So you’re looking to buy a hardcore vehicle that can provide maximum traction in an off-road environment but can also double up on practicality. When it comes to the 4WD SUV segment, we’ve got three stalwart players that can make the grade: The Toyota Prado, Toyota Fortuner, and Pajero Sport.
In this comparison test, Car Expert help us compare the range-topping Toyota Fortuner Crusade, Toyota Prado GXL, and the refreshed top-spec Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed head-to-head with one another as we take a closer look at their safety, practicality, drivability, and value for money.
Given that all these models are robust on the outside, diesel-powered, and have the same seating capacity, the choosing definitely won’t come easy. So let’s cut to the chase and get on with our comparison test to find out!
Let’s talk about the most important family stuff first. Over the years, the safety features expectations in the 4WD SUV segment have stretched a long way from a simple reverse camera and park assist. If you take a look at the safety features fitted to each of the three, you’ll notice that they all have three top-tether points and two ISOFIX child seat attachment points in their second rows, which means they’ll equally fit the bill if you have kids!
When it comes to AEB tech standards, however, the Toyota Fortuner is leading the way being the only one with cyclist detection feature. The Pajero Sport falls behind in this aspect, being the only one without pedestrian detection.
You probably might not have thought that our three vehicles are quite close when it comes to size and space, but how do they differ when it comes to the level of comfort that offer? Let’s first talk about the Toyota Prado. This vehicle is fairly short with its flat tailgate but is considerably more family-friendly than the other two. There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to luggage capacity, because all three of them have roof rails that let you fit a roof-rack if you need to. Comfort-wise, all of them also have vents to their third rows and have seven seats capable of fitting up to seven adults. But since the Toyota Prado has a third climate zone, those in the second and third rows are free to choose their desired temperature independent of those in front—a feature that the Pajero Sport also offers. But it’s different with the Pajero Sport, which only has a single-zone climate system.
Engine and Transmission
Since you’re shopping for a car, we know you’re interested to find out more about the specs, specifically their diesel engine specifications. All the three vehicles are automatic-only across their ranges, but there’s the Toyota Prado if you want one with a manual gearbox. It’s also worth noting that the 4WD systems of Prado, Fortuner, and Pajero are different from one another. If you’re stepping up from something with AWD, the permanent 4WD system of the Toyota Prado might appeal to you. The Toyota Fortuner and Pajero Sport, on the other hand, lets you run in 4×2 (2H) or 4×4 (4H).
The competition gets tighter when we talk about fuel consumption. When it comes to this aspect, all the three vehicles are close , although you might notice a gap between them on paper. Toyota and Mitsubishi have fuel claims for their respective 4WD SUVs, but try to drive them and you will find that their actual fuel use is slightly different. Of the three, the Toyota Prado has the largest fuel tank size at 87 litres, which will probably make you think that it has the greatest mileage. The downside, however, is that this robust player gets a little thirstier when dealing with difficult terrain, so it ends up consuming more fuel than the other two. Here, the Pajero Sport betters its rivals by more than one litre per 100 kays, which is pretty impressive. Keep in mind, however, that its small fuel tank means you need to go out for frequent refills.
You don’t purchase a 4WD SUV for nothing. We know you’re excited to get your car key and take your new vehicle out for a mixed driving loop and test how far it can go with all the speed bumps and roundabouts along the way. If you want to know which among our three contenders strikes the right balance of comfort, confidence, and control in a mishmash of terrains and driving situations, then pay attention to what we’re going to discuss next. When it comes to on-road driving, the Toyota Fortuner is an unpleasant choice. This vehicle is particularly bad on coarse chip roads, and its engine is among the lightest of all SUVs. You also don’t want a car that’s fussy at highway pace, so don’t go for it. It’s different with the Toyota Prado GXL, which is obviously wider and offers a more surefooted feel on all surfaces and speeds. The steering of this car is slower than Fortuner, though, and its engine is not as punch in the Prado than its rival. But it’s significantly more refined and pleasant to drive in day-to-day driving, so that’s only fair.
Since all of them are 4WDs, we’re sure you’re expecting some similarities when it comes to their off-road capabilities, and you’re right—they’re pretty close. However, you’ll also notice some key differences when it comes to their approach angles, departure angles, wading depth clearance, and turning circle diameter. If you try to drive them all in a serious off-road territory, you’ll see that all three of them could tackle even the steepest hill climb but nothing compares to how the Toyota Prado nails it. Well, the Toyota Fortuner and Pajero Sport could handle tougher tracks, but they fall behind the Toyota Prado in the sense that their mechanicals sometimes feel low and long, especially when navigating deeper and more sharply-angled potholes. The Pajero Sport is also narrower than the two so it tends to become easily unsettled when passing through severe and deep ruts.
The Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Prado, and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport have their own share of strengths and weaknesses. But if the best for you is the one that’s ready-to-go and is capable of maintaining its real active driver-direct sense to it even when performing heavy off-road duties, then the Toyota Prado is the way to go. It’s one of those 4WDs that you can drive straight out of the showroom to climb a steep dirt track by a long shot.