I feel genuinely sorry for the vehicles competing against the Toyota Fortuner. Take Ford’s Everest and Chevrolet’s Trailblazer as two examples.
They’re both backed by renowned international motor manufacturers and both have received solid reviews across the motoring media spectrum. But when it comes to SUV sales in South Africa, they’ve played second fiddle to their Japanese rival for some time – and with good reason, many will say.
As if competing against the impressive Toyota wasn’t tough enough, the task at hand for the Everest has just got a little tougher due to Ford’s badly dented image in the wake of the Kuga saga.
Then there’s the Trailblazer, a decent vehicle in every way. It’s big, brawny, comfortable, spacious, well-specced and will effortlessly meet the needs of your average South African family. Yet, despite all its great features it doesn’t sell even close to as many units as the Fortuner.
Perhaps that’s a selling point for the Chev then, because as a Trailblazer owner you’ll at least get to enjoy some semblance of individualism. That and the fact it doesn’t have the quirky folding mechanism for the third row seats found in the Toyota.
For those not aware, the rear seats in the Fortuner fold up and to the side, which limits packing space in the back.
The counter argument is that the seats can be removed, but I much prefer Trailblazer’s system where the seats fold forwards and flat – it’s far more convenient.
Although Dispatch Motoring spent time with the Trailblazer in October last year, we were recently invited to get reacquainted with the seven-seater SUV on a trip to Magoebaskloof in Limpopo province.
It’s a spectacularly beautiful region of the country but one that many East Londoners don’t get to due to the distance from the city.
If you ever find yourself in the area, though, make sure you allow enough time to explore the many forest tracks and take part in some of the adventure activities on offer including tubing, canopy tours or kloofing in the Groot Letaba River.
I liked the revised Trailblazer from the moment I set eyes on it last year, especially the Z71 version with its black decals and black rims. It proved highly capable on and off the road, too, as we drove the Bastervoetpad Pass near Ugie.
After these three recent days of driving on tar and dirt, as well as tackling a testing 4×4 obstacle course, nothing has changed – I still find it a highly competent vehicle.
Serious 4×4 owners will point out that the Trailblazer doesn’t have a diffloc but instead comes with a rear limited slip diff.
During our Magoebaskloof adventure we traversed steep, muddy inclines and declines, slippery mountain passes, stream crossings and even the odd boulder crawl using both 4-high and -low range.
At one stage, the conditions were rough and slow, requiring low-range first gear.
Not once did the Trailblazer 2.8D Z71 model I drove feel like it was over-extended, and it completed every task asked of it.
In fact, while under the watchful eye of a group of offroad instructors, a few novice 4×4 drivers were able to get behind the wheel and tackle the same obstacle course with little problem, which said a lot about the vehicle’s capabilities.
I doubt the majority of Trailblazer owners will take their vehicles over the extreme terrain we drove. In fact the 4×2 models, which are significantly cheaper, will probably meet the needs of most drivers.
Which brings me to my point. There’s a lot to consider when buying a vehicle, especially when looking at large SUVs which retail from R450 000 upwards. These include personal styling preferences, your needs, price, reliability, service and maintenance costs or options and resale value.
When these issues are taken into account – especially the latter – it’s understandable that the Toyota has fared so well over the years, as it pretty much ticks all the boxes.
However, there is no doubt the revised Trailblazer has significantly closed the gap on the Fortuner, and is a very attractive proposition with its tumble flat seven-seat configuration, generous equipment, safety levels and established engines. dispatch.co.za
● Trailblazer is backed by Chevrolet’s Complete Care after-sales package with a five-year/120 000km warranty and a five-year and 90 000km service plan.
Trailblazer 2.5 LT 4×2 M/T R471000
Trailblazer 2.5 LT 4×2 A/T R489100
Trailblazer 2.8 LTZ 4×2 A/T R562800
Trailblazer 2.8 LTZ 4×4 A/T R624300
Trailblazer 2.8 Z71 4×4 A/T R634500