EDM Car of the year

Our pick for the Mid-Sized 4X4 Wagon of the Year!

Recently we were asked to participate as drive testers for Unsealed 4X4’s Mid-Sized Wagon of The Year. With everyone else in the office unable to attend, I gladly snatched the keys to our MobileHQGU and headed off to Mt Seaview where I met with the Unsealed team and a number of other industry professionals.  Sam Purcell made the events of the preceding few days clear, to put the Fortuner, Trailblazer, MU-X, Pajero Sport and the Everest through their paces in a series of tests both on and off-road to see where the best value for money was.

This comparison was an interesting one, as all of these vehicles are based on dual-cab models which are dominating the Australian 4X4 market and have been for over a decade. Hard to believe in a country that was once typified by the large sedan, but in 2016, 8 of the top 10 selling 4X4’s in Australia were dual-cabs. This comes as no surprise as they have proven to provide a high level of versatility and are very adaptable to modifications to suit individual needs, along with their commercial capabilities. However, the wagons still have a lot to offer in terms of comfort and family functionality without compromising off-road capability.

The team at Unsealed 4X4 take their work very seriously and wanted to ensure that we were tackling tracks would push the vehicles to their limits and leave no stone unturned (literally) in this comparison. So, Sam got in touch with his old pal Ralph at Mount Seaview Resort to unlock a vast variety of off-road terrain which he knew like the back of his hand. There was everything from freshwater crossings, deep ruts, rocky riverbeds, mud holes and challenging hill climbs for us to explore.

As these vehicles were stock standard, Sam asked us to bring our MobileHQGU as a support rig, so it took pride of place as ‘tail-end charlie’ for the week. With the type of terrain we were to put the vehicles through, a more serious rig was a necessity to retrieve the highway-terrain-tyre shod wagons – unsurprisingly, this happened on quite a few occasions over the week. Further to this, as it’s setup as a tourer it made a great crew vehicle – with inverters being used to charge camera gear and the like over the 4 day trip. Driving a pretty well modified (if I might say so myself) GU of my own personally, I hadn’t ever done any serious off-roading in something that wasn’t at least rolling on all terrains and at least 2 inches of lift as a minimum, so jumping into these standard rigs was always going to be interesting. For me, it even further emphasised the value of modifying your vehicle to fit its intended purpose. Most 4WDer’s understand this and that is why over 95% of vehicles insured with us have increased their sum insured to allow for their accessories and modifications. As a specialist insurer, we are able insure these mods over and above your vehicle value so that you may actually be able to replace your rig and get it kitted out for your intended purpose – but enough of the insurance sales talk.

Lastly, it would not be true to form if I didn’t make my opinion known about which one I would choose – and to be honest it wasn’t really too much of a competition for me: the Toyota Fortuner. Heading into the comparison, I hadn’t been too fussed at all by the Fortuner and would have thought like many others that you might as well just get the Prado for a few extra quid. Over the course of the week, this changed. Not only was it really refined and a joy to drive – it just made sense not only as a family vehicle, but as a capable 4X4 that can be easily modified to suit your off-road needs. It had great underbody protection, plenty of space under the bonnet for an auxiliary battery and that 2.8 litre turbo diesel certainly has enough mumbo to handle some bigger tyres and extra weight for accessories. While the others all had their pros and cons, the Fortuner really was a no-brainer.

To get the full comparison and to see some awesome footage of us pushing these things to their limits, head to Issue 41 of Unsealed 4X4 magazine.

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Comments 25

  1. Steve

    What a crock of a review you typically picked a Toyota all these 4×4 are pretty assume , Try towing in the Fortuna fuel consumption is horrendous and auto can not tow 3000kg . It’s your personal pick I was so close to buying the Toyota until I read about its towing abilities over priced service and shorter service intervals .

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Steve,

      Fair point, unfortunately we did not do any towing testing over the week so I cannot comment on that – but I do agree, if I was towing something, I would not be picking the Fortuner based on the towing specifications. What I got from the week was that it had performed very well under no load and I felt that it would also be able to handle the mods that I would be putting on it; suspension, tyres, bar work and a roof cage with a rooftop tent as a start.

      Did you end up picking anohter vehicle to suit your towing needs?

      Jackson

      1. Post
        Author
        Jackson

        Hi David,

        As this was not based on a dual cab like the others, it just fell by the wayside – nothing personal against Jeeps!

  2. Roger Ferguson

    If you do not take price into consideration, (eg Pajero is a lot cheaper and just as able, plus its tug ability is higher), why would you not if serious about 4WDriving not just buy the Prado.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Roger,

      With the Pajero Sport, it did struggle a bit over the weekend with ground clearance and actually sustained a bit of damage unlike the other vehicles but the gearbox was great and it was quite nicely specced inside.

      I just felt with the money saved buying the Fortuner over the Prado, I had a bit leftover to add modifications that I wanted to spec it to my needs. I am not someone who tows as I still love my trusty rooftop tent, so the Fortuner made the most sense to me.

      Cheers

  3. Philip Rayner

    Dual cabs were always an extended cab plus a ute etc type of rear end.

    Why did you call all of the trial vehicles dual cabs? They are sedans.

    Or is this another big-noting style like calling your four wheel GU etc a “truck”. Is “sedan” a bad word in 4×4 world.

    Does that mean that the home car, a Maxima, is a dual cab?? Chuckle. You wouldn’t want to say that in fron of my wife. It’s her car.

    Phil

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Philip,

      I refer to the vehicles here as being based on dual-cabs and not dual cabs themselves – I felt that this was an accurate description as they have identical front-ends to their ute siblings.

      And you are right, the GU is a wagon but ‘truck’ it is just a turn of phrase used within the industry – when driving the GU I do feel like I’m in a truck sometimes with all the extra weight we have thrown onto it in the way of mods.

      Thanks for your input.

  4. Russell Drury

    I totally agree with the outcome of this test and yes I own a manual Fortuner.
    I tow a 17′ van on the speed limit and the worst mpg is 9.7 l/100k.
    Friends with a diesel Toureg and supercharged Calais cant keep up and use closer to 20 l / 100k.
    Over priced servicing???? If $180 is overpriced you shouldnt own any sort of modern car. The oil alone costs over $100.
    Nearly every country town has a Toyota dealer if you need help. Try that with your Isuzu or Pajero.
    We wont even mention resale value.
    Happy motoring.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi James,

      Yes, they were actually the lowest selling out of all the vehicles in the comparison. Obviously if people want the ute they go for the Hilux or if they want the wagon they just pay the extra and go for the Prado. Personally, If I had the budget to get a stock Prado I would opt for the Fortuner and spent the difference kitting it out to my specifications!

      Each to their own though.

  5. John Ettles

    Crikey Jackson, what a bunch of sooks getting into you. I accept that the article is “your opinion ” .
    Thanks for being upfront and saying what you think. Please don’t change your ways. I do wish other people could just accept what some of us say without launching into sooking. My opinion is definitely better than everyone else’ of course.

    I’ll duck now , hahahaha
    Cheers John.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi John,

      That is the purpose of something like this, it wouldn’t be fair if only I could voice my opinion would it…

      It is great to see people with a bit of fire in the belly, and also I only drove them for a week so I must concede there are many categories I am not qualified to comment on such as towing.

      But yes, I agree your opinion is certainly the most important that I have read so far 🙂

      Thanks mate!

  6. Clive Goodwin

    Hi, I now own a Fortuner had it for twelve months now after owning a GU for twelve years.
    I find the Fortuner a great 4×4 for me it does and goes anywhere I went with the GU.
    I tow a Camper Trailer and find my Fortuner a great 4×4.

    Cheers Clive.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Clive,

      That’s great to hear and good to know it pulls through for you in the towing department as well!

      I’m still very attached to my GU and one week in the Fortuner was not enough to change that for me!

  7. Jas

    Well this review is a crock thats for sure, these guys bleed toyota! The fortuner is an over priced under specced bucket of poo, the interior is disgusting, ride like crap and the price is out of control! The Pajero Sport kills it in EVERY SINGLE department, way better offroad especially with a small lift and A/T tyres! Nothing comes close!

    No one takes the unsealed guys seriously, their reviews are always biased

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Jas, thanks for your input.

      4 out of the 5 of us who tested the vehicles are not from Unsealed magazine, and we all agreed over the week of testing we did that the Toyota was the winner based on the criteria. Give me my GU Patrol over any of these any day!

      However, it was a comparison from our point of view and we cannot speak on behalf of every single person. If the Pajero Sport is the car for you that is fantastic and I agree that with a few mods to compliment that fantastic gearbox you’ve got a really solid 4WD.

  8. Jeff

    Good choice. about to buy the Crusade, got everything that opens & shuts. Looks like thew dual battery system from the Hilux will fit which will give me plenty of power for the fridge & the vehicle already has an inverter fitted standard.
    For all the overpriced commentators check the new pricing.
    One thing the brochure readers should remember, don’t believe what you read in a brochure transforms to the way a vehicle performs when you drive it. How many times do you see 4wd testers say they were surprised how well a HiLux l drove & performed when they actually drove the thing especially against the opposition.
    Go on a trip as I have just done in my 70 series dual cab to the Kimberleys & the further up & out you get it is spot the other brand as most vehicles are you guessed it Toyotas of all models!

  9. Peter

    I’m just not convinced there is a dual cab version of the current Pajero Sport especially given the lack of separate chassis.

    1. Post
      Author
  10. Carl Magrath

    I guess my comment was too close to the truth, so was not published, this just goes to show me, that you can’t handle the truth, since I did not whinge about the testers, like above, but you didn’t like my opinion on the truth

    If you can’t handle the truth, stop pretending that your all for the 4WD’vers

    This comment won’t be published either, truth hurts doesn’t it

    I’ve already let Mitsubishi know about it’s faults, obviously you don’t appreciate owners telling more than the testers, like I live in the “real world”, if your going to test vehicles, it must be done independently not biased towards the sponser

    1. Post
      Author
      Jackson

      Hi Carl,

      Apologies for the delay in approval. We do not block comments unless they contain explicit or inappropriate language – we value your input and as an owner I’m sure you are more qualified than me on a number of aspects of the vehicle and can teach me a few things about it.

      You are right in saying it is inaccurate for me to group them all as “based on dual-cabs” as there are some key differences and especially with the Pajero Sport even having a different gearbox to the Triton. The comment above was merely to note that I had not referred to the vehicles themselves as dual cabs. I will also maintain this was an unbiased review, with none of the vehicles getting a particularly glowing response.

      Cheers

  11. Andrew Thorncraft

    Hi to all 4×4 enthusiasts
    I have studied on buying a new tow unit for a 2.5ton caravan over the last yr reading reviews asking owners at camp sites and parks fuel economy how they rig performs
    Currently have 100series cruiser 2001 now 170k on clock duel fuel tows 2.5ton van test drove many brands both Utes and wagons
    Hilux and fortuner felt well under powered wouldn’t pull skin off custard with body roll low spec on technology big disappointment from Toyota
    Dmax terrible ute to drive my kidneys took a pounding
    MUX nice impressive
    Trade in price to low

    Colorado WOW so much power nicely appointed good blokes truck not family friendly
    Easy decision Trailblazer goes like the clappers very nice LTZ 7 seats drives a touch better than MUX
    Excellent trade in price good deal on accessories
    7yrs warranty
    10 yrs roadside service
    Many other Benifits

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