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Toyota Condor: test with a difference

2004-01-30 14:50

Gerry and May Gericke

May Gericke is married to a former rally driver turned navigator, so she's been around cars a lot. She's also a busy working woman - she runs a B&B in Gonube, near East London.

Here's her road test with a difference:

The Condor happened in our lives like an unexpected birth of a surprise baby early one frosty August morning.

We were sleeping peacefully when I was awakened by the sound of a car going up and down our road, so I woke up the old man and sent him out to investigate!

"I've been sent by Toyota to bring you this car!"


Oh, now I remember. Anthony (from Toytota) phoned and asked if we would baby sit a vehicle for the journos coming down to cover the Tarkastad off-road event.

But did they have to deliver it at was five o'clock in the morning?

It is now a few months later and Ouma, Auntie Joan and I are already missing the Condor in anticipation!

This is a seriously convenient "women" vehicle!

It is high, which makes it so easy to drive and park. You don?t have to bend to put the groceries in the back, plants have enough "head room", there is lots of leg room for my mom's knee replacement leg, and our auntie of 86 just hoists herself up gently and then she's ensconced,

And don't forget the dogs - I can electrically adjust the window height to suit each fluff ball's preference of wind velocity.

The turning circle and power steering are just right, especially when you have been carrying a heavy load of shopping bags.

You zip in and out of parking bays and you are as high as all the 4x4s that normally block your vision!


In fact people just assume it IS a fancy 4x4, so who am I to tell them...

I am more than happy to be designated driver on a Saturday night as we can load two more couples into the "bus" with ease, and six people are usually a happy crowd!

There is more than enough legroom for all. The radio/cd player is conveniently in easy reach of the driver, and the console is very visible

As you turn the key you cannot miss the door open/seatbelt/hand brake up audible warnings.

The "box" between the two seats is extremely handy to store loose things - keys etc and small parcels that you do not want to display!

Not being an international rally driver and normally adhering to the speed limits the car is fine, you can't chase anyone, but then what the hell, I don't suffer from road rage and as to the fuel consumption - it just goes on hubby's petrol card.

I will part ways with this little silver filly with a heavy heart!

Now here's what husband Gerry had to say.

The Condor is equipped with state of the art vehicle security.

The electronic anti-theft system features push-button central locking along with a coded transponder embedded in the ignition key. Another feature of the system is an overriding feature to disarm the alarm.

This is important as security systems of many vehicles cannot be disarmed. Due to the system using the latest technology, there's no need for a gearlock. The courtesy light delay feature is a useful addition to the range.

One can be forgiven for confusing the Condor Condor TX with the more up market Toyota Prado as the radiator grille is of similar design, while the newly-revised headlights and rear light clusters are significant styling enhancements on the new model.

Entering the driver's side is a small step up to the raised seat, and the high roofline ensures easy access to the vehicle.

Inside the roofline is significantly raised to allow a space of at least 200mm above a normal sized person.

This produces a feeling of spaciousness and dispels any inherent claustrophobia. Visibility all round is excellent, with little intrusion from the c-pillars.

Firm seats

Seats are firm with the usual mechanical adjustments. The eight-seat configuration has many variations to suit the conveying of passengers or as a utility vehicle.

The middle row is able to recline, fold and tumble, while the rear seats have the facility to be folded and stowed out of the way. But the holding straps in the folded position are inadequate, and need redesigning.

The thick-rimmed steering wheel contains an airbag and hooter.

Alas, the modern trend of satellite radio and other controls, which are important to road safety, are absent. However, the excellent radio/tape can also accommodate a CD.

The Tx specification also includes air conditioning, electric windows and electric side mirrors.

The driver side door also contains all the power window switches along with power door locks. The petrol flap release is on the side of the driver's seat. All five doors can be locked or unlocked by a button on the driver?s door.

Useful features are the cup holders for front and rear passengers, and a glove box compliments a large centre stowage box.

Headlight and indicator levers are located on the right of the wheel whilst wipers & washers are on the left as traditional on right hand drive vehicles. All are simple to operate and easily accessible.

On the road

A trip fully laden from East London to Langebaan on the Cape West Coast and back revealed many pleasing characteristics of the Condor.

The first impression is noticing how many of these models are currently in use on South African roads. Whether being used as a personnel carrier or a family vehicle, there are plenty!

We set out late on a Saturday and headed down the R72 via the picturesque Port Alfred to Port Elizabeth.

Immediately we were confronted by a 40 km/h head wind, which considerably influenced fuel consumption.

The Condor was surprisingly stable and coped majestically with the headwind without wandering or deviating from its course.

The steering is very positive and being a rear-whee-drive vehicle was a pleasure to keep on the road in the adverse conditions.

This section of the road, especially between Port Alfred and PE, is rather bumpy and again the suspension proved that it has much better road holding than most vehicles of this type.

Fuel Warning

The village of Kareedouw was reached after covering 450 km, with the fuel warning light burning for more than 50 km and some anxious moments as the headwind consumed more fuel than anticipated.

With our average speed 100 km/h we used a thirsty 14.31 litres/100 km - but this was the thirstiest part of the trip, caused no doubt by the headwind and a fair amount of traffic. After refuelling five litres was still available in the tank - I needn't have worried so much!

After bypassing the windy city of Port Elizabeth on the freeway, we followed the winding road through the fruit basket of South Africa known as the Langkloof.

After traversing Oudtshoorn the "Klein Karoo" was reasonably flat and undulating, with the occasional pass. It was decided to refuel at Ladysmith as some long sections through the Karoo were ahead. Fuel consumption levelled off with the wind subsiding for a while and more level terrain.

The route then followed the R62, which is acknowledged as the longest wine route in the world, through quaint little villages such as Barrydale, Montague and Robertson.

The weather really turned foul, with rainsqualls and misty conditions flowing through the many valleys and cliffs.

As darkness settled the efficiency of the headlights of the Condor revealed the twisting road through the murky visibility. The huge side mirrors, although not contributing to the aerodynamics of the vehicle, are so superior that we grew to accept them for their efficiency and safety.


After traversing the winelands route and cruising through the awesome Du Toit' s Kloof tunnel we passed through the vineyards of Paarl (Dutch for pearl) and headed for the wheat fields of Malmesbury and onwards to a rainswept gusty Langebaan, where the Condor was finally refuelled after a distance for the leg of 1 200 km.

We had completed the leg at an average of 110 km/h including stopping for fuel.

Fuel used for the entire trip from East London to Langebaan and back to East London (3 272 km) via Langebaan and Knysna was 407.19 litres, translating to an overall consumption of 12.44 litres/100 km.

This is not too shabby as the Condor is no lightweight, and will improve with age as the engine gets more kilometres under its belt.

The good news was that although at first we found the Condor's seats rather firm, when we finally got out after our marathon journey we felt little stiffness in our weary bones - and what there was quickly dissipated on exiting the vehicle.

All-in-all the Condor is a vehicle that will grow on you with its versatility and built-in Toyota reliability.


Engine: 4 cylinder inline 2 438 cm3
Power: 85 kW at 4 800 r/min
Torque: 195 Nm at 2 800 r/min

Load space: 192-1984 litres


Detroit Motor Show gallery

2004-01-06 11:43

Inside Wheels24

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