Ford Everest vs Mitsubishi Pajero Sport vs Toyota Fortuner: here’s our winner!

Ford Everest vs Mitsubishi Pajero Sport vs Toyota Fortuner: here’s our winner!

Sadly most truck-based SUVs spend their time confined to suburban traffic, school runs and trips to the shopping mall, their abilities stretch much further than that. Especially the 4×4 derivatives, where genuine off-road abilities are shielded beneath that veneer of luxury and sophistication. We decided to compare 3 of the top contenders in this market segment, to determine which one comes up tops.

If the truck seems to be Zimbabwe’s national vehicle, the SUV is rapidly becoming the runner-up to this title. While many buyers prefer the smaller, car-based crossovers fielded by just about every manufacturer, there’s also now a significant demand for “proper” SUVs – the kind with a rugged, truck-like chassis and genuine off-road chops. To this end, we rounded up the 3 major contenders in this category, selected the least-expensive diesel derivatives equipped with both 4×4 and an automatic gearbox, and cast a critical eye on their attributes to find our winner.

In this comparison, we’ll consider value for money, standard-fit equipment levels, drivetrain sophistication, and practical considerations. If the Haval H9 were available with diesel power, it may have walked away with an immediate victory, because it outclasses all 3 of these contenders in most respects. Its disqualification is due to its petrol engine. With sadness, it has to be sidelined. Also note that you can get pre-owned, off-road-capable SUVs for much less than these new vehicles, but that brand new squeaky clean all round  new-car smell is important to many buyers (as is a fresh service plan and warranty). 

This leaves us with the 3 established players in this market segment: Ford’s Everest in mid-level 3.2TDCi 4WD XLT trim, the mid-level Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4 4×4, and the ever-popular Toyota Fortuner in entry-level 2.4GD-6 4×4 Auto trim. The Isuzu MU-X is conceptually similar to these 3, but it’s rather old by now (having first arrived as a Chevy Trailblazer many years ago). We await for the 2021 model which will be launched this year. It could be a game changer


Facts and Figures

Ford Everest 3.2TDCi 4WD XLT

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4 4×4

Toyota Fortuner 2.4GD-6 4×4 Auto 

Engine size (cyl/size/fuel)

5-cyl, 3.2-litre turbodiesel

4-cyl, 2.4-litre turbodiesel

4-cyl, 2.4-litre turbodiesel

Power/Torque

147 kW/470 Nm

133 kW/430 Nm

110 kW/400 Nm

Kerb Weight

2408 kg

2035 kg

1924 kg

Length (mm)

4 982

4 758

4 795

Boot volume (litres)*

1050

673

716

Airbag count

7

7

7

Top Speed (km/h) **

190 (est)

185 (est)

170

Average Consumption **

8.2 ℓ/100 km

8.1 ℓ/100 km

8.2 ℓ/100 km

Price

US$ 68000

R 65000

US$75000

*With 5 seats in use, and the third seating row folded away

**Manufacturer’s official figures, or estimates gathered from overseas road tests. 

Analysis

Power, performance, and drivetrains

The bare output figures point towards a victory for the Everest, because it has the largest engine displacement (a 3.2-litre 5-cylinder), the most power (147 kW), and the highest torque output (470 Nm). In contrast, the Pajero Sport and Fortuner both employ 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engines, to realise somewhat lower outputs: 133 kW and 430 Nm in the Mitsubishi, and 110 kW and 400 Nm in the Toyota. 

There are more-powerful Everest- and Fortuner diesels available, however. The Everest can be also be had with a new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel paired to a new 10-speed automatic. The Fortuner is also available in high-spec form with a 2.8-litre turbodiesel. Unfortunately, these higher-output derivatives are a lot more expensive, which would place them in a higher class than these less-expensive variants, and thus fall outside the scope of this comparison.

The output figures of these specific mid-level derivatives only tell a part of the story, though, because the Ford is by far the largest and heaviest vehicle of this trio. Its power-to-weight ratio works out at 61 W/kg, while the much lighter Mitsubishi beats it with a power-to-weight ratio of 65 W/kg. The Fortuner is the odd one out in this comparison, with the same ratio working out at only 57 W/kg, so it must stand to reason that the Fortuner 2.4GD-6 will be the slowest of this bunch. 

All of 3 vehicles use torque converter automatics to send their power into their four-wheel drive systems. However, the Pajero Sport out-classes both the Fortuner and the Everest in this regard, by offering an 8-speed gearbox instead of the others’ 6-speed gearboxes. This gives a wider overall ratio spread, as well as shorter intermediate gearing, which will ensure a snappier take-off, more punch for overtaking, and more-relaxed cruising due to a taller top gear ratio. 

As a result, the Pajero has the snappiest acceleration from rest and better open-road performance. The fact that its gearbox is very well-programmed to make the most of the engine’s punch is a further bonus, and ensures that the Mitsubishi walks away with an overall victory in the performance department.

Economy

All 3 manufacturers claim average fuel consumption figures in the low-8 ℓ/100 km region, but real-road driving reveals another picture. The Fortuner and Pajero Sport are undoubtedly the most economical in normal driving, largely due to their lower kerb weight, but the Pajero Sport also walks away with this crown, thanks to that rather clever gearbox and a very efficient engine.

Even just going on the (very optimistic) official claims, the Mitsubishi has (marginally) the lowest average consumption, but this gap grows on road, because it’s the only one of this trio to easily register sub-10 ℓ/100 km figures in daily driving. Not super-economical by any means, but not too bad for a big, heavy vehicle of this type. 

The Fortuner’s relative lack of power plays a similar role to the Everest’s weight, because their engines simply must work harder to move them around. This section is another win for the Pajero Sport, simply because it’s hardware and outputs are better matched to the work its driver requires. 

Practicality

The Everest makes a strong comeback in the practicality stakes, with by far the largest load volumes (with or without the seats in use), and the most spacious cabin as well. That extra size has gone into creating a truly massive boot, offering a gargantuan 1050 litres with 5 seats in use (the rearmost seat fold down into the boot floor). 

Being quite smaller than the Everest counts against the Pajero Sport in this department. Its rear seats also fold into the boot floor, but its loading volume maxes out at a comparatively skimpy 673 litres on offer with the third row folded away. Erect the third seating rows, and the Everest still offers a useable luggage compartment, while the others essentially end up with a little shelf behind seats number 6 and 7. 

The Fortuner is rather a mixed bag in this regard, with a larger luggage compartment volume than the Pajero Sport in 5-seater mode, but with intrusive third-row seats which fold up to the sides (instead of into the floor). This restricts the cargo bay’s width, even if it lowers the load floor, and ultimately compromises practicality to a significant degree. 

Overall practicality is a resounding win for the Everest: it has the largest passenger compartment and by far the most carrying capacity, no matter which seat configuration you use. The Pajero Sport comes second because its load bay is much more useable, even if there’s slightly less space than in the Fortuner. 

 Equipment and safety

There isn’t much to choose from between these three contenders in terms of safety kit, because they all come with traction- and stability control, ABS with EBD, and 7 airbags. Crash testing also yielded similar results, with ASEAN NCAP testing awarding 5 stars to all three vehicles. They’re also all equipped with ISOFIX child seat anchors in their middle seating rows. Suffice to say that families are equally safe in all of these three SUVs.

Standard equipment is somewhat a different story, though. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the Fortuner is a lot less expensive than the Pajero Sport and the Everest – a difference that’s partly explained by the Fortuner’s lower standard specification level. However, they all feature rear-view cameras, air-conditioning (with rear-seat vents), colour infotainment interfaces, leather upholstery, cruise control, and keyless access with pushbutton start.

The Pajero Sport and Everest both expand on this list by upgrading to climate control, and adding automatic controls for their headlights and wipers, auto-dimming interior mirrors, touchscreen infotainment interfaces with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and rear parking sensors. The Pajero Sport ups the ante with LED headlights and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, while the Everest gets parking sensors all round and standard navigation instead. 

Overall, the Pajero Sport offers the best-balanced spread of standard convenience features, and quite easily justifies its price premium over the Fortuner,  just by way of the extra toys in its cabin. The Everest runs it a close second, though, thanks to those extra parking sensors (a must-have in a vehicle this size) and navigation system.

Verdict

The Fortuner is more expensive than the three but the worst-in-group performance and is starved of modern contraptions inside compared to the two. It’s also the least practical of this group, and has the least-sophisticated running gear. However, if you’re adamant about buying an off-road capable 7-seater 4×4 SUV, the Fortuner 2.4GD-6 is the best of the bunch – just be aware of its limitations before you sign on the dotted line.

Separating the Everest and the Pajero Sport is much more difficult, as they each have much that is commendable. They’re both very well-equipped, very capable both on- and off-road, and they offer similar value propositions. The Ford’s strongest suit is its cavernous interior and massive cargo space, although this comes with the penalty of excess weight, higher thirst, and more difficult maneuverability on account of its oversized dimensions. 

Meanwhile, the Pajero Sport has less utility space than the Ford, but much better fuel consumption and sprightlier performance, and a more-refined drivetrain with the best selectable AWD system out there. With all these things considered, the Pajero Sport makes the most sense as a dual-purpose vehicle, thanks to its more parsimonious drinking habits, easier maneuverability, excellent LED headlights (an area where the Everest could do with much improvement), and slightly lower price. It’s the best choice between these 3 opponents, unless absolute loading capacity is paramount, in which case the runner-up Ford would become the undisputed king. 

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