Fortuna: The SUV version of Toyota’s Hilux fails to excite

2015 Toyota Fortuner GX with Toyota Genuine accessories

2015 Toyota Fortuner GX

2015 Toyota Fortuner GX2015 Toyota Fortuner GX

 

Yes yes yes oh YES: capable, space,

Oh dear me no: Looks, handling,

2015 Toyota Fortuner GX with Toyota Genuine steel bull bar

The Japanese car makers are all at it. They’re giving the pick-ups an SUV makeover, as if we didn’t have enough SUV already. Mitsi has the excellent Triton-based Pajero Sport, Ford’s Ranger was transmogrified into the comfy and capacious Everest, so Toyota had to follow by turning the Hilux into the Fortuna. Flogging cars is the name of the game and if one does it, they all have to do it.

The exterior has lost the masculine toughness of its pick-up brother, but the interior retains the tradie origins of the Hilux.

The outside:

The side and rear end profiles look quite handsome. There is a cheeky little hump behind the rear doors that reminds me slightly of a convertible pick-up with one of those hard fiberglass covers. However, round front, oh dear me it goes terribly wrong and is not my cup of tea. Our test car had an optional bull-bar which took an unattractive front and made it less attractive. Regardless of function, it just doesn’t work. It makes the front guard look like half of it was left hanging on a rock somewhere out the back of Bourke while bush-bashing. Without the bull-bar, it looks like a chinless pensioner who forgot to put his bottom teeth in. What were they thinking?

It isn’t a deal breaker and could be so easily fixed with a lower bumper restyle, until then…..

Inside

2015 Toyota Fortuner GXThe focus of all vehicles is the cockpit. No matter how pretty or not the exterior is, there will always be a driver in the front seat regardless of how many others are on board, right?

Somehow, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being in a ten year old Camry, especially looking at the dashboard and centre console. The pads either side of the centre console are covered in the seat colour, unfortunately. It feels like someone thought, “no, no it needs something else. What can we add?”

Although the seats are reasonably comfortable, they are covered in a 70’s inspired brown coloured leather-look material. It made the retro cabin feel a bit depressing. There is also a buff-brown colour selection which is better, but even only just. Stick with black, or grey at a pinch, but not these two shades of brown. No, I’m sorry it is just wrong. It is just not on.

The instruments easy to read, and are laid out in Toyota’s usual way. There are shades of Hilux with subtle changes here and there. The controls such as the 4WD settings were at the bottom of the centre stack and not at all easy to use, but the rest easy to find. Chances are the 4WD system will get scant use so the switch locations will hardly matter.

There is a full complement of dials and driver info in the cluster. Toyota’s current 7”-screen infotainment system with a in the centre stack. This system has taken a lot of the knobs and buttons away from the centre console of a decade ago, and we are better off for it. I’m glad to see DAB radio, but was perplexed at the absence of Android Auto/Apple Carplay.

We had trouble tuning our favourite DAB preset-stations. DAB stations come in several “blocks” containing a few dozen stations each. The stations I usually listen to are spread over several blocks. We were unable to find some of them despite extensive searches. I’m told this is part of the set-up but it isn’t in the user guide so a call to the dealer would be needed. We’ll look into it for the next Toyota review.

Phone connection is completed in under a minute and includes your music streaming via Bluetooth. The USB connection adds the ability to scroll through the playlists and music. The head unit lends a classy touch to the centre stack and has the auto climate controls just below. As always, I tried using the voice control but for some reason never seem to manage to get it to co-operate. Again, this is something Carplay would fix. With Carplay, One person can go from car to car, plug his phone in, and have the system work the same way. It’s handy for a family of more than one vehicle right? Despite what some car makers say, a common system is the only way to go.

As mentioned, our car came with leather which gave the utilitarian feel of the cabin a bit of a lift. There is fake woodgrain, which along with fake metal cover plastic, is the epitome of naff. There is just no need for it. It always looks nasty and eventually cracks, scratches or fades looking tatty before its time. IN the bin with it.

The rear cargo hold has a 3rd row of seats. They fold awkwardly to each side window and are held in by a strap. This system feels awkward and clumsy.

2015 Toyota Fortuner GXL with Toyota Genuine cargo barrier and bootliner

ABOVE: rear seats held up by straps (optional cage also shown)

The range topping Crusade has a fair bit of kit including: power tailgate, 3rd row of seats, Toyota Link, Satnav, rear sensors, reverse camera with 3d top-view function, side steps, plus a whole lot of off-road features.

While Off-road, there is selectable 4WD in high/low range with diff locks, range descent control, and a very stiff underbody. the structure uses a ladder chassis of high strength tensile steel with hundreds of spot welds.

Our test car had the now-ubiquitous electronic safety and driver aids but only has parking sensors on the rear. Car makers must face facts: these cars will spend most of their time in town. Sensors should be standard all round on anything

Conclusion:

I am not the SUV kind of boy. Although I like a high driving position, the amount of the time scampering into tight spaces that simply don’t fit, is not my idea of fun. I like the amount of space but most of the time you spend money on fuel carting the extra space around like an albatross. However, in the event you want to go off-road though, the Fortuna would do the job well. Although I’ve not taken it off-road, the Hilux has excellent bush-bashing credentials.

The power sounds modest at 130kw for such a heavy SUV but the 450Nm or torque is the figure you really have to look at. The kerb weight is 2135kg but the gross mass is 2750kg. That’s a lot to ask of a 2,8 engine.

There is just something not quite right about it which I can’t put my finger on. In short, there are much better 4WD SUVs for the same money. My opinion is that Toyota has dropped the ball on this one.

Would I buy one:

If I had to buy an SUV of this ilk and price range, Ford’s Everest or Jeep Grand Cherokee is a better bet.

Prices: $52,769 (GX Manual) – $68,144 (Crusade auto) Drive away NSW

Engine: 2.8 inline 4cyl turbo diesel, 130kw450Nm, 8.6L/100km

Trans: 6 speed auto

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