The 2,4-litre 4×4 Fortuner may just be the best value-for-money choice in the range…
Judging by the number of bakkie-based SUVs on our roads, this formula meets the requirements of adventurous families balancing school runs and peak-hour commuting with holidays in remote locations. In many cases, proper all-wheel-drive ability is a must for these excursions, but so too is the convenience of an automatic transmission when returning to the rat race.
Herein lies the problem: combining the last two prerequisites may have your bank manager grinning from ear to ear, as most options sit north of R600 000, including the popular Fortuner 2,8 GD-6 4×4 6AT. Toyota identified this gap in its Fortuner line-up and introduced a more affordable 2,4-litre version at the end of 2017.
Outside, all that differentiates the 2,4 from its big brother is the badge at the back. In contrast to the divisive styling of the Hilux (now updated) the Fortuner still appears modern and purposeful.
It’s when you step aboard that the cost-saving elements become more apparent. Compared with the 2,8-litre, this model sees the leather-covered steering wheel make way for a urethane item; the touchscreen infotainment system replaced with a button-operated system with a dot-matrix-like display (note, this model has since been upgraded to a touchscreen system); and the instrument cluster devoid of the uprated functionality usually accessed by the satellite buttons on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. Manual air-conditioning is the order of the day, but at least the partial-leather seats are comfortable and help lift the general ambience of the cabin.
It’s good to know Toyota didn’t compromise on safety features, though, with front, knee, side and curtain airbags, stability control, traction control (including an off-road active-traction system), trailer sway and cruise control all standard fitment.
Although the 2,4-litre turbo-diesel is 20 kW down on the 2,8-litre, it still delivers a healthy 400 N.m, albeit accompanied by a rather noisy diesel soundtrack when pushed. Coupled with a relaxed (read: slightly slow, with perceived slip during shifts) torque-converter transmission, this powertrain makes for effortless progress round town. Parking sensors or a rear-view camera would have been a big help when it comes to parking in tight spaces, however, as the Fortuner is a large vehicle (again, note a reversing camera has since been added).
One tester embarked on a 300 km road trip, seven up, and noted the vehicle easily cruised at the national speed limit, losing ground to the 2,8-litre only when overtaking oomph was required at higher speeds.
This was confirmed by our acceleration testing, where it posted a leisurely 0-100 km/h time of 13,92 seconds and took 11,91 seconds to complete the 80-120 km/h dash. The 2,8 managed 12,02 and 9,07 seconds for the same exercises.
The 2,4’s biggest advantage is in terms of fuel consumption, where we easily bested Toyota’s claimed 8,2 L/100 km with an excellent figure of 7,5 L/100 km on our 100 km fuel route. It was noted, however, when the vehicle was loaded, we saw indicated figures of more than 9,0 L/100 km, but that’s still an impressive feat for an SUV that tips the scales at 2,1 tonnes.
The Fortuner really comes into its own when the tarmac ends. Dirt roads are tackled with ease and, when the going gets tough, low range and a differential lock contribute to off-road ability that makes this Toyota feel nearly unstoppable over rough terrain. A short section of off-road driving confirmed the 2,4 is as capable as its bigger brother, although hill-descent control is not part of the electronic stability control package. The fact that this hard-worked test unit displayed no quality issues with more than 20 000 km on the clock is testament to its build and integrity.
The ride is typical body-on-chassis fare, with a constant shimmy. Handling-wise, the Fortuner feels more nimble than some of its competitors but care is needed when approaching a set of curves, as body roll and a lack of steering feel can make cornering at speed a nervous experience.
On paper, there are sufficient differences in specification and performance between the 2,4- and 2,8-litre Fortuners to warrant the price gap of some R130 000. In reality, however, the difference is far less pronounced. The (since replaced) budget infotainment system can easily be swapped for a Fortuner-specific aftermarket unit (read about that option here) that eliminates a large part of those frustrations.
Toyota has been clever in introducing this model because it fills a gap where none of its competitors have an equivalent option. It not only appears to offer great value, but might just be the most sensible buy in this segment. If you need robust off-road performance and an automatic transmission, this model is equally the pick of the Fortuner litter.
*From the September 2018 issue of CAR magazine
Road test score