What we have in front of us today are two vehicles that look very different but are actually quite similar in terms of what they are. At their very core is the same purpose to be luxury laden, comfortable and practical city vehicles. Standing at one end of the fight arena is a petrol version of the Toyota Fortuner. It is the first time that Toyota has brought such an option for the SUV and with issues like the diesel vehicle ban as well as change in customer choice, it seems like a right time for a petrol version of the Fortuner. However, jostling for space in the same price bracket is the traditional choice which is a sedan and in this case it’s the Skoda Superb in petrol guise. This plus sized Czech sedan has long been the favoured choice of buyers in the entry-level premium segment and its latest generation has managed to gain a strong visual identity. So which is better? the Skoda Superb or the Toyota Fortuner...read on to find out.
Design, features and practicality
Before we start digging around, here are some of the statistics to give you feel of both cars. The Toyota Fortuner is 4.79-metres and has a wheelbase of 2.74-metres while the Superb is longer at 4.86-metres and has a longer wheelbase of 2.84 metres making it the bigger of the two.
At its heart, the Skoda Superb is all about the rear seat. There is ample amount leg room, knee room and because you sit a bit low headroom also. Sitting in the left rear seat will also give you the option of using the boss button for even more leg room. The car we tested was the top-of-the-line Laurin and Klement model whose cabin has been trimmed out in a shade called ‘stone beige’ with piano black plastics. One of the major selling points of the Superb is the boot which is 625-litres and with the seats folded down expands to a massive 1760-litres making it one of the largest in the market.
Consequently, the Toyota Fortuner is all about space maximisation. It is a seven-seater which means it ticks off the checklist in the buyers’ head about offering more inside the cabin. The third row might be quite cramped and is best suited for short journeys and little kids but it’s a third row of seats and that means you can take two or three more people along rather than having to take a second vehicle.
The Fortuner may have a high loading lip but benefits from the seats in the second and third row being flexible. They can be folded in a variety of combinations to offer more storage solutions and this is combined with the wide cabin space is a boon when you have big bags or boxes.
There is very little to separate both the cars in terms of features with the Skoda having a slight upper hand thanks to the presence of a sunroof, ventilated seats and three zones for the climate control. The Superb further manages to edge out the Fortuner in terms of fit and finish. As compared to the Superb’s dashboard layout the Fortuner’s feel cluttered. However, regular usage will reveal that most of the elements are ergonomically placed and fall easily to hand.
We felt that the Superb’s screen for the infotainment system is a bit small for a car in this price category. It does though feel richer to use as compared to the Fortuner’s which is slower to respond in terms of touch and feel.
The contrast between the two cars is evident in their powerplants. The Toyota Fortuner gets a naturally aspirated 2.7-litre engine producing 164bhp/245Nm with power going to the rear wheels via a six-speed AT. The Superb on the other hand gets a modern turbo-charged 1.8-litre engine producing 177bhp/250Nm of torque with power going to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG.
Their very designs indicate two different experiences. The Fortuner is a naturally aspirated engine and revvs much slower through the range and as a result prefers smoother shifts at higher rpms over quick ones. The six-speed gearbox is actually quite smooth and shifts from gear to gear in a near seamless manner. However, because the Fortuner is quite big and heavy, overtakes need to be planned in advance and you also find yourself getting on the brakes more often. If you drive the car the way it’s meant to be driven, then once you build up momentum, there is sufficient punch to keep it going, although at high revvs, the engine is quite audible. In terms of numbers the Fortuner did the 0-100kmph sprint in 8.9 seconds while the 20kmph-80kmph roll on took 7.89 seconds while the 40kmph to 100kmph sprint was achieved in 10.24 seconds.
The Superb on the other hand with its turbocharged direction-injection petrol engine feels much quicker. The gearbox responds well when you need to perform a pass and since you hit peak torque at quite a low rpm there is a lot of punch from the word go. On a side note, it also makes a lovely sound when you rev it hard both while upshifting and downshifting. The Superb is for obvious reasons much faster than the Fortuner and took 8.9 to go from 0-100kmph and 4.92 seconds to do the sprint from 20kmph-80kmph mark. Finally, the 40-100kmph roll on time was 5.86 seconds. Our tests also revealed that the Superb achieved 8.9kmpl in the city and 13.1kmpl on the highway as compared to the Fortuner’s 7 kmpl and 9.8kmpl respectively.
We believe that the duo’s buyers will use them primarily in the city much more than out on the highway which means a focus on the low speed ride. The Skoda sits lower and is better in terms of weight distribution it does ride which means it handles better despite being on the softer side. Most bumps and imperfections are dealt without sending much back into the cabin. On the other side the Fortuner is audible and sends quite a bit back when you hit a rough patch. One would argue that the ladder-on-frame chassis underpinnings tends to compound this problem but then again the Tata Hexa is also a ladder-on-frame design but has a much nicer low speed ride and this despite it being on the stiffer side.
Where the Fortuner hits back is its talent to deal with our roads. Its massive 265/55 section tyres and 220mm ground clearance means you can drive over pretty much any obstacle, speed hump or pothole without worrying about damaging the underpinnings. The Superb on the other hand at 164mm just suffices when it comes to ground clearance and will require you to approach speeds breakers and large pot holes with a lot of caution.
The Fortuner is also easier to deal with when it comes to navigating your way around in traffic. Because it is so tall, the four corners of the cars are easier to see. The same can’t be said about the Superb. It is marginally wider than the Fortuner but can be handful thanks to poor rear visibility courtesy a narrow glass section. This can be quite cumbersome when you have to deal with our unruly two-wheeler and three wheeler traffic.
The Skoda Superb and the Toyota Fortuner today are established players in this part of the market and have the patronage of two distinct set of buyers. With its typical quiet European demeanour, the Superb is popular among those who like to control the situation from the behind the scenes. The Fortuner, on the other hand, is a popular choice for those who like to make an entrance and stamp their presence.
Given that SUVs are the current popular choice today, the introduction of a petrol variant has opened the doors for a whole new set of buyers for this SUV. With its ability to go anywhere and massive presence, the Fortuner is now a byword for anyone wanting to make a statement.
But it should be pretty obvious by now that the Superb has come out on top in every round giving us equally strong reasons to call it a statement maker. It feels nicer to drive, better built and in this generation finally exudes a good presence making it a better offering among the two and proving that bigger is not always better.
Photos: Kapil Angane