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Tested: Ford Everest XLE 4X4

2010-04-29 09:37
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Ford
Engine 3l, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 115kW @ 3 200r/min
Torque 380Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Five-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 11.96 sec
Fuel Tank 71l
Weight 1 994kg
Steering Power assisted
ABS Yes,
Airbags Four
Tyres 245/70 R16 Bridgestone Duelers
Front Suspension Independent double-wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf-sprung live-axle
Service Intervals 10 000km
Service Plan 5 year/90 000km
Warranty 4 year/120 000km
Price R372 290

Lance Branquinho

A decade ago, if you  had conjectured that a bakkie-based SUV would be one of the domestic market’s best selling vehicles, well, the company made privy to your prediction would probably have reacted with guffaws.

Sure, back in the 1990s there was Nissan’s Sani and Isuzu's Frontier, yet the numbers sold were negligible in terms of the total vehicle market.

Then Toyota did something which many industry pundits regarded as being rather foolish. It launched a bakkie-based SUV and called it the Fortuner. Despite its silly name and utilitarian Hilux underpinnings, Fortuner has proven to be one of the most aptly configured vehicles on sale locally.

Just go and tally the sales figures; they’re remarkable. Last month nearly 900 Fortuners found new owners.

Inarguably other manufacturers have wished to follow suit and scrub off some of the Fortuner’s rampant sales momentum with bakkie-based SUVs of their own. Problem is, there aren’t many out there to source from.

During the last year we’ve seen Fortuner’s market space broached by two low range-enabled bakkie-based SUVs – Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport (cueing its design from the Triton) and Ford's Everest (based on the Ranger). Of the three contenders, Everest is the cheapest and ostensibly the best value offering, but we spent two weeks with an XLE 4x4 version to draw our own conclusions.

No, it's not a GWM MultiWagon. Sure looks like one though.

Styled to deceive – your public image

Although the Everest cues a familiar SUV silhouette, its actual surfacing and its finer detail are rather odd.

It looks for all the world like a Chinese product, with a completely disproportionate glasshouse area behind the B-pillar and a collection of fussy embellishments reminiscent of 1990s design.

Viewed square from the front, the thin-slit grille further chisels away any comparison one could draw between the handsomeness of the Everest and its Ranger sibling’s styling. In fact, it’s actually quite disturbing that the Thai-built Everest could manage to morph to something so ungainly when it is based on the ruggedly good-looking Ranger bakkie.

One redeeming feature of the Everest’s styling package is its alloy wheels. Measuring 16-inches in diameter, they appear undersized. In mitigation though, local Everest owners who venture outside South Africa’s borders during a bush reconnaissance vacation will far easier find replacement wheels and tyres in the Everest’s original equipment size than a Fortuner owner in the same convey - the Japanes SUV rides on exotic (for Africa) 17-inch wheels.

Beige surfacing is unforgiveable. Twist-and-pull parking brake too. Oh, and there are no satellite steering wheel controls either. Leather is standard though.

A cabin more bakkie than SUV

Upon entering the Everest, you'll find the unhappy exterior styling has contaminated the cabin environment too. It’s not so much the design as the colour coordination (or lack thereof) that ranks the Everest’s cabin as severely lacking compared with the Japanese offerings in this class.

The issue of course is the beige trim dominating the cabin. Apologists will say it is cooler in extreme temperatures, yet when you’re selling a vehicle with air-conditioning, greenhouse radiation is hardly the issue it was three decades ago when few entry-level SUVs had effective air-conditioning.

Debits concerning the beige hued cabin trim are twofold.

Firstly it looks horrible – if something is not particularly well sculptured, it’s best to cloak it in a dark finish.

Secondly, you’ll be driven to madness cleaning scuff marks each time you pack up the family for a weekend away, especially if you have young children who are particularly restless – and let’s face it, most kids convert boredom to trim destruction when travelling by vehicle.

Another ergonomic foible concerning the Everest is its fixed-frame fifth door, which swings from left to right, thereby limiting access and loadability. Without damper support it takes a Herculean effort to shut if you’re parked on an incline, too.

Rear sparewheel mounting offers easy access when stuck, yet its adds to the fifth door's operating mass and after a few thousand kms of dirt-roads you're sure to hear the fine chime of loose mountings.

More on-road than off it

Beyond the questionable styling and peculiar trim (the cabin has a twist-and-pull parking brake for goodness sake) the Everest experience did gain some redeeming momentum.

Ford’s 3.0 TDCi compression-ignition turbocharged engine and five-speed manual transmission combination is simply outstanding. It is not the most powerful engine in its class, yet the TDCi endears itself with acoustic refinement, virtually instantaneous start-up characteristics and an awfully keen 380 Nm on offer.

Although Pajero Sport and Fortuner both make more power, Everest never feels lacking. It’s able to effortlessly deploy peak rotational force at usable engine speeds. Between 100- and 140km/h, a short shift to fourth gear renders confidence-inspiring overtaking urge.

Perhaps the best part of the entire drivetrain is the shift-quality of its five-speed manual transmission. Deliberately counterweighted and unfailingly precise (it engages true no matter the level of uncoordinated throttle and clutch abuse) this remains simply the best shifting manual transmission available in the SUV/bakkie market today.

In a world where dual pedal transmissions (DSGs and automatics) are taking over, it was a heartening experience to shift the Everest from ratio to ratio with a proper manual.

Statistically not a class leader, yet the 3.0 TDCi gets Everest from 0-100km/h in under 12 seconds and returns (just) under 10l/100km when driven with restraint.

Old-tech toughness or just pain old-school?

In terms of ride and handling the Everest’s aft wheel attachment differs considerably from both Fortuner and Pajero Sport. Whereas the Japanese SUVs have coil springs at the rear, Everest is suspended by a live axle with leaf springs. It’s pure bakkie technology, but without the utility benefits a bakkie would provide.

Everest doesn’t boast much additional loadability compared with Fortuner and Pajero Sport - it's rated to carry less than a 100kg more.

As a towing machine the anarchic rear suspension does enable a better braked hauling ability of 1.2t (450kg superior to either Fortuner or Pajero Sport) yet if your rig has its own deceleration dynamics everything evens out to 1.5t for all three vehicles again...

Erudite Karoo farmers have told me time and again how a leaf-sprung vehicle (when laden) is safer and more predicable at speed over treacherous dirt roads. I drove Everest swiftly on dirt roads and it felt quite average to me. On road the leaf-sprung rear is horrible, though.

Ride quality, when unladen, is as harsh as one would expect from a workhorse bakkie. Steering feel is completely devoid of feedback at speed, which is very disconcerting when turning into a sweeping corner.

Leaf-sprung rear has too little wheel travel. Limited-slip differential too little traction. Off-road ability quite compromised.

Leaf-sprung soft-roader?

The worst behaviour was reserved for my off-road experience with the Everest. The lack of a lockable rear differential means you need to use momentum to get over or across obstacles. This momentum-based off-road driving approach grates against the traditional 4x4 mantra of "as slow as possible, as fast as necessary".

Succinctly, the more momentum you employ (to ensure the limited-slip differential always has some drive to do its thing) the easier you’ll pick up vehicle damage.

Obviously there are places where the rear limited-slip diff is quite good, in deep sand for instance.

Driving in a tight and undulating sand track with an open rear diff easily gets the inside rear wheel spinning away all the power on turn-in, leaving you stuck.

Lock it up and you enlarge the turning circle too generously, making it nearly impossible to negotiate the track you’re supposed to follow. Here the limited-slip differential is superb - it tolerates enough slip to keep you turning in on an intended line, and distributes just enough torque to the outside wheel to keep you going.

As soon as you reach the tolerance of Everest’s leaf-sprung rear wheel travel and a tyre is lifts, you’re in trouble as the rear slippy diff’s ability to keep you going is vanquished. In severely broken terrain, you require the traction security of a lockable rear differential.

On another part of our off-road course I had the rather distasteful experience of the Everest stalling on me during a hill-start. Rolling backwards without boosted hydraulics was a horrible feeling.

This little episode convinced me Everest is in no way a proper off-roader, despite its low-range reduction ratio transmission and solid-axle rear suspension. It’s a bakkie-based seven-seater utility vehicle with good sand and mud driving ability. I would not take Everest into terrain on the challenging side of the off-road trail scale.


Looks like it was designed listening to a 1990s revival album. Nearly unfathomable to think it’s a sibling to the handsome Ranger bakkie.


Trim colour an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen. Seven-seater utility is a boon though, with the two seats on the third row offering decent adult-carrying capacity.


Engine is a peach, yet the steering is vague and the leaf-sprung rear suspension renders decidedly bakkie-like dynamics. Very average off-road considering its Ranger underpinnings...


Everest is the cheapest low range-enabled SUV you can buy with an established dealer network’s backing – and it’s cheap for a reason.

The styling is embarrassing (you’ll be expelled form the school lift club), off-road ability is lacking and the underpinnings are wholly unsophisticated. It does nothing better than either Pajero Sport or Fortuner, which appear to be in another class altogether.

If you’re keen on a Ford utility vehicle with the SUV silhouette buy a Range double-cab and fit a really expensive canopy. That’s a better deal than the Everest. Unfortunately it's also a more expensive proposition.


Turbodiesel engine one of the best
Five-speed manual transmission is the best
Cheaper than a Fortuner or Pajero Sport
Roomy inside


Cabin colour trim
Weak on broken terrain
Some standard equipment oversights

Would the Everest's price tag and seven-seater capability be enough to convince you to consider buying one? Share your thoughts here


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