In the world of the bakkie-based SUV, the Toyota Fortuner is king. Based as it is on the venerable Hilux, this would only be a reasonable expectation – for in the bakkie world, the Hilux is king.
However, while the Ford ranger and Isuzu KB commendably challenge the Hilux on the sales charts, the Fortuner remains comparatively unchallenged. It is undoubtedly the nation’s favourite in its segment … but, does that mean it’s the best?
A couple of weeks ago I spent some time with the new 2,4-litre GD-6 Fortuner. It was fitted with the six-speed automatic gearbox and 4×4 drivetrain (I never had the chance to venture off-road with it, so we’ll ignore that bit for now…) and it was immediately apparent to me why this vehicle is as popular as it is.
I’ve driven multiple versions of the Fortuner and its biggest rival – the Ford Everest – in the past and, while I’ve always been hard-pressed to choose between the two each has its own merits and appeals to its own buyers. But then, just a week after sampling the latest Fortuner, the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport arrived … and oh, boy, was I in for a surprise.
It was the 2,4-litre, eight-speed automatic with 4×2 drivetrain, so a direct comparison with the Fortuner could never be possible – but the basics of the concept, execution and pricing of the two vehicles make for interesting reading.
Let’s start there, with the pricing: the Fortuner as tested costs R511 000 while the Pajero Sport as tested cost R569 995… Match one to the Fortuner, I hear you say – but let’s continue…
The pricing of the Mitsubishi actually places it on a par with the 2,8-litre auto 4×2 Fortuner (R577 500). Yet that’s no bad thing because the 2,4-litre Mitsubishi performs as well as – possibly better than – the larger-engined Toyota. It’s multipoint injection turbodiesel engine puts out 133 kW at 3 500 r/min and 430 Nm torque at 2 500 r/min. By comparison, the 2,4 Fortuner only offers up 110 kW and 400 Nm (130 and 450 to the 2,8, in case you were wondering).
On paper the Mitsubishi clearly punches above its weight, but it’s the utterly unfussed manner in which it powers through its eight gears that impresses most. By comparison, the Fortuner, while OK in town, feels lethargic with not much to offer. Plan your overtaking carefully…
My only gripe with the Mitsubishi’s drive, I must say, are the strong diesel fumes that surround the car when it’s stationary. This is not a problem in the Toyota, despite it also not having any fancy exhaust-emission control. The Pajero is claimed to consume 8,0 l/100 km to the Fortuner’s 8,2.
Anyway, much like the bakkies on which they are based, these two rivals ride slightly differently. Neither would leave its occupants feeling uncomfortable, but the Fortuner does struggle to soak up harsher bumps with the success that the Pajero Sport does. It’s also comparatively less refined – the Mitsubishi, true to its Triton underpinnings, is more polished and cocooned overall.
But there must be more to account for the difference of nearly R60 000… Well, the Pajero Sport comes very well equipped. Six airbags, a suite of electronic braking and stability aids, rear park-distance control, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, touchscreen infotainment system with voice control, dual-zone climate control with rear controls, and auto headlamps and wipers.
The Fortuner counters with seven airbags and an equally impressive suite of electronic driving aids that includes trailer sway control and drive mode select. This model does, however, lose out on the touch-screen infotainment system and electronic climate control.
Each model has an equally nice interior; logically laid out, leather-upholstered and comfy. The Fortuner’s appears perhaps a touch more upmarket, though the 2,4 misses a leather-lined steering wheel and handbrake lever. However, the Pajero Sport’s pleasing cabin has one massive trump card – and it’s at the back…
An Achilles heel of all Fortuners has been the model’s third row of seats which do not fold flat into the floor, but hinge up and are strapped against the sides of the load compartment. This means they are exceptionally fiddly to operate (more than once did they unclip from their straps and slam to the floor) and impede on loading space. It also means there is no rear load cover – though Toyota does address this with standard rear privacy glass.
The Pajero Sports rear row of seats, however, are simple to raise and lower – though with them up there is not much boot space. Each SUV has enough space in its third row for a couple of adults, though the Fortuner’s second row of seats can be slid back and forth, aiding flexibility.
So, in the battle of the 2,4-litre body-on-frame SUVs, which is it to be? There’s no denying the Fortuner’s merits – and why they make it so popular. With the new 2,4-litre models Toyota will also reach a wider range of buyers. This is something the Pajero Sport – with only two models available and the only difference between them being the choice of drivetrain – will struggle with.
However, what Mitsubishi has managed to do is offer a very accomplished rival that presents great value for money whether stacked up to a less-expensive, similarly engined rival, or one that has a bigger powerplant and is priced at a slightly higher level.
For most, the Fortuner 2,4’s price saving will be all the convincing they need. However, there’s no denying that Mitsubishi has delivered a winner. In fact, even if this was a battle between the Fortuner 2,8 and the Pajero Sport, the then cheaper Mitsubishi would still be my winner.
Both the Fortuner and Pajero Sport feature three-year/100 000km manufacturer warranties and five-year/90 000 km service plans.
CyberStoep rating – Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×4: 7/10
CyberStoep rating – Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 4×2: 7,5/10