For years the Toyota Fortuner had the market all to itself, with no direct competitors in its particular segment. Then, within a month of each other, Mitsubishi released the Pajero Sport and now Ford the Everest.
Both the Mitsubishi and the Everest were keenly anticipated: there has actually been a shortage in supply of the Fortuner, and other potential buyers wanted more options. And the Everest was potentially a particularly attractive option, being based on the excellent Ranger, which possesses probably the finest diesel engine of any bakkie on the market.
But when images of the Everest first filtered into the public domain, Joe Public didn’t sounds terribly impressed and, to be honest, neither did most of the motoring journalists out there.
The Everest isn’t the most modern looking SUV on the market, with the long, square rear and slab-sided profile. But the nose is more modern, and the square shape of the body gives the Everest an impressive amount of rear space, with the tallest and widest cargo area in the class. The boot door opens sideways, which is a feature that will appeal to many. And to all the critics who have only seen pictures of the Everest: it looks a lot better in the flesh.
If you remain unconvinced by the Ford’s appearance, rest assured that it is the weakest point in an otherwise capable package. The interior is very similar to that of the Ranger, so is functional and feels well put together. There are seven seats, and the rear row can be folded out of the way, or removed completely.
Beige leather upholstery is standard across the range, as are electric windows front and rear, air con (with vents for the second and third rows too), and numerous stowage compartments.
An auxiliary jack is included in the audio system, which features a digital display and incorporates MP3 capability and auxiliary input connection for popular MP3 players, such as the iPods. XLT models have a front loader CD player with four speakers, while the Everest LTD features a six-CD front loading shuttle and six speakers.
Dual front air bags for driver and passenger are supplemented by side airbags designed to protect the head and thorax in the event of a side impact.
The only engine available in the Everest range is the 3,0-litre TDCi as used in the Ranger, good for 115 kW and peak torque of 380 Nm at 1800 r/min. It is very, very good, with torque available at a wide range of revs. A five-speed manual gearbox is available in either 4×4 or 4×4 guise, while the top-of-the-range 4×4 LTD model comes with an automatic ‘box, also with five gears.
The 4×4 models both come with a low-range transfer case, and drive-mode is selected by a second gear-lever in the manual model, and via a dial on the auto, which also has shift-on-the-fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h. A limited-slip rear diff is standard across the range. We didn’t have much opportunity to test the vehicle’s off-road capabilities on the launch, but if the Ranger is anything to go by, it should be more than competent.
The Everest features double wishbone suspension up front and leaf springs at the back, with front and rear stabiliser bars. This is very much a bakkie setup, but the Everest was comfortable and well-composed on the road, and also on dirt roads, where some competitors are less so.
Where the Everest wins is in price, practicality and the best engine in the class. It will no doubt lose a few fans who don’t like the looks, and there are a few who will probably prefer either the reputation of the Fortuner or the extra comfort of the Pajero Sport. But overall the Everest can’t be faulted as a capable alternative to either a double cab or one of the other vehicles mentioned.
Ford Everest 3.0 TDCi XLT 4×2 Manual R324 990
Ford Everest 3.0 TDCi XLT 4×4 Manual R364 990
Ford Everest 3.0 TDCi LTD 4×4 Automatic R382 990
The Ford Everest comes with a five-year/90 000km service plan and a comprehensive four-year/120 000km warranty, with service intervals of 10 000km.