At first glance you could be forgiven for mistaking the Fortuner for a Hilux as the nose design seems familiar. If you do, don't feel too bad about it, as the Fortuner shares its genes with the Hilux.
Both models are part of Toyota's global International Multi-purpose Vehicle (IMV) project and have the same underpinnings.
However, Toyota is quick to remind us that it's the other way round, for the Hilux is actually based on the Fortuner as the latter was the first model to be developed for the IMV project in Thailand.
According to Toyota the Fortuner also fills the gap between the Hilux double cab Raider models and the Prado, and the company is confident that it can sell between 500 and 550 Fortuners a month - that is about double of the current SUV top-seller, the Nissan X-Trail.
Basically the Fortuner is a wagon version of the Hilux, making it a true 4x4. It has the same car-like interior and comfort features as its Hilux sibling.
Furthermore the Fortuner has all the typical SUV qualities such as sleek looks, a bold design and big road presence. It also comes with three rows of seats, with the back row foldable to increase the load area.
It will come as no surprise, to see it as a great mom's taxi and wheels for day-to-day shopping.
But this isn't just another soft-roader or urban cruiser, and the Fortuner is available in both4x2 and 4x4 guise.
Those who only want the SUV image can opt for the 4x2 version which has the same rugged appearance as the 4x4 thanks to its raised body.
All five models in the Fortuner range have the same spec-level and there is a choice of petrol or diesel engines.
The 3-litre diesel and 4-litre V6 diesel are the same as found in the Hilux.
The V6 kicks out 175 kW at 5 200 r/min and 343 Nm at 2 400 r/min. Maximum power for the 3-litre diesel is 120 kW at 3 400 r/min while the peak torque of 343 Nm is available between 1 400 and 3 200 r/min.
Both engine derivatives come with a 5-speed manual while the V6 is also available with a 5-speed auto transmission.
On the full-time 4x4 models a lockable Torsen limited slip centre differential is used to evenly distribute torque to the front and rear wheels, which provides stability and traction.
This system also alters the distribution of torque between the front and rear wheels in accordance with driving conditions to assist in preventing the loss of traction.
There is a two-speed transfer case, to allow low ratio selection in rough off-road terrain, fitted to the 4X4 models too.
A manually activated rear differential lock is fitted to both the 4x2 and 4x4 versions.
ABS anti-lock brakes are standard on all models.
In the ABS system fitted to the Fortuner the Brake Actuator and Skid Control ECU are unified for a compact installation. A load sensing proportioning and bypass valve (LSP&B) valve is fitted to optimise rear brake effectiveness depending on load conditions.
The vehicles are well equipped, too, and standard features include leather trim, air-conditioning with separate controls for front and rear, dual airbags and alloy wheels.
On and off the road
As a Toyota product the Fortuner already evokes certain expectations such as ease of driving, solid feel and good build quality. And the Fortuner is all this and more.
It is spacious and accommodates five adults with ease - the third row is actually only suitable for kids. With the back row of seats folded away there is ample room for luggage, which can be further increased by flattening the middle row.
Thanks to its elevated ride height the driver has a commanding position with a good view of the road.
Despite its size (it is about 4.7m long and 1.8m wide) the Fortuner doesn?t feel too big at all. Although its basic driving dynamics are similar to those of its bakkie sibling it does feel more stable on the road.
Both engines delivers swift performance and the Fortuner's ride is solid. It is a vehicle with controlled road manners and is smooth on the open road.
Its off-road capabilities don't disappoint either - it is after all a Toyota.
On a 4x4 trail in Attaqualkloof close to Mossel bay, the Fortuner tackled a rocky track with ease.
The minimum ground clearance on both the 4x4 and 4x2 models is a healthy 220 mm. Naturally both engine derivatives have enough grunt to face steep inclines.
A 30-degree angle of approach and a 25-degree angle of departure also ease the Fortuner?s passage over steep obstacles.
The Fortuner enters a fighting ring facing an array of tried-and tested SUVs...
The entry-level 4x2 versions must battle it out with vehicles such as Hyundai's popular Tucson and Nissan's top-selling X-Trail.
In the middle ground the rivals are the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Territory, while the range-topper faces SUVs such as the Nissan Pathfinder.
Of course the Toyota badge and Hilux relationship boost the Fortuner's credentials.
The Fortuner 4x2 has all the right attributes to be a nice family runabout as it offers space, practicality and wears the very attractive SUV mask. And the 4x4 models offer you the real thing.
The introduction of the Fortuner will also be an interesting brand exercise as it will be the second all-new Toyota nameplate to be launched here within a period of about five months.
Toyota's new Yaris was an instant hit and the company would like to have similar success with the Fortuner.
As a Toyota the Fortuner will immediately attract attention and it offers buyers reliability, credibility and capability.
The Fortuner has what it takes to become another popular model in the Toyota stable and it will probably flood the SUV segment.
3.0 D-4D 4x2 - R286 075
3.0 D-4D 4x4 - R322 975
4.0 V6 4x2 - R297 575
4.0 V6 4x4 - R334 475
4.0 V6 4x4 - R346 575
Service intervals on the V6 petrol engine models are 15 000 km while the 3.0 litre D-4D diesel models have a 10 000 km service interval. A 90 000km/3 year service plan is included in the price and warranty cover is 100 000km/3 years.