre­s short of the Ford and Isuzu.

A 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine feels punchier than its 150kW and 500Nm figures suggest, though it’s also a bit noisier than we’d prefer.

Meaty steering and stiff suspension make the Fortuner easy to place off-road. But it fell down on tarmac, juddering over broken surfaces that didn’t trouble rivals.


Our three road testers agreed that the Fortuner finished third. The MU-X is an impressive machine, particular­ly if your kids don’t need a lot of legroom, but the Ford Everest is the most complete package, despite the fact a new one is due to arrive soon.

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