There’s an ample amount of seven-seat off-road wagons on the market that trace their ancestry back to ute-style workhorse vehicles. The Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Sport Pajero and Holden Trailblazer come to mind. But how does replacing the rear tray with a roof and seats work out for Toyota? The fact that it can add yet another 4X4 to its arsenal is probably a good thing. But can the legendary Hilux be family friendly but still maintain its renowned work ethic and dirt eating habits. Chris Bowen spent a week with the Toyota Fortuner GXL.

Make: Toyota

Model: Fortuner

Variant: GXL

Engine / Transmission: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. 6-speed automatic.

Vital Stats: 130Kw / 450Nm

Toyota Claimed Fuel Economy: 7.8L / 100km

Toyota Claimed Fuel Economy: 10.1L / 100km

Price: From $52,990

Wow Factor: As with the Hilux the Fortuner is actually a nice drive. Despite being down on power compared to the competition the Fortuner does a good job of at least appearing to get around with minimal fuss. The steering is light and the slightly below average dimensions make piloting the Fortuner around the urban world easy, it’s smaller than a Prado for example.

The interior is a step above the highest spec Hilux, leathery-look materials adorn the dash and metallic look inlays highlight the rather attractive dash. Even the fabric seats on our test model look classy, modern and frankly premium. In fact the Fortuner is essentially a standalone design interior wise rather than being a complete Hilux copy.

Most Impressive: Our test car featured a number of options, most noteworthy being the chrome front bull bar. However behind that is an attractive interpretation of the controversial Hilux front end. It’s a face that will certainly appeal to the fairer sex, it’s well executed, being softer and sleeker than its workhorse donner and definitely aligns itself well with the known family favourite, the Toyota Kluger.

As a drive the Fortuner has that solid Toyota feel while never feeling ungainly. Its ride is probably a tad stiff, but the rear coil springs do a great job of normalising what is essentially based on a light truck. Power isn’t exactly ample, but it does have enough up and go to not be regarded as a slouch.

Cooling down seven people on a 40 degree day is made all that easy via separate rear roof mounted vents and the ability to fiddle with the temp independently of the front passengers.

Least Impressive: The third row back seats only fold to the side, that’s a little old school and obviously affects cargo space. The hugely capable 4×4 system is only useful off road, strange thing to say right? Well sometimes it’s actually beneficial to have a smarter on-demand system on the bitumen should rain or other slippery conditions arrive unexpectedly.

The cabin is quite narrow compared to some of the others, making three adults a little uncomfortable across the third row. The claimed fuel economy figure seems a little out of reach, I’ve found it a lot easier to slip below 10L/100km in the competitors.

The Sweeping Statement: I’m a fan of the Toyota Hilux and subsequently the Fortuner. It’s a legitimate family all-rounder, with serious off-road credentials that don’t impede too much on its worth as a family troop-carrier. I’m also possibly biased being a Toyota owner, but all say is that I drive many, many cars each year and I can just sense that inbuilt Toyota quality. I understand why people are prepared to fork out above and beyond similar offerings. The Toyota Fortuner GXL earns the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval.