By M. O’Neil
- Competitive pricing with long list of standard features;
- Comfortable seats with plenty of interior room;
- 7 seats; and
- Very impressive off-road.
Despite already offering the Rav4, Prado and Landcruiser, Toyota Kenya has managed to over the years, successfully squeeze one more SUV into the mix: the HiLux-based Toyota Fortuner. With competition in this segment now heating up, has Toyota landed a winner?
The all-new Fortuner will take on the Everest from Ford and an established player like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The Toyota Fortuner boasts impressive off-road credentials and the seven-seater launches with the following specifications: .
According to Toyota, the Fortuner will sit above the Rav4 and below the Prado. While it may look big from the outside, the Fortuner is actually shorter and narrower than the Prado. Despite the exterior size deficit, the cargo capacity wins out on volume and versatility. With the third row in place, there is 200 litres of cargo volume on offer (to the roof).
That space increases to 716L with the third row folded away, and opens up to an impressive 1080L with the second row folded and tumbled out of the way. To put that into perspective, Prado has 742L available.
The Fortuner trumps the Prado’s 2500kg towing capacity, with 3000kg on offer.
Inside the cabin, Toyota has gone to great lengths to differentiate the Fortuner from the HiLux vehicle entirely. Despite only sharing the forward part of the B-pillar with the HiLux, the interior and rear of the car is unique to the Fortuner.
High quality materials and premium fit and finish sets the Fortuner apart from the HILux. Leather-look highlights make it feel more like a Prado than an SUV derived from a commercial double-cabin pick-up.
Handy features like an air-conditioned drink compartment and small grab handles in the B-pillar for little passengers make the Fortuner a versatile vehicle. That versatility extends to air conditioning vents for all three rows, 4kg bag hooks on the back of both front seats and three 12V outlets.
Leg and headroom in the second row is surprisingly good. You can successfully fit three adults abreast in the back with a squeeze, but two with absolute comfort. The third row is really only for smaller kids than larger adults.
Access to the third row comes courtesy of the 60:40 split-folding second-row with centre armrest and cup holders. The second row contains two ISOFIX points and three top-tether hooks, along with a roof mounted seat belt for the centre passenger.
Powered exclusively by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, the Fortuner produces 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque at 1600-2400rpm. The diesel engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, and consumes 8.6L/100km. the fuel tank has an 80 litre capacity.
The Fortuner’s engineering has been performed all over the world. The Fortuner has been tested across a challenging four-wheel drive course, over hundreds of kilometres of rutted and corrugated dirt roads and over 1000km of varying country highway roads, so this is one of the most comprehensive reviews you will read of the Fortuner. Considering how the Kenyan roads are setup, this should prove very enlightening for readers.
Let’s start with arguably the most important aspect: the Fortuner’s off-road ability. Built on the HiLux’s body-on-frame underpinning, the Fortuner was engineered with the same four-wheel drive equipment, but with a 4-link coil-sprung suspension setup at the rear instead of leaf springs. In the front end, we have a double wishbone independent suspension setup.
Under the Fortuner’s shell is a dual-range transmission with switchable four-wheel drive. The driver can switch between a two- and four-wheel drive high-range mode and a four-wheel drive low-range mode.
Additionally, a manually lockable rear differential, as well as Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill Assist Control (HAC) help expand the Fortuner’s four-wheel drive capabilities.
The first portion of the off-road course was covered with large loose rocks and featured both flat and inclined terrain. Over the flat portion of the rock-covered terrain, the chassis offered excellent communication through the wheel and seat of the pants, while the impressive 225mm ground clearance helped ensure all rocks were missed with ease.
As the terrain inclined, the Fortuner remained communicative, but it was the hydraulic steering that let it down on a couple of occasions. The steering would load up and become highly resistive for a short period. It didn’t affect driving performance, but was a little frustrating. Moreover, the tilt and telescopic power steering is easily adjustable.
With a 30-degree approach angle and 25-degree departure angle, the Fortuner had no issues with front and rear clearance. A 700mm wading depth also positions it as one of the segment leaders in terms of water fording.
The next part of the off-road track involved uneven surfaces that caused the Fortuner to seesaw during a grade change. With one wheel off the ground, torque was easily shuffled to the other three wheels in unison with the stability control limiting wheel slip.
A long downhill portion of gravel gave us the chance to test the Fortuner’s Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill Assist Control (HAC). It works well at controlling the vehicle’s speed, but we found it to be too slow with no obvious way of adjusting the descent speed accordingly. This meant overriding the system each time the terrain levelled out and the speed was too slow.
The rest of the track further tested articulation and torque distribution with low-range only required for a steep, low-friction ascent.
When not driving off-road, buyers are likely to be spending most of their time on the way there.
With the Fortuner in its rear-wheel drive mode, we snaked through gravel-covered switchbacks and found the car to be quite settled. Even during high throttle loads, the Fortuner remains controllable and predictable. When the rear-end does slip, the stability control does a good job of reining it in and keeping the car under control.
The steering’s vague communication about centre improves during cornering as the rack loads up. Under load there is more communication and weight, which helps with placing the car on the road.
The ride is on the firmer side, but soaks up pot holes and undulations with aplomb. Unlike the HiLux, which can bounce on uneven surfaces unloaded, the Fortuner’s four-link coil sprung rear absorbs the initial bump softly and then limits reverberation.
However so, it becomes unstuck over rutted roads with continuous corrugations. As the corrugation frequency increases, there is considerable booming in the cabin. The booming is a low-frequency thrum that becomes more evident with greater speed.
On the open road and through the city, some people may find the Fortuner’s ride a little on the firm side. Much like on gravel roads, bigger thumps are adequately absorbed, but smaller imperfections impact the ride and upset the feel in the cabin at times.
The six-speed automatic transmission is a slick-shifting gearbox – that is strangely offered with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters – making full use of the engine’s 450Nm of torque. In-gear acceleration is great and it can easily be coaxed into dropping down cogs for overtaking purposes.
At times the gearbox would hunt at highway speeds. We found that with the cruise control set at 110km/h, the gearbox would often drop to fifth gear at the slightest hint of an incline.
The handling isn’t sports car-like, but it is manageable through corners. That’s partly thanks to the front and rear sway bars that help keep body roll in check. This also means that we could see the Fortuner fitted with the Prado and Landcruiser’s unique KDSS system.
All the time spent behind the wheel of the Fortuner, allowed us to appreciate how impressive the seats are. Despite potential long journeys upcountry or to one’s rural home or area, you’ll never feel tired or sore. The seats offer enough side and bottom support while also catering for comfort over rough roads.
Despite the low claimed fuel economy figures, we struggled to get within earshot of those numbers. With hundreds of kilometres spent behind the wheel, consumption figures read 13.1L/100km at the an average speed of 100km/h —almost 40 per cent more than Toyota’s claim.
Several journalists came away from the all-new Fortuner’s global launch quite surprised. Most weren’t expecting such a refined and complete package. The premium elements of the vehicle help differentiate it enough from the HiLux, while the sharp pricing also makes it a cost-effective and versatile SUV proposition.
The Toyota Fortuner will come in various interesting exterior colours, namely: Super White, Silver Metallic, Grey Metallic, Phantom Brown Metallic, Avant Garde Bronze Metallic and finally Nebula Blue Metallic.
When it comes to ownership and servicing of the Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Kenya offers a limited warranty for a period of 36 months (3 years) or 100,000km, whichever comes first. That sounds like pretty good value in my books and you can never go wrong with a Toyota after all.
We can’t wait to get our hands on a local model and put it through its paces for a comprehensive test drive and review.
The next step will be to pit it against the Ford Everest and/or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, in a comparison test — keep your eyes open for that.
- Performance & Economy – 7
- Cabin Space & Comfort – 8
- Technology & Connectivity – 7.5
- Price & Features – 8
- Ride & Handling – 7.5
- Toyota Kenya is the official and sole distributor of all new Toyota vehicles in Kenya. They are located along Uhuru Highway, adjacent to Nakumatt Mega, as well as along Waiyaki Way; with a number of dealers spread across the country.
- The company offers after sales service as well as comprehensive warranties for all their vehicles. Check out their official website or visit their showroom(s) for more information.