When it comes to South African SUV sales, the Toyota Fortuner is the clear champion. Once you spend some time with it, it’s easy to see why.
The origins of the Fortuner are interesting. It dates back as far as 1984, when a mid-size SUV called the Hilux Surf (also known as the 4Runner) was introduced and sold to selected markets, including Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Two decades later, a much more refined design with similar bakkie-based underpinnings to the Hilux Surf was introduced as the Toyota Fortuner to more than 110 markets in 2005. The first-generation Fortuner was launched in 2006 in South Africa and soon became the SUV of choice for bush and urban lifestyle enthusiasts alike.
The latest version of the Fortuner, released last year, is continuing this tradition. Like its predecessor, the current Fortuner is the top-selling SUV in the country. Why is Toyota’s SUV so popular? Firstly, it is well priced. Thanks to its bakkie-based underpinnings, the Fortuner offers a lot of value for money. If you want a seven-seater SUV with 4WD and all the features of the Fortuner, you’ll probably need to pay quite a bit more if you go somewhere else. The only vehicles that can really compete on price, in fact, are similar bakkie-based SUVs from other manufacturers.
The second reason for the popularity of the Fortuner is its practicality. Few vehicles are as versatile. It’s easy to live with on a daily basis, but it can handle overlanding and some serious off-roading, even in standard guise. This sort of versatility is not easy to achieve, but Toyota has managed it with the Fortuner. The vehicle hides its off-road capability well. Even if you stick only to tarmac, you’ll be happy with the performance of the Fortuner. Take it off-road, though, and it really comes into its own. A drawback of this kind of bakkie-based design is a lack of refinement. Base an SUV on a commercial vehicle, and you’re going to struggle to provide the same sort of comfort and sophistication you’d be able to offer with a dedicated SUV design. The latest Fortuner doesn’t manage to hide its bakkie origins completely, but it comes close. NVH levels are impressively low. The highly rigid chassis frame and body provide a stable platform for the Fortuner’s new suspension, contributing significantly to optimum steering response. The Fortuner has a double-wishbone front suspension and four-link coil-spring rear suspension, both with stabiliser bars.
The Fortuner’s suspension hardware includes reinforced suspension towers and large-diameter dampers for durability, stability and effective control of small vibrations. The large-diameter cylinders allow the dampers to generate high forces with a short stroke for minimal impact harshness. The damper curves have been calibrated to deliver a flat ride at low damper velocities. Ball-joint mounted stabiliser bars front and rear minimise uncontrolled body roll. The Fortuner’s hydraulic power-assisted steering is road-speed sensitive. Under the bonnet, the Fortuner is powered by the same engine line-up as the Hilux, but these are also more refined than the outgoing engines. This particular model is powered by the new 2.8-litre oilburner that delivers 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque (manual models have 420Nm). While 130kW is nothing to scoff at, it’s that 450Nm of torque that makes the SUV so pleasant to drive. Peak torque is developed from 1 600r/min, which makes the Fortuner feel punchy and eager. Overall, it is hard to fault the Fortuner. It isn’t the fastest, best-equipped or most-capable SUV you can buy, but it does a lot of things really well. As an all-round package, it is very tempting. If you’re looking for one SUV that can handle everything you demand of it, the Fortuner is an almost irresistible buy. No wonder it sells so well.
Open-road rating 8 out of 10.
The good Great all-round SUV that’s up for any task.
The bad Almost everyone drives one. Or wants one.
Specifications – Toyota Fortuner 2.8 Gd-6 4×4 A/T
Engine 2.8-Litre Turbodiesel
Power 130kw @ 3 400r/Min
Torque 450nm @ 1 600r/Min
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
4wd System Part-Time 4wd
Fuel Tank 80 Litres
Fuel Consumption 8.5 Litres Per 100km (Claimed)
Tyre Size 265/60 R18
Spare Yes (Full-Size)
Luggage Space Not Stated
Price R617 900