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Holden Trailblazer, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2016 review


Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the Holden Trailblazer, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Tough off-road wagons based on one-tonne utilities are wrestling their way back into family duties.

Remember when a four-wheel drive could actually venture off-road?

Well, the good news — or bad, depending on whether you're driving one or stuck behind it — is that heavy-duty off-roaders are making a comeback.

A new generation of family wagons based on one-tonne ute underpinnings has been selling up a storm in the past 12 months and now it's Holden's turn to cash in with the Trailblazer, a go-anywhere wagon based on the Colorado ute.

To check its credentials we took it bush with two rivals, Toyota's Fortuner and Mitsubishi's Pajero Sport.

Holden Trailblazer

  • 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT. 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT.
  • 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT. 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT.
  • 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT. 2016 Holden Trailblazer LT.

Big and bold, the Trailblazer is aimed at the full-sized family that wants to tow or tackle the Canning Stock Route. Or both.

Competitively priced against its rivals at $49,890 drive-away for the LT model, the Trailblazer hooks up your phone to the centre screen via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, giving you access to music, text messages and Google maps.

The technology is a highlight in a cabin that is essentially no-frills, with hard shiny plastic surfaces mixed with seat fabrics that are built for durability rather than aesthetic appeal.

 The third-row seat is comfortable for grown adults and easily the most spacious of these three, while the second row has ample leg and headroom.

On the rear elbow rests, there is hard plastic where its rivals have cloth. The knobs and switches are bulky and notchy, the digital readout in the instrument panel is rudimentary and the steering wheel adjusts for height but not reach, making it hard to find a comfortable driving position.

The lack of finesse is balanced by truly family-friendly dimensions. The third-row seat is comfortable for grown adults and easily the most spacious of these three, while the second row has ample leg and headroom. Each row gets aircon vents and there are ample cup and bottle holders.

You also get a 2.8-litre engine that outpunches its rivals with 147kW of power and a healthy 500Nm of torque, yet uses just 8.5L/100km. Towing capacity is 3000kg and off-road credentials include a 600mm wading depth (the other two are 700mm) and ground clearance of 213mm.

On the bitumen and the dirt the Trailblazer can't hide its truck underpinnings. The steering is vague and tends to wander on the freeway, while the suspension gets upset by bigger bumps. On dirt roads with potholes, it can be a handful.

It's not alone in this regard — the Toyota and Mitsubishi have their foibles — but it feels less refined and composed.

As with all these vehicles, if you don't need to tow three tonnes or venture off-road, you'd be better off with a soft-roader.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

  • 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
  • 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
  • 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

There's nothing remotely sporty about Mitsubishi's Triton-based wagon — apart from the paddle-shifters on the steering column — but it hides its working-class origins better than the Holden.

Our test car was the $45,000 GLX five-seater, but we also ran the ruler over the seven-seat GLS, which starts at $48,500 plus on-roads. Apart from the extra seats, the GLS has dual-zone aircon, auto wipers and headlights, more storage underfloor and leather appointed seats.

The interior is a clear step up from the Trailblazer, with better quality fabrics, more modern graphics on both the centre screen and instrument panel, as well as piano black and chrome highlights on some surfaces. The electric park brake, digital speedo and push-button start add to the upmarket feel.

On the road the Pajero also feels more refined, transmitting less road noise and soaking up bumps better.

The third row seats, though not as spacious as the Holden, would be OK for teens or smaller adults on short trips and the aircon extends to all three rows. The rear load area opening is noticeably narrower than its rivals.

On the road the Pajero also feels more refined, transmitting less road noise and soaking up bumps better, although the softer suspension becomes jiggly over road corrugations.

The engine can't match the Holden's grunt but the eight-speed auto shifts smoothly and keeps the power and torque on tap. It's entirely adequate for family transport, although it has that unmistakeable diesel rattle on takeoff and around town. The Mitsubishi tows 3100kg.

On the dirt, the Pajero Sport's vague steering and sometimes skittish suspension are on par with the Trailblazer — both call for cautious driving.

Toyota Fortuner

  • 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX. 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.
  • 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX. 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.
  • 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX. 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.
  • 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX. 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.
  • 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX. 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.

The Fortuner neatly bridges the gap between Toyota's Kluger soft-roader and heavy-duty Prado. It's a more modern design inside than the Prado, although don't expect the same cushioned ride.

The Fortuner is stiffly sprung and the car we used for these photos was a Crusade model with bigger tyres and a bumpy — at times verging on uncomfortable — ride on patchy surfaces. On the dirt, it will skip over corrugations and thump on potholes. The tyres on the GX are more comfortable.

In the plus column, it feels more car-like than the other two here on a winding road. The steering is sharper and has a meatier feel, while the suspension gives more control.

These combine for a more confident feel through the bends, with less body roll.

The cabin is cleverly laid out and well finished.

The engine is the least powerful of the three but it is reasonably refined for a diesel and lopes along the freeway quietly.

Inside, the Fortuner lands somewhere between the Trailblazer and the Pajero Sport. The centre touchscreen is modern-looking and the menus are easy to navigate, although it's difficult to hit the right part of the screen if you're driving on a bumpy surface.

There's a detailed trip computer readout in the instrument panel but no digital speedo.

The cabin is cleverly laid out and well finished. Thoughtful touches include a big, chilled centre console, double glove box and household power point in the second row for charging laptops on the go.

The third row seats fold up to each side to unlock a decent load area but the seats themselves are strictly for kids.

Verdict

These are purpose-built vehicles for buyers who are serious about enjoying the great outdoors. For part-time adventurers there are better, safer and cheaper options. Toyota's Fortuner is a better wagon than the Trailblazer but it also comes with a sizeable premium, costing $54,880 drive-away to the Colorado's $49,890. With its extra room and more grunt, the Trailblazer sneaks past the Toyota.

But it can't match the Pajero, despite the Mitsubishi's slightly higher price tag. The Pajero has the most upmarket cabin, it feels the most refined and it's the best value with a longer five-year warranty.

2016 Holden Trailblazer LT specifications

2016 Holden Trailblazer LT.

Price from: $47,990 plus on-roads
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Servicing costs: $1396 for 3 years
Service interval: 9 months/15,000km
Safety: 7 airbags, 5 stars
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/500Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; 4WD
Thirst: 8.6L/100km
Dimensions: 4887mm (L), 1902mm (W), 1840mm (H), 2845mm (WB)
Weight: 2194kg
Towing: 3000kg
Spare: Full-size

2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport specifications

2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

Price from: $48,500 plus on-roads
Warranty: 5 years/100,000km
Servicing costs: $1510 for 3 years
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Safety: 7 airbags, 5 stars
Engine: 2.4-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 133kW/430Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto; 4WD
Thirst: 8.0L/100km
Dimensions: 4785mm (L), 1815mm (W), 1805mm (H), 2800mm (WB)
Weight: 2100kg
Towing: 3100kg
Spare: Full-size

2016 Toyota Fortuner GX specifications

2016 Toyota Fortuner GX.

Price from: $49,990 plus on-roads
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Servicing costs: $1080 for 3 years
Service interval: 6 months/10,000km
Safety: 7 airbags, 5 stars
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/450Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; 4WD
Thirst: 8.6L/100km|
Dimensions: 4795mm (L), 1855mm (W), 1835mm (H), 2745mm (WB)
Weight: 2120kg
Towing: 2800kg
Spare: Full-size

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