Toyota pushing hard with Fortuna

Four versions over three trim levels and aggressive pricing – Toyota is going big with its Fortuner wagon.


A NEW generation of an ‘old-school’ kind of Toyota sports utility wagon – one with a separate chassis and genuine low range designed for towing big loads and bashing around in the bush – has priced between recently-arrived, like-configured rivals.

The Fortuner, a seven-seater wagon derived off the Hilux that regardless of its beefy build could well end up mainly to with urbanites who simply want to look trendy in something tougher than a car-like sports utility, is being shown to New Zealand media tomorrow.

However, first examples are already in circulation and Toyota New Zealand has posted prices and specifications on its website.

The Palmerston North distributor obviously sees good business from a model that, design-wise, turns back the clock – ladder-frame rigs like this lost a lot of ground to more car-like SUVs over the past decade.

However, makers have found a way of bringing the old designs back into relevance; while this kind of vehicle won’t seem as nimble on road, it will be much tougher off it and better for towing – aspects new-age monocoque vehicles often compromise on in favour of improved comfort, economy and sharpened dynamics.

By applying the same process that has done wonders for one-tonne utes, notably in the areas of technology and safety, makers are hoping to see a resurgence with the ladder-frame models.

Toyota here clearly sees particularly good potential for the Fortuner; it has determined to place four derivatives in three levels of specification – a bold push when every other rival brand has restricted to just one or two choices.

Toyota’s vehicle has come out in GX, GXL and Limited specifications – the first in $70,990 (manual) and $72, 990 form (automatic), and the others – both auto-only - respectively for $75,990 and $78,990.

By comparison Toyota’s similar-sized Highlander, a petrol V6 lighter-duties SUV based off a car platform, places from $59,990 to $80,990 while the Land Cruiser Prado, which is equally as dirt-adept but surprisingly has a lower towing rating, sites at $77,545 to $103,130.

Highlander is one of Toyota’s big sellers here, achieving 2542 registrations last year, a count second only to the RAV4 that defies logic that six-cylinder petrol engines are not as popular as diesel alternates.

TNZ’s pricing strategy suggests it is keen to snaffle sales from the genetically-similar Holden Colorado 7, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi’s recently landed Pajero Sport.

These across a wide pricing span. The price leader is Mitsubishi. Its Triton utility-derived vehicle comes in at XLS form at $58,990 and as a higher specification VRX for $5000 more. However, Pajero Sport only presently sells here in five-seater form, with the alternate seven-seater shown overseas not expected until later in the year.

At the other end of the spectrum there’s the Ranger-spun Ford Everest, a true seven-seater and also in two formats, a $75,990 Trend and a Titanium flagship at $87,990.

Holden’s LTZ-spec Colorado 7, meantime, sits at $66,990. Holden had an entry Colorado 7 until last year, when it was dropped due to poor sales. The Isuzu MUX, a version of the Colorado wagon but with a less powerful engine, is a $65,990 ask.

Fortuner’s sole engine is the Hilux’s mainstay 2755cc turbodiesel delivering 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1600-2400rpm with a six-speed automatic transmission, dropping to 420Nm of torque from 1400-2600rpm with the six-speed manual.

The power and torque output are identical to those from the Hilux auto and also respectively 13kW and 20Nm shy of the 200kg heavier, auto-only Everest.

Fuel economy claims from the 80-litre tank depends on the derivative. The claimed figures range from 7.8 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres for the manual and 8.6L/100km for the automatic. The latter also claims a 2800kg braked towing capacity while the former's braked towing rating is 3000kg, both of which exceed the Prado's rating.

The body-on-chassis construction is the time-honoured norm for "real" four-wheel-drives and the Toyota’s off-road credentials seem pretty good.

It has a 700mm wading depth, a dual-range transfer case, a rear differential lock and underbody protection and bull-bar packages. The latter were developed through extensive pre-release testing in Australia.

Interestingly, TNZ’s on-line data claims 279mm ground clearance, a figure that Toyota Australia revised to a more modest 225mm after an independent test disputed the original figure.

Fortuner shares its front suspension – a double wishbone, coil springs, anti-roll bar and damper set-up – with the Hilux, but gets its own five-link, coils, anti-roll bar and damper-equipped rear end for the wagon.

A few Hilux body parts cross over as well but most panels rearward of the windscreen are unique, as are the cabin design and equipment.

The model measures just under 4800mm long, 1900mm wide, 1800mm tall and weighs in at just over 2100kg – making it taller, but with a shorter wheelbase and not quite as long or as wide as the Highlander.

Standard safety features range-wide include stability (including trailer sway control) and traction control, seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver's knee airbag), four-wheel disc brakes, a reversing camera and hill-start assist control.

The GX variant has a sliding and folding second row, as well as a third row that can be folded up to the side of the boot area - an older style design. Access is aided by a one-touch, tip and tumble centre row. 

This leaves cargo space of 200 litres with seven aboard, or between 654 litres and 716 litres when five are seated, depending how the centre seats are positioned. It offers a maximum of 1702 litres with two up and loaded to the roofline.

The entry model has cloth trim, climate control air con (with rear air vents for both rows), Bluetooth phone and audio link, three 12 volt sockets, reach and rake adjustable steering, a rear diff lock, touchscreen controls for the USB input-equipped infotainment system, cruise control, side steps and 17-inch alloys shod with 265/65 tyres.

The mid-spec GXL runs the same tyres and wheel size but has a different style alloy. It also keyless entry and ignition, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped wheel, fog-lights, a descent control system and the tailgate is powered. The auto transmission adds paddle shifters.

The flagship adds leather seat facings, climate-control, a leather/wood steering wheel, bi-LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, sat nav with SUNA assistance, a 220-volt socket in the middle row and a power-adjustable driver’ s seat. Fitment of driver-assist features such as auto braking and blind spot assist is minimal; that’s where Everest – which has a lot of the latest tech - potentially will look much stronger.

Fortuner has a five star crash test from the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP), the Australia-based crash test organisation supported by the NZ Government and our Automobile Association.

The model score was achieved in interesting circumstances as ANCAP reportedly deemed that data from its Hilux test would also be applicable for the Fortuner after being provided with evidence from Toyota. The model did well on side impact and pole tests, and performed solidly across all other tests.

Meantime, the model – which is built alongside Hilux in Thailand - is selling so well in Australia that the distributor there has now acknowledged it has under-called the potential sales volume, which it picked at 500 units per month, and will need to get more.

What impact that will have on New Zealand supply has not yet been spelled out.