The Fortuner has dominated the bakkie-based SUV segment since 2006, but, after Ford fought back with a much-improved Everest, Toyota retaliated with an all-new version of its segment leader. So, on which one should you spend your money?
At a Glance
|Ford Everest 3.2 4x4 XLT||Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 6At|
|Price (April 2016)||R634 900||R589 400|
|We Like:||Space and practicality||New engine|
|Ride comfort||Value for money|
|Warranty and service plan||Interior style and quality|
|We don't like:||Pricey||Impractical third row of seats|
|Lazy engine||Jiggly ride|
What are they?
Historically, manufacturers have played it quite safe in terms of the styling and packaging of their bakkie-based SUVs. As a result, offerings in this segment tend to be focused on practicality, ruggedness and off-road capability. These two models, however, incorporate a raft of modern styling cues while retaining the off-road capability you’d expect from vehicles built on ladder frames. Spec-wise, they’re closely-matched: turbodiesel motors with automatic transmissions, standard leather trim and an array standard safety features that elevate the Ford and Toyota to the summit of the affordable full-sized family SUV segment. The Everest XLT and Fortuner 2.8GD-6 are also similarly priced, but it’s interesting to note the entire Fortuner range sits below the cheapest Everest — at least for now.
How do they compare in terms of?
The Fortuner (right) has the more willing engine in both on- and off-road situations
The major news in this department is that the Toyota sports an all-new 2.8-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel motor that succeeds the venerable 3.0 D-4D and is said to deliver better power, torque and fuel efficiency. The engine debuted in the new Hilux and impressed us in the bakkie group test. It’s slightly less powerful than the Ford’s unit: 130 kW compared with 147 kW, but the torque outputs are similar (450 Nm for the Fortuner, 470 Nm for the Everest). You wouldn’t really guess the Everest is more powerful though, as its engine feels comparatively lazy under acceleration. The Toyota unit’s power and torque delivery feels more refined and the motor’s also a bit quieter.
Both vehicles employ a six-speed automatic transmission with a low-range transfer case. They feel quite similar in the way that they operate: they’re robust and reliable rather than fast- and smooth-shifting. The Toyota’s multifunction steering wheel is equipped with shift paddles (whereas the Ford isn’t) — not that it matters much, because the transmission’s responses to driver inputs are sluggish.
In terms of fuel economy, both models are claimed to return consumption figures of under 10.0 L/100 km (8.2 for the Everest and 8.5 for the Fortuner). After spending over 1 000 km in each of the cars in a variety of driving conditions, the Toyota proved more economical in practice. The Fortuner averaged 9.9 L/100 km, while the Everest proved comparatively thirsty at 11.1 L/100 km.
Much has been made of the differences between these vehicles’ seven-seat configurations. Toyota has retained the “third-row seats suspended from the cab’s sides” setup; they can be folded in and down when needed. They are spring loaded now, so less effort is required to lift them into place when they need to be stowed. Unfortunately, they are never entirely out the way.
While Toyota’s method means the Fortuner has a larger load bay and a lower loading height, the rearmost seats hamper the vehicle’s overall practicality. The load bay width is restrictive when loading bulkier objects, such as a bicycle or cooler boxes. By contrast, the Everest uses a more standard system where the third row of seats simply folds flat into the floor. The Ford’s load bay is marginally smaller, but the space is more useable when the rear seats are folded down.
The Everest is also roomier when you start to fill the cabin with people. With all 7 seats filled, the back row passengers have more head and shoulder room in the Everest than the Fortuner and the impression extends in rows 1 and 2. What’s more, while both contenders’ second rows can slide fore and aft to tailor the levels of legroom available to those seated in rows 2 and 3, the Ford’s longer passenger area affords a greater range of adjustment… and therefore greater comfort on longer journeys. Suffice to say the Everest feels the roomier vehicle; it utilises its space better than the Fortuner.
It must be noted that both the Ford and Toyota have an unbraked towing capacity of 750 kg. For the purposes of towing a braked trailer the former (3 000 kg) holds a 200 kg advantage over the latter.
Both SUVs offer exceptional off-road abilities and are hard to separate in this department
The rugged nature of these bakkie-based SUVs is part of their allure… Their ability to cope with the rough stuff on weekends and then still look smart on the school run during the week go a long way in explaining their sales success, especially for the Toyota. As mentioned above, both models have low-range ability that allows them to crawl over the toughest obstacles and both have electronic switches to lock the rear differential. The Fortuner comes standard as a two-wheel drive vehicle that can be shifted into four-high and four-low ranges. The Everest is always a 4x4 with the option to switch into four-low. It’s probably why the Fortuner is a slightly more economical vehicle in everyday driving situations.
Clambering around the ruts, holes and hills on our test route, the Fortuner’s engine seemed more willing to surge its body over the crests, while the Everest would labour more cumbersomely. The skid plates on the sides of the Everest are flexible and bend as they come into contact with the ground at break-over point. The Fortuner’s items are less flexible and tended to dig into the turf.
With lockable diffs and low-range, there wasn’t much that the vehicles couldn’t handle and even when traversing sand dunes the SUVs seemed evenly matched. The Everest has a multi-terrain selector dial that allows you to adjust the off-road settings to the specific surface ahead – mud, rocks and sand. The Fortuner, in turn, just gets on with the job and feels equally capable off-road.
The Everest is a more comfortable vehicle, especially over uneven surfaces
These vehicles are likely to be used on long trips to far-flung destinations and notably on holidays, with families on board. Ride comfort is of paramount importance, but the rigid structure and load bearing capabilities of a ladder chassis are not conducive to ride comfort. Whereas its Hilux sibling features traditional leaf springs at the rear, the Fortuner uses coil springs to improve ride comfort.
The Everest is equipped with coil springs as well, but it feels the comfier car overall. On most road surfaces, the Fortuner feels a trifle jiggly over bumps — it seems very stiffly sprung over the rear axle… bumps can unsettle it and shake the cabin around. By contrast, the Everest feels more pliant over bumps and on a dirt track. Its rear end feels more planted, which contributes to a much more comfortable ride quality and makes the Ford easier to live with on long journeys.
The Fortuner makes more sense when it has rough terrain to deal with. In off-road situations, the Toyota’s more adept at clambering over rocks or smacking through dongas than its rivals. As it happens, the Everest’s softer ride quality can lead to a loss of momentum in the bumpy stuff.
Fortuner feels jiggly over bumpy surfaces where the Ford softens out the bumps better
There’s little to choose between the contenders in the handling department. Both SUVs have light steering actions that make them easy to use in off-road conditions, but their tillers are a little vague around centre at highway speeds. Both sport improved body control in cornering situations and display markedly less body lean in the bends than their predecessors. They deal with corners and turning at intersections like modern monocoque SUVs than their bakkie underpinnings suggest.
The Ford and Toyota’s specification lists are awash with modern tech and safety features. Both cars have large touchscreens as standard that connect easily with Smartphones, although neither has satellite navigation, which is strange considering that they’re touring vehicles. The standard spec on these two models is pretty good, but it’s the Fortuner that offers slightly more kit, with keyless entry and LED-adorned headlamps. The Ford has a reverse-view camera and park distance control where the Fortuner has only a camera – but that’s all you really need, anyway. Leather seats are standard on these models as is climate control, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel and USB ports.
In terms of interior fit and finish, the Fortuner feels a more premium product. The leather panels alongside the fascia are upmarket and the build quality seems to be of a high order. The Everest lacks these neat touches to make it a premium proposition and some of the switchgear feel a bit plasticky. The digital instrument cluster on the Everest is impressive and allows the driver to display multiple screens of info in order to customise exactly what they want to see in front of them. The Fortuner has a more traditional analog setup with a digital trip computer between the dials.
A comprehensive bouquet of safety features was something both of these SUV’s predecessors lacked. Now, the Ford and Toyota are fully up to date. The Everest in XLT spec loses some of its headlining safety systems, such as cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and lane keeping assistant. Still, it scored five-stars on the Australian NCAP test as did the Fortuner, showing that both SUVs have upgraded their safety systems to contemporary standards.
These two bakkie-based SUVs represent massive improvements over their respective predecessors. The Everest is more practical, spacious and has the best ride quality, but the Fortuner claws back ground with its refined engine, more premium-feeling cabin and its R40 000 price advantage over its rival. The Fortuner offers more value for Rand spent as the cars have near-identical specification levels and there’s nothing really to set them apart in off-road capability. In the final analysis, you may just have to choose whether the better ride comfort in the more spacious Everest is worth the premium. If you intend on spending long hours in the car on cross-country trips then it’s probably worth it.
After sales service
Ford sells the Everest with a 4-year/120 000 km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km service plan included. Toyota’s Fortuner is sold with 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan. The Everest has longer service intervals at 20 000 km to the Fortuner’s 10 000 km.