Toyota South Africa has officially launched the updated Fortuner in the local market, marking the second facelift of the current-generation SUV in the seven years since it went on sale.
The revisions had in store a host of surface-level upgrades such as new bumpers, lights, and features, while the underlying drive components were largely left alone.
Toyota planned a 400km route through remote regions in the Western Cape to show off the breadth of abilities of its new high-rider with the range-topping VX 4×4 being our only means of transport along the way.
A much-needed makeover
It’s no secret the Fortuner in its current iteration has been on the market for quite a long time and was due for a fresh look to keep up with its competitors who all saw new generations launched in the past two years.
The seven-seater therefore underwent an extensive refresh in the styling department to keep it turning heads for the next few years until it’s replaced by its own successor.
To the naked eye, the new Fortuner gains redesigned LED headlight clusters with four partitions, sequential LED indicators, a new mesh grille that takes up 25% of the front fascia instead of the previous 50%, LED fog lamps, “aerodynamic corner mouldings” in the rear bumper, a black roof spoiler and licence plate garnish, and the range can now also be had with a gloss black roof and mirrors.
Attractive alloy wheels measuring 18 inches are now standard on all models, too, with these revisions certainly lending the facelifted Toyota a more contemporary and distinctive look.
Not to be left out, the cabin of the 2.8-litre and VX derivatives was the recipient of a redesigned instrument binnacle, gloss black finishes with a new ornamentation pattern, ambient lighting, darkened perimeter surfaces, and maroon/black leather upholstery with matching contrast stitching.
These revisions have done well to keep the passenger compartment looking up-to-date and the clearly-marked buttons and switches add to the ease of usability.
In the VX, the standard 11-speaker JBL stereo was a standout feature and provides a quality sound that is generally found in multi-million-rand luxury vehicles, and I particularly enjoyed having the controls for the lane-keep assist on the steering wheel and not in a sub-menu on the infotainment system or a semi-hidden button somewhere else.
The only real qualms I had with the Fortuner thus came down to its packaging.
The front-seat base is ever-so-slightly too narrow and it constantly felt as if my hips were being pinched, and seats number six and seven eat up around a third of the boot’s total volume and makes it impossible to install a parcel cover.
On request, Toyota said it will remove these seats for customers to unlock the boot’s full potential, though if you have a set of spanners handy at home you’ll be able to do it yourself – but you didn’t hear that from us.
A winning recipe
The fondness for Toyota started with its engines, which were touted as being unbreakable at a time.
While I can’t attest to the longevity of the powerplant myself, the Fortuner’s 2.8-litre turbo-diesel motor matched with a six-speed automatic gearbox was a peach, and effortlessly carried the large SUV over mountain passes, through small towns, and on freeways.
The unit is responsive and offers fast gear shifts in manual or automatic mode, with its 150kW and 500Nm being more than enough for any task you throw at it, such as towing 3.5 tonnes.
Vibrations and handling, on the other hand, are not the ladder-frame SUV’s strong suits.
Left to its own devices, the Fortuner pulled itself to the left of the road on flat straights, and the steering wheel was consistently turned just a few degrees to the right to keep it running in a straight line.
Additionally, the ride is harsher than its seven-seated rivals in 2023, likely due to the age of the architecture, and the body leans more around corners, too.
With all that said, let’s face it, the Fortuner would probably not have lost much market share now that its rivals have been thoroughly brought into the 21st century, but Toyota played it safe and gave it a bit of attention still.
The facelift, which was accompanied by an average of 2% bump in price, we think will bolster the local love affair with the SUV even more and secure its spot as one of the best-selling vehicles in its segment for the remainder of its lifetime on the market before the next-generation Fortuner arrives.
Toyota Fortuner VX 4×4
Leave a Reply