Toyota Fortuner 2020 gx

2021 Toyota Fortuner GX review

Rating: 8.0
$41,350 $49,170 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
Will a big facelift change the fortunes of Toyota’s forgotten 4x4?
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Toyota Fortuner: the forgotten 4x4 of an otherwise top-selling line-up.

While the LandCruiser Prado and HiLux continue to rack up market-leading sales figures, the Fortuner has collected a relatively modest slice of pie. Hell, even the very expensive 200 and 70 Series LandCruisers seem to find more homes each month.

While the general consensus is that Toyota launched the Fortuner with pricing too high against deal-driven competition, the numbers have moved a long way down since. And now it's got a big facelift with more tech, more safety and more grunt, maybe the Fortuner has found its happy place? Maybe.

Our tester in this case is a 2021 Toyota Fortuner GX, which is the base specification. Asking price for this is $49,080 before on-road costs.

While still sneaking under the $50,000 watermark, Toyota has jacked up the price with a facelift. From $45,965 previously, it's a jump of just over $3000.

2021 Toyota Fortuner GX
Engine2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power and torque150kW @ 3400rpm, 500Nm @ 1600–2800rpm
Transmission6-speed torque-converter Aisin automatic
Drive typePart-time 4x4, low-range transfer case
Kerb weight2130kg
Fuel consumption, claimed7.6L/100km
Fuel use on test10.0L/100km
Boot size (seven seat / five seat)200L/1080L
ANCAP safety rating (year)Five stars, October 2019
Warranty (years / km)Five years / unlimited kilometres
Main competitorsMitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu MU-X, Ford Everest
Price as tested (ex on-road costs)$49,080

Although, this number is within reach on first impressions with the main competition. The Isuzu MU-X, in LS-M specification, has an asking price of $50,200, while Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport GLX asks for $46,990, both before on-road costs.

Complicating the value question further, Mitsubishi is currently offering a $45,990 drive-away deal, with Isuzu's website offering a $46,990 drive-away offer at the time of writing.

Conversely, Toyota isn’t currently offering any special deals on the new Fortuner. And as always, recommended retail numbers don’t matter for buyers: it’s the final deal you can strike that is most important.

In this base GX specification, the Fortuner has automatic bi-LED headlights, 8.0-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front and rear parking sensors, seven seats, and adaptive cruise control.

In terms of safety, we've got lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, but no blind-spot monitoring or cross-traffic alert. An ANCAP rating of five stars from October 2019 is the icing on the cake.

While some might rue the loss of steel wheels in this base specification (there at introduction but swapped out during the model run), the 17-inch alloys do help the aesthetic appeal of the Fortuner. Throw in some facelifted exterior features, and this new 2021 Fortuner is noticeably different from the outgoing model.

The new grille design, kind of similar in design to the recently released Amarok W580, is the most significant change, and follows the trend of less chrome on four-wheel drives and utes.

Inside, plum-coloured cloth seats have been traded for a more mainstream grey hue. Niceties like leather, electric adjustment and front heating are kept for higher grades. Although, ergonomics and comfort are in good supply. Tilt and reach adjustment through the steering column no doubt helps.

Storage and versatility are good, with slide-out cupholders underneath air-conditioning vents, along with twin gloveboxes, cupholders and some extra storage in front of a decent-size centre console.

Big hints to the base specification come through the non-premium steering wheel, rudimentary air-conditioning controls (no climate control) and turn-key start. However, it’s worth pointing out that the air-conditioning proved to be very powerful on test.

One big let-down in this day and age is the lack of power outlets up front. Only one USB and one 12V feels underdone, especially for a family car these days.

In the second row, conditioned air pours down from above, and space can be apportioned through a sliding and tilting second row. Space and comfort are good, with enough room for adults and even rearward-facing child seats (just).

The second row misses out on USB points completely, with only a 12V plug to fight over. However, the thick rubber floor matting (from the genuine accessories catalogue) looks durable, and promises to be easy to clean.

The third row, similar to others in the segment, is quite tight and mostly suited to kids and short trips. However, there are air vents.

When not in use, the third row folds up and into the side of the boot, like old LandCruisers and Patrols. It’s not as neat as others that fold into the floor, but some will like the ability to remove the third row either completely (regulations vary by state) or when they are gearing up for a big trip away. 4WDers will also love the room for a second battery under the bonnet, complete with an auxiliary fuse panel ready for action.

With an 8.0-inch infotainment display across the range that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, general usability of Toyota’s system has also been improved with a good old-fashioned volume knob.

There’s a speed display in the multifunction display, along with a DPF level readout. If you want, the GX infotainment display can be up-specced with satellite-navigation and digital radio for $1000.

2021 Toyota Fortuner GX
Length / width / height (mm)4795 / 1855 / 1835
Ground clearance216mm
Tow rating braked / unbraked / payload (kg)3100 / 750 / 670
Approach / departure / rampover angle (degrees)29 / 25 / 23.5
Wading depth700mm
Wheels and tyres17-inch, 265/65R17

This new Fortuner also comes with a new diesel particulate filter system, which promises to be less problematic than the old one.

The revamped 2.8-litre diesel engine, now sporting a new turbocharger and fuel injection system, has been bumped up by 20kW and 50Nm for maximum outputs of 150kW at 3400rpm and 500Nm at 1600–2800rpm.

MORE: New Toyota 2.8-litre diesel engine, in detail

The end result is an engine that feels perkier and more responsive to throttle inputs than before. Now quieter also, the 2.8-litre engine feels like plenty of grunt for this application.

Throttle tuning can also be adjusted via the Economy and Power buttons near the gear shifter, if you want it to feel a little more loose or tight.

The gearbox, a six-speed Aisin unit, is mostly a carryover from the previous generation, and it’s a good one. Shifts are smooth, and the ’box makes good decisions regardless of how planted the right foot might be.

Toyota claims an 11 per cent improvement in fuel economy with this new driveline, but we didn’t see that in our testing. We stuck to a flat 10.0 litres per 100km in our testing, which lines up similarly with figures we got from earlier Fortuner testing.

While steering has benefitted from a new variable-flow hydraulic system, it feels great in the hands and makes the Fortuner an enjoyable car to punt around town.

The ride is also a winner – tuned for comfort and great bump absorption (especially with 17-inch wheels). Think HiLux, but without that hard edge from the load-carrying leaf springs. There might be too much cloudiness going on in the ride for some people’s taste, but I’m certainly into it.

Along with the new driveline, Toyota has bumped the Fortuner's braked towing capacity up from 3000kg to 3100kg.

Off-road, the Fortuner continues to be one of the best in the segment. With a locking rear differential as standard, the Fortuner also leans on Toyota's finely tuned off-road traction-control system. Although, it's a bit of a shame that you can't use both at the same time.

Historically, this is one Toyota that seems to be between a rock and a hard place. On one side, the HiLux and LandCruiser Prado sell huge numbers, dwarfing the Fortuner considerably.

And on the other side, the Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport yield a lot more interest and sales amongst the brigade of utes-turned-wagons.

Does that make the Fortuner a bad choice? No. In typical Toyota fashion, it's not the best value choice of the segment; Isuzu and Mitsubishi are locking horns on that front.

Execution is good, however, with a nice ride, gutsy engine and good off-road ability making it a comely choice. 4WDers will like the versatility of an unbolt-to-remove third row, although it is a pain to live with day-to-day as a seven-seater.

Those looking at a Fortuner will want to run the numbers on a comparable Prado GX ($59,840 before on-road costs) to see if it is worth netting the extra interior space. Although, the 2.8 will also feel more effective and perkier in something smaller and lighter like a Fortuner.

It might not continue to hit the nail on the head like other Toyota offerings, simply because they exist and this new model is still finding its way amongst established competitors.

However, for a family looking for a chariot to handle the duties of midweek family and weekend fun, the new Fortuner is well worth consideration.