If there was ever a car that seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the Australian new car market, it is Toyota’s HiLux-based 4WD wagon, the Fortuner.
Launched in 2015, the Toyota Fortuner had all the right components for success. A seven-seat, off-road wagon from Australia’s top-selling manufacturer based on the country’s highest-selling vehicle, in a sales category which makes up approximately 10 per cent of all annual new-car purchases – it was almost too good to be true.
And, well, it was. Fortuner sales peaked in 2016 at 3871 and declined from there. So much so that, so far this year, just 933 have been sold.
In fact, of all the other ute-based wagons, the Fortuner has been outsold by the Ford Everest (2024), Isuzu MU-X (2359) and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (2272). Only the Holden Trailblazer (867) falls short, and well… they don’t sell that anymore.
Why didn’t it succeed? Basically, every other option was better.
It isn’t very well packaged as the ride is too firm for a family car, and the third-row seats hinge to the side when not in use, compromising the load area and rearward vision.
Plus, the exterior design wasn’t to all tastes and let's not even start on the ‘burgundy’ seat trim.
But we have an idea to fix this, and it won't take much.
Bring back the 4Runner
Back in 1984, you could buy a two-door Toyota HiLux 4Runner, which was basically a 4X4 HiLux with a back seat, a removable fibre-glass canopy and cool stickers. Salvatore, in our media team, even owns one!
In 1990, the HiLux name was dropped from the model, but the 4Runner kept the ute’s mechanical underpinnings to become a four-door off-road family wagon.
You know, like a Fortuner.
Grey-market imports called HiLux Surf (which was essentially the same but could be had with a 3.0-litre diesel) also found their way here.
The 4Runner stayed on sale until 1996, after which it was replaced in showrooms by the LandCruiser Prado.
And, while you can still buy a 4Runner in other markets (based on the 150-Series Prado), we haven’t seen the badge locally now for nearly 25 years.
So why not trade on this nameplate equity and bring the 4Runner back?
The 2021 Toyota Fortuner 4Runner has a pretty cool ring to it, no?
We think you could build on the entry-level Fortuner GX, add some contrasting trim, decals and a bit more of a retro lifestyle vibe to make a family-friendly 4Runner appeal to sub-$50k wagon buyers.
Offer a different seat trim (please), and bring back the manual transmission option (last available in 2018) to set the 4Runner as a ‘one-up-from-base’ lifestyle spec.
Make those side-stowable third-row seats easily removable (or even optional), roll in the announced updates to the Hilux’s tech and driveline, add a larger sidewall tyre for better ride comfort and we might just start to see these things find a market.
We know the HiLux platform performs well off-road, and has a great reputation for reliability, so why not make it ‘fun’?
While we’re here too, we imagined what a modern two-door 4Runner would look like, with a removable fibreglass canopy and, even more stickers.
While this one would require a full re-engineer, we think our four-door 2021 Toyota Fortuner 4Runner is a much more viable option.
What are your thoughts? Would you consider a ‘fun again’ Toyota 4Runner in a modern guise?
Let us know in the comments below.