Why I booked a Fortuner petrol AT as my 2008 Grand Vitara replacement

I also looked at other options such as the Hyundai Tucson, VW Tiguan & Skoda Kodiaq

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Booked a Fortuner petrol AT, in Sparkling Black (though we may go with Silver Metallic if it’s available sooner). I would have preferred a Fortuner 4×4, but NCR rules make diesel a financially unviable option for me. Delivery is expected latest by November, but hopefully sooner.

Apologies for this very long post, but it might help some in the same boat as I was; others hopefully might enjoy the story of a car nerd’s travails.

Fortuner was never in contention when I began my search for a car to replace my 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara, which I have to very sadly give up now because of the aforementioned NCR rules. In the thirteen years (almost) that I’ve had it, it has taken me both through the Spiti valley and to Leh from Gurgaon. Honestly, none of the current crops is a patch on the Grand Vitara.

My requirement was a car that I could take on all kinds of bad roads, but I don’t do any off-roading. I didn’t initially consider the Fortuner because it didn’t come in petrol 4×4 version. My choices were the Hyundai Tucson, VW Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq, all of which had petrol 4×4. I waited until Hyundai released the Tucson, but Hyundai decided to bring it in only diesel 4×4, which immediately ruled it out of contention. Skoda decided to jack up the price of the Kodiaq, so that was also ruled out since I was already well over my original budget of 30-32 Lakhs. That left the Tiguan.

I did like the Tiguan a lot. But I need to keep the car for the full 15 years that NCR rules permit, and I wasn’t sure the Tiguan is such a long-term car. I didn’t want to worry every time I took a long drive to the hills that I might face some trouble on the way. The lack of a full-sized spare was an additional headache, especially given that the Tiguan came with a tyre size that isn’t easily available in India, and there was also no option to change to All-Terrain treads because I couldn’t find any in that size. The 55 profile sidewalls are potentially problematic on bad roads. I briefly even reconsidered the Kodiaq because I thought the unusable third row could be folded and provide extra space to carry an additional full-sized spare, but the Kodiaq price hike ruled it out.

I did enjoy the Tiguan in the two test drives I took, but also found a few additional minor quibbles. It seemed a bit smaller than my Grand Vitara when sitting in the front seat. Odd, because the external dimensions are very similar, give or take. The seating was also slightly lower than in the Grand Vitara. The ground clearance, while probably adequate, was also less than the Grand Vitara. The retractable ceiling for the panoramic sunroof was thin, light and flimsy. These are quibbles, of course, because the Tiguan is also suave and sophisticated, and it had the added advantage of a terrific and powerful engine and a smooth gearbox. It wasn’t an easy choice to give up on the Tiguan.

Now, to the Fortuner petrol. I took two test drives, one of which was a very long one for ninety minutes. I was worried about the heft, the power, body roll etc, and just my general comfort with the vehicle, its interiors etc. I am almost 6ft, and the vehicle’s height was still surprising. The seat was a bit lower to the floor than I would have liked, but it was OK if I set it to the highest level. The acceleration was a bit laboured, understandably, but once it got going I found it surprisingly swift and nimble. I was able to manage a long, crowded street without any problem, aided by the fact that bikers and autos showed some deference to the behemoth, something I never experienced in the Grand Vitara. One has to be a bit gentle on the accelerator pedal to avoid startling the beast into a mad rush, but this should be easy to get used to.

The interiors. Hmm. It is missing two key things that were on my original ‘wanted’ list: a panoramic sunroof and a memory setting for the driver seat. I do enjoy opening at least the inner covering on sunroofs to enjoy the night sky, in the cars I have been driven in which have the feature. The memory setting is also a big miss because it is so useful when there are multiple drivers, as Fortuners usually do. But neither were deal-breakers, though the latter is especially disappointing. And the MID screen: really poor on such an expensive car, especially compared to the Tiguan’s glorious one, which is probably the best in the business.

But the good points: for all the complaints about the Fortuner’s interiors, it actually has most of the features that the Tiguan has and a few that it doesn’t. For example, the Fortuner gets powered passenger seat, which is missing in the Tiguan. The Fortuner gets ventilated front seats, more appropriate than the Tiguan’s heated ones. The leather quality in both is OK. An 8-inch entertainment unit in both but though the graphics seem a bit worse on the Fortuner, it gets physical shortcut buttons, which I prefer.

As an aside, the Fortuner’s unit seems like the RAV-4’s unit, does anyone know if it’s the same?

Both Fortuner and Tiguan get plug-in Android Auto and Apple Carplay, not wireless. Neither gets wireless charging. Two-zone climate control in the Fortuner, but plenty of air in the back, as compared to the Tiguan’s three-zone unit—a draw, though the Fortuner’s A/C is supposed to be better. Auto up-down windows on all windows in both, as well as electric tailgates. Definitely, the look of some switches and other bits on the Fortuner is poor, without question. But the biggest reason for the perception of poor interiors in the Fortuner, in my view, is one of aesthetics rather than availability, of function over form. I feel Toyota could have spent a bit more time making the interiors ‘look’ better, even if it provides most of what is expected.

Though it’s not ideal because it’s a 4×2, the Fortuner’s excellent ground clearance, water wading depth, and underbody protection hopefully make it adequate for the bad roads that I might come across. These features also make it a better, if much costlier, choice than the Innova, to anticipate one question. I have to wait and see how the Fortuner performs in the hills, but there was no way to check this at this point. Ultimately, this hopefully gives me a good if not perfect replacement for my Grand Vitara, which once again highlights what poor choices we have in this segment. Now the wait begins.

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