Sales of SUVs in New Zealand in the years 2011-2015 jumped by a dizzying 126 per cent, a feeding frenzy fuelled partly by marketing hype that said New Zealanders are an outdoorsy people and need such vehicles.
That they mostly use them for journeys far away from anything ‘outdoorsy’ doesn’t matter. The image of an adventurous spirit will do nicely in an SUV world of Walter Mittys.
Back in 2011, SUVs accounted for 21 per cent, or around 17,700, of the 84,639 new vehicles sold in New Zealand that year. Last year SUV sales totalled around 40,000, or 30 per cent of the record 134,041 registrations.
They occupy all segments – small, compact, medium, large; mainstream, premium; two-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive; tough guys some of them, so-called soft-roaders others.
And still they keep coming. The latest SUV to help meet New Zealanders’ appetite for such models is the Toyota Fortuner. It will be joined by another Toyota SUV next year, a town-and-around compact built on the chassis of the Corolla.
The Corolla-based SUV will be a soft-roader. The Fortuner is a tough guy, a seven-seater, medium segment offering that shares its chassis, front doors and bonnet with the Hilux but uses a different rear suspension set-up to improve ride comfort and handling. Something like the 4Runner of years ago.
Fortuner takes Toyota’s SUV line-up to six and joins the RAV4, Highlander, Land Cruiser FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser Prado and Land Cruiser 200 series. Toyota dominated SUV sales last year with 7216 units, made up mostly of the RAV4 (3519), Highlander (2540), and Prado (910). The FJ Cruiser will be discontinued.
There are four Fortuner variants, each with a ANCAP five-star safety rating: the GX manual ($70,990), GX automatic ($72,990), GXL automatic ($75,990) and Limited automatic ($78,990). Specification levels go up with the prices and into the Uncle Tom Cobbley and All category. Standard alloys are 17-inch; the Limited gets 18s.
Fortuner is similar in size to Prado, slightly longer, not quite as tall, but with the same 1855mm width. Its 2.8-litre diesel engine is also used in the Hilux and Prado. It’s a 130kW four-cylinder unit that delivers 420Nm between 1200-2600rpm when mated to an optional six-speed manual gearbox and 450Nm between 1600-2400rpm with the six-speed automatic.
There are three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Power, and a rotary selector offering two and four-wheel drive in high range, or four-wheel drive in low range. A rear differential lock did the business down into valley floors and over hills at the launch in Hawkes Bay.
Braked towing capacity is 3000kg for the manual and 2800kg for the auto. Claimed town-and-around fuel use for the manual is 7.8 litres/100kms (36mpg) and 8.6 litres/100kms (33mpg) for the auto. Nearly all Fortuner sales will be automatics – statistics say only 1 per cent of SUV owners these days choose a manual box.
Toyota aims to sell around 700 Fortuners this year. “We’ll be happy with around 60 a month,” says its general manager of sales Steve Prangnell. “It’s well positioned to provide us with an incremental sales opportunity, especially with private buyers.”
- Toyota’s sales in NZ in the years 2011-2015 went up 50 per cent, from 18,019 in 2011 to 26,971 in 2015. Those numbers include sales of its luxury arm Lexus. Overall new vehicle sales in NZ in the same five years jumped 58 per cent.