When compared to stablemates, it’s hard not to see the Toyota Fortuner as a bit of a tepid performer in terms of sales. While Toyota four-wheel drives are normally right at the pointy end of their respective segments, this HiLux-based 4x4 wagon is outsold by the Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Everest.
Strange, considering it shares a lot with both the HiLux and LandCruiser Prado, which are dominant sellers.
In particular, the diesel-only driveline is shared: a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel mated up to a six-speed automatic transmission. Outputs are the same: 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm at 1600–2400rpm.
Claimed fuel consumption for this 2020 Toyota Fortuner is 8.6L/100km on the combined cycle, and the Fortuner also gets the manual burn switch for the diesel particulate filter.
Like its direct competition, the Fortuner is a ute-based 4x4 wagon. The chassis is similar, although modified to replace the leaf-spring rear suspension and drum brakes of the HiLux with a five-link coil-spring set-up and disc brakes. Front suspension is a facsimile: double-wishbone independent suspension.
Similarly, the 4WD hardware toes the line that the HiLux established. There’s a low-range transfer case running through a part-time 4x4 system that is helped by a locking rear differential and Toyota’s adept off-road traction control.
The Fortuner's towing capacity is 2800kg, and the Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of 5545kg means if you've maxed out your payload, there is still 2795kg of towing capacity left over.
Crusade is the moniker for the top-specification Fortuner, costing $58,290 before on-road costs. And as you’d expect, it’s fairly loaded with gear. Unique bits include an 11-speaker JBL sound system, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, climate control, bi-LED headlights (with LED fog lights), 18-inch alloy wheels, powered tailgate and a 220V power socket.
This comes on top of stuff like keyless entry and push-button start, digital radio, native navigation and privacy glass.
Don’t want to spend so much? Look down the range towards the GXL ($50,790) or GX ($45,965). Go for any colour other than white, and add another $600.
Putting aside special offers, Fortuner pricing pegs it within reach of key competition: the Pajero Sport Exceed is $57,190, and MU-X LS-T is $57,400, although it’s worth noting that both of these brands are known for swinging the axe on recommended price. Ford’s Ranger-based Everest Titanium shoots higher at $72,790, although the $60,490 Trend does compare in a lot of ways.
After sluggish sales prompted Toyota to slash the Fortuner's initial launch prices, 2020 did bring a slight increase, along with including advanced safety tech across the range: autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. All pinched from the recent HiLux updates, and helping the Fortuner build its appeal amongst less advanced competition.
Of course, the benefit of the Fortuner is good off-road ability. While we didn't take this Crusade off-road, previous testing shows a 4WD well versed in basic capability. Toyota's off-road traction control is great, and can outperform the locking rear differential to keep the right wheels moving at the right times. Ground clearance is good overall, as well, making the Fortuner one of the best in its segment in terms of outright capability.
The 615kg of payload is enough for most scenarios, but you'd probably be better looking at a lower specification if you wanted to go crazy with accessories.
Unsurprisingly, the Fortuner is a very familiar experience to the closely related HiLux. The steering wheel, instrument binnacle and infotainment system are all similar, although the dashboard is a different design. And in this specification, it feels like your money has gone somewhere other than a fatter profit margin.
The driveline is reasonably refined, as well, though it certainly carries that diesel twang of rumble and vibration when under load. The torque feels well appointed through the rev range, and there's enough overall grunt (and compliance from the six-speed automatic gearbox) to work both around town and on the highway.
Softer and more compliant rear suspension helps this Fortuner feel more at home on the bitumen, particularly in terms of balancing better with the front suspension. It’s worth noting here that the Fortuner, like its competitors, doesn’t offer the same amount of on-road ride comfort as something like a Kluger, Sorento (or many other softer-edged SUVs) can offer: a live rear axle, ladder chassis, big tyres and more durable suspension don’t allow it.
That being said, the Fortuner is comfortable enough for a family hauler, and helped by assertive steering. It’s plenty spacious, too. Although the wheelbase is amongst the shortest in its segment at 2745mm, we found plenty of space in the first and second rows for adults.
The third row is a little tighter, although you can free up some room with the sliding second row. Still, it’s a space better suited to kids and smaller folk, rather than accommodating adult-sized humans.
When not in use, the third row folds up out of the way to the vehicle's sides, rather than into the floor as many others do. It’s not as clean a solution, but it does clear up space for a lower floor and underslung second spare wheel. It also gives you the ability to quickly and easily remove and mothball the third row, if you need the extra storage space and payload, or don’t plan on needing the extra seats.
Second-row occupants get air vents up in the roof, and a single 12V plug for power (along with the 220V outlet lower down). There are also a couple of handy hooks, and some storage in the door bins.
Up front, the 7.0-inch infotainment display is dated by fast-moving modern standards. And while it has digital radio and satellite navigation, it is missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It sits above your climate and 4WD controls, in a dashboard that’s far enough removed from a HiLux in design to be called its own.
Leather seats, in an interesting shade of purple (Toyota says they're red), are plenty comfortable and spacious. Leather cladding on the steering wheel is nice, although the wood veneer here and around the centre console could be seen as a bit old hat. Storage is a strong point, with cupholders in the centre console as well as under the air vents, and a double-barrel glovebox with a chilled section on the passenger side.
The Fortuner benefits from Toyota’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals every six months or 10,000km can make for a more expensive ownership proposition. The capped-price visits are listed at $250 for the first six visits, which totals $1500 for three years or 60,000km. From there, it jumps up quite a bit, and costs another $2037.01 to reach 100,000km or five years.
With the improved safety credentials, and the realigned pricing that dropped the dreaded ‘Toyota Tax’, the Fortuner is a much more compelling option to look at in this segment. It’s easy to look up to a LandCruiser Prado across the showroom floor, and that’s probably what a lot of people do. The Prado offers much more interior space, but the driveline feels much more at home in the relatively nimble Fortuner.