Toyota knows it won’t sell too many of the HiLux’s ute-with-a-boot sibling, the Fortuner.
It’s a niche offering in Toyota’s crowded stable of eight different SUV models, pitched as a diesel, off-road alternative to the Kluger and an affordable option for those who crave a Prado or LandCruiser.
But what the Fortuner lacks in popularity, it makes up for in practicality.
Friends of ours — mum, dad and four kids in a country WA town — have had their Fortuner for four years and love its rugged, no-nonsense approach.
Our friends — let’s call them The Wild Bunch — love the look of it, the price of it, and the off-road adventure offered by what is basically a HiLux with seven seats and more comfortable rear suspension.
What they don’t want is lots of bells, whistles and fiddly bits which four energetic kids might prod, puncture or reprogram. A dark, nondescript easy-clean interior suits them a lot better than light-coloured luxury, whether it’s the school run or a weekend wander out yonder.
The latest Fortuner — unveiled as something of an afterthought amid the blaze of glory which was the updated HiLux launch — builds nicely on this sturdy, simple formula.
The entry-level Fortuner GX comes in a whisker under $50,000, but we tested the range-topping Crusade, whose $61,410 price tag makes it $7000 dearer than the entry-level Prado.
All Fortuner variants have a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel offering a power boost and better fuel economy than before.
The new Fortuner is notably quieter and smoother than its predecessor, and its on-road handling is more precise and less agricultural. It looks nicer too, with a reworked front end.
Like most Toyotas, you just jump in and things work — simply and easily.
The in-car entertainment operates via knobs rather than fiddly touchscreens or pads. The eight-inch multimedia screen is standard across the range, the system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the 11-speaker JBL sound system in the Crusade is a very nice touch indeed.
The daily city commute was smooth, parking in tight spaces was straightforward and there’s a good amount of boot space, even though the fold-up-to-the-sides third-row seats mean you have to think which way you’ll stash awkward items such as bicycles.
On a day trip past the wildflowers to York, it was the perfect family cruiser at highway speeds and also on the more meandering sections of road.
When we took it off-road, it soaked up the terrain just as you’d expect a HiLux to.
Towing capacity has gone up and the Fortuner can now tow 3100kg braked — 300kg more than before.
All variants ride on alloy wheels, with the Crusade scoring 18-inchers, an inch bigger than standard. The leather-upholstered range-topper also gets a power tailgate — the sort of frivolous luxury our friends The Wild Bunch can get by without.
Standard equipment across all Fortuners includes an air-conditioned cool box, a 60/40 split second-row seat and media controls mounted on the steering wheel.
Across our week’s driving we managed just under 10L/100km, a little way off the stated figure of 7.6L but impressive nonetheless considering the work we put this two-tonne beast through.
One drawback is the third-row seats not being designed to take baby seats — but most families would probably put the older kids there anyway.
We also missed having blind-spot monitoring when changing lanes — though it’s not a substitute for having a proper look.
The steering wheel also had a hard plastic feel to it that became noticeable just over halfway to York and kept nagging away at us intermittently from then on.
You could get round that with a nice pair of driving gloves; like the Fortuner, they’re not sold in great numbers but they’re certainly practical and set you apart from the crowd.
Based on Australia’s bestselling ute, the Fortuner is a robust, capable performer on and off road. It’s now more powerful and more frugal. Toyota might sell a whole lot more if it highlighted its HiLux origins, but it fills its niche nicely.
2020 TOYOTAFORTUNER CRUSADE SPECIFICATIONS
- Price: $61,410
- Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Outputs: 150kW/500Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 7.6L/100km