This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.
*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
Outside views by Quickpic, interior shot by author
Odd things happen in the world of automobiles. Toyota Fortuner was designed in Australia, but they don’t get to drive them. It isn’t available in Japan, Europe or various other places either, but that’s their rotten luck. It’s been here since 2006 and underwent a facelift last September. At the same time, Toyota saw an opportunity to introduce a no-frills 4x2 version with a smaller engine to tempt the fence sitters. You know, those not quite ready to commit to a full-on SUV purely for the school run and occasional trips into the countryside.
While it shares most styling changes with its more powerful stable mates, certain features were left off. These include privacy glass, HID headlamps, reversing camera, some trim items and additional airbags. What is included is a more basic sound system, two bags, single channel air conditioning, cloth-covered seats, the standard electronic safety kit consisting of ABS, EBD, EBA and VSC, and seating for seven.
Middle row seats split 60:40 and fold and unclip to tumble forward, increasing load volume from 544- to 1360 dm3. The third-row chairs are two separate units that fold with a rather awkward two-part action, sideways up against the body of the car when not being used. In this position, they steal some loading space and obstruct one’s view out through the rearmost side windows, but one adjusts.
A new 2,5-litre D-4D VNT engine develops 106 kW of power and 343 Nm of torque. This second figure equals that of the 3,0-litre diesel, but over a somewhat narrower rev range. Acronyms are always confusing when first you meet them. Our facetious first reaction to VNT was “very nice truckie,” but it actually stands for Variable Nozzle Turbocharger. Now you know as much as we do. The only transmission available with this motor is a five-speed manual unit, although the differential can be locked in order to get oneself out of slippery situations.
All versions of Fortuner are equipped with high mounted double wishbone front suspension and, in contrast to Hilux’s leaf springs and rigid axle, have four-link independent suspension with a lateral control rod at the rear. All models feature protective hardware under engine and fuel tank. Brakes are ventilated discs in front, with leading- and trailing-shoe drums at the back.
In civilian use, this 2,5-litre diesel performs almost as well as its 3,0-litre sister, but with measurably better fuel economy. The Car magazine fuel index is 9,6 l/100 km vs. 10,2 l/100 from the bigger engine. Sprint acceleration between the lights is fairly leisurely at 12,7 seconds, but one doesn’t buy one of these for teenage-boy behaviour, does one? In everyday roadwork, the engine pulls strongly, has a very usable rev range up to 4750 rpm and ratios are nicely spaced. It is geared at about 2600 rpm for 120 km/h in fifth.
It’s a big SUV, so the driving position is high up with an excellent view out over the hoi polloi. It also steers and handles very well and is a pleasure to park, with a square flat bonnet and wings that let you know exactly where the front wheels will be placed. Out in its natural habitat, ride was pleasant enough over rutted and potholed dirt roads and our rocky forest trail was dismissed with ease, although sports underwear would be recommended for women travellers.
Being the entry model, appointments are somewhat Spartan, with our first reaction being that it felt a little agricultural. Consider front seats that are perhaps a touch too firm, a steering wheel that tilts only, dash treatment that won’t win prizes and no mirrors on the sun visors. In its defence though, there is plenty of storage space, loads of room for even the biggest passengers in the second row and air conditioning, with separate controls, piped through to the rear. Radio and trip computer buttons are repeated on the steering wheel.
A less expensive option it may be, with the more luxurious 3,0-litre 4x2 version priced about R70 000 higher, but those wanting a strong and basic family bus made for rugged enthusiasts will reckon it’s a bargain.
Price: R332 000
Engine: 2494 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 106 kW at 3400 rpm
Torque: 343 Nm between 1600 and 2800 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 12,7 seconds
Maximum speed: 170 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 9,0 l/100 km
Tank: 80 litres
Emissions rating: Euro 3
Maximum towing capacity: 1715 kg (braked)
Ground clearance: 220 mm
Approach/Departure angles: 30/25 degrees
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km with roadside assistance (extendable)
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km at 10 000 km intervals (plan extendable)
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously.