Toyota Fortuner 2020 gxl
review

2021 Toyota Fortuner GXL review

Rating: 7.9
$54,350 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    8.6L
  • Engine Power
    130kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    228g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
Having reviewed the GX, this time we take a look at the 2021 Toyota Fortuner GXL. It's a rugged 4WD that positions itself as the default family option for those whose budget can't stretch to the Prado.
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Not long after the Toyota Prado crept into the space (price-wise as well as size-wise) that used to be occupied by the LandCruiser, Toyota filled the gap with the Fortuner. In many ways, though, the 2021 Toyota Fortuner GXL could be thought of as the one Toyota 4WD offering that hasn’t dominated the market.

It’s not immediately evident why the Fortuner isn’t more popular than it is – it could be the fact that Toyota buyers in that segment buy a Prado. Or a Kluger. Or that they don’t see the rugged 4WD segment as something they actually ‘need’. At CarAdvice, we’ve always thought that the GXL is the near-perfect specification grade across Toyota 4WD product, too – Prado and LC200 included – so let’s take a look at the facelifted Fortuner.

First up, the changes. Alongside the HiLux, the facelifted Fortuner – which is of course dual-cab based – received an updated driveline with more power and some specification changes. The price – of course – also went up a bit.

As Sam tested recently, you can get into a GX Fortuner from $49,080 before on-road costs, while our mid-range GXL here starts from $54,350 before on-road costs. The Crusade tops the range starting from $61,410. Read our pricing and specification guide for the full breakdown. Specific to this test, GXL pricing climbs by $3560 compared to the pre-update model.

2021 Toyota Fortuner GXL
Engine2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power and torque150kW at 3400rpm, 500Nm at 1600–2800rpm
Transmission6-speed torque-converter Aisin automatic
Drive typePart-time 4x4, low-range transfer case
Kerb weight2125kg
Fuel consumption, claimed7.6L/100km
Fuel use on test9.9L/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)$54,350

The 2.8-litre diesel has been refreshed a little and now makes 150kW at 3400rpm and 500Nm between 1600–2800rpm. The engine is paired with an Aisin six-speed automatic, which according to Toyota has been recalibrated to deliver more frequent torque converter lock-up. In theory that should make the Fortuner more efficient, run cooler, and sharpen up punch off the mark.

On the subject of fuel use, Toyota claims a relatively frugal 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle. On test, with plenty of running around town, the GXL returned 9.9L/100km. Towing ability is up to 3100kg for those buyers with vans and trailers, and the Fortuner is of course a three-row SUV.

Some of the specification points to note are 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, LED fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, cloth trim, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rear-view camera, six-speaker audio system, climate-control AC, proprietary satellite navigation, DAB radio, privacy glass, and a proximity key.

The GXL we have on test has been fitted with the optional interior pack, which costs $2500. That adds eight-way electrically adjustable front seats and leather-accented trim. It’s an interesting one because I’d prefer cloth trim, but plenty of you would prefer leather. For mine, on a robust 4WD, I’d rather have hard-wearing cloth, but that’s just a personal preference.

Off-road-focused tourers get part-time 4WD with low-range, downhill assist control, and the same robust underpinnings as the HiLux, making for a solid foundation to modify your way to your version of the ultimate cross-country tourer. Should you wish to leave your Fortuner stock, it remains a capable off-roader as we know from previous tests.

Stepping into the cabin of a Toyota really is like pulling on that old jumper you can’t bear to part with. There’s an element of wanting more modernity, but there’s also the argument that if it works, keep it. The driving position, visibility and switchgear layout are all pretty familiar – doesn’t matter whether you’ve driven an old Fortuner, HiLux, Prado or even LC200.

It’s obvious the Fortuner is supposed to be the more robust, cost-effective offering in the Toyota 4WD line-up, and it’s never more evident than inside the cabin. The trim looks to be hard-wearing, although there is a bit too much in the way of hard plastic, but at least you know that won’t degrade over time. Thick rubber floor mats (from the genuine accessory range), neatly stitched trim, and basic amenities point to a long-lasting, honest family vehicle.

On test, the new smartphone interface worked faultlessly, as did Bluetooth, and the easy-to-understand way in which the controls are arranged makes for an easy interaction between vehicle and driver. There’s not as much storage as the very best in the large-SUV segment, but there’s enough for the family buyer.

Second-row seating is comfortable for adults, but the third row is a space only for children or very short trips. It’s why we often say that three-row SUVs are compromised, and the Fortuner's is best treated as an occasional option. If you do employ the third row, it eats right into the luggage space as well. If you’re unlikely to use the third row, our suggestion is to remove it entirely (it's a bolt-out job, rather than a quick-release mechanism, so check regulations in your state) and open up the maximum amount of storage space.

Both second and third rows get air vents, but as Sam noted in his GX review, there needs to be more in the way of power outlets. One USB and a 12V up front, and just the one 12V in the second row.

While facelifts are generally exactly that in the automotive world, you don’t always get driveline revisions. Given the 2.8-litre diesel has never been a particularly dynamic engine, we’re hoping the step forward makes a real-world difference behind the wheel.

The first things you will notice, though, are the changes to the steering. Eschewing the move to electric assistance, Toyota has revised the hydraulic power-steering unit with a variable pump that is supposed to primarily lighten resistance at low speed. It’s immediately evident, if you’ve driven the old model, that the steering definitely feels lighter and more effortless at low speed.

A lift by 20kW and 50Nm points to a punchier, more robust combination, and whereas we think the Prado (and to a lesser extent HiLux) could do with a V6 diesel, the Fortuner makes good use of the 2.8-litre four-cylinder. It’s no rocket ship by any means, but it certainly feels more linear, smoother, quieter, and better equipped to get the job done than the less powerful outgoing model.

The six-speed is smooth and certain of what it needs to do when, and as we’ve noted in the past it stands firm against the ‘more is more’ philosophy. You’re certainly never left feeling like you need any more ratios than you have. Around town, especially in crawling traffic, the Fortuner feels comfortable and easy to drive.

As Sam also noted with the GX, the ride tune is excellent. Toyotas generally err on the side of wafty comfort over handling, especially in the larger segments, and the Fortuner’s ability to soak up off-road nastiness doesn’t compromise the high-frequency stuff you experience on sealed surfaces.

Plenty of buyers seem to love a firm-riding SUV, but the way the Fortuner glides over imperfections is the stuff SUV dreams should be made of. Occupants in the cabin will mostly have no idea what is going on beneath them.

The Fortuner gets a five-star ANCAP rating, with features such as AEB, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition.

I’m not sure it’s easy to come to a conclusion as to why the Fortuner isn’t more popular than it is. Maybe even more so after you’ve driven it. It’s robust, delivers compelling value, and deals with day-to-day family duties with ease. As Prado prices creep higher, and an LC200 comes within reach, it makes the Fortuner an even smarter option for the budget-conscious.

In many ways, the Fortuner in 2020 fills the void the Prado once did. In any case, it’s an option buyers should consider. The polarising styling probably doesn’t help, but that’s always been a factor. If you want a Toyota 4WD and you’re on a budget, delve into the Fortuner’s pricing and specs – it’s one you shouldn’t ignore.

Usually, we'd say the GXL was the sweet spot in the range, but we think, in this case, the GXL sits marginally behind the value-leading GX – only just, though.

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