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The XLT 4WD Sport has a bold black mesh radiator grille and striking 20-inch black alloy wheels. Picture: SUPPLIED
The XLT 4WD Sport has a bold black mesh radiator grille and striking 20-inch black alloy wheels. Picture: SUPPLIED

Bakkie-based SUVs such as the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu M-UX and Ford Everest transform their 1-tonne payloads into passenger space for similar or less money than conventional SUVs, and they can be luxurious.

The XLT 4WD Sport is a more recent addition to the Everest range and it is styled with a bold black mesh radiator grille and striking 20-inch black alloy wheels, with LED headlamps and daytime running lights as standard equipment.

If you seek practicality you’ve come to the right place as Ford’s seven-seater is aimed at families too big for most modern-day crossover SUVs.

Clambering up the side step you’ll find a cabin that’s spacious and high up. The vehicle’s size can make reversing in tight spaces a bit of a chore, but fortunately rear parking sensors and a camera feed are supplied as standard. The interior also doesn’t shout “bakkie”, and the swathes of black and soft-touch surfaces, leather seats embossed with Sport lettering and a digital dash display create a suitably luxurious atmosphere.

Levers allow the backs of the seats to recline for easy access to the third row. The rearmost row also felt deep and more accommodative for adults than those found in more conventional seven-seater SUVs. The seats can fold down to create a cavernous space to load large items.

Electrically adjusted front seats, keyless entry and start, Ford Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system with voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a navigation system with Tracks for Africa are standard fare.

The formula of fitting a spacious cabin atop a bakkie chassis has always been a winning combination for SA. Long distances and rough terrain require robust internals. The Ford Everest engine line-up is varied and includes four engines, rear drive or 4x4 exclusively paired with six or 10-speed automatic transmission choices.

It's a neat and professional interior with voice command and touch-screen operation. Picture: SUPPLIED
It's a neat and professional interior with voice command and touch-screen operation. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Everest XLT Sport gets a 132kW and 400Nm single turbo 2.0l engine that’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and it isn’t quite meek for a car this size. It doesn’t need to be worked hard to get up to speed, and it maintains momentum even on steep inclines. Ford says it’ll average 7.1l/100km but it used 9.5l/100km during its stay with us.

Outside the blocky design another reason it consumes Ranger Raptor levels of fuel are the underpinnings. Unlike all of its rivals the Everest has a permanent 4x4 system that can’t be switched to two-wheel drive to save fuel. The XLT Sport is available as a separate 2WD-only model.

Though I didn’t get a chance to use the 4WD at real off-road obstacles where its low range and diff-locks could be tested, based on the experience with its Ranger Sport cousin the 4WD is very capable.

The Everest’s commercial chassis does allow for driving dynamics that are inspiring enough. It doesn’t wallow much when pushed hard into bends and there’s a decent suite of electronic safety aids to keep it firmly on its wheels. Though not far behind newer and more refined iterations of the Fortuner and MU-X in the refinement stakes, it wafts gracefully when driven in a relaxed driving mood.

Judged against its segment rivals from Isuzu, Mitsubishi and Toyota, the more expressive Everest XLT Sport 4WD is lacking the brake assist function found in all its competitors, but on the plus side it has a high level of standard features in the segment. The service plan is optional instead of being force-fed to customers.

If it were possible to select a 2WD mode for everyday frugality, the Everest would be in with a shot for the best all-round value. Also, the all-new Everest is just around the corner with an expected local arrival later this year.

Terrain mode, low range gearing and rear diff-lock are available in 4WD models but it has no 2WD mode. Picture: SUPPLIED
Terrain mode, low range gearing and rear diff-lock are available in 4WD models but it has no 2WD mode. Picture: SUPPLIED

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Four-cylinder diesel turbo

Capacity: 2.0l

Power: 132kW

Torque: 400Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: 10-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Permanent 4WD

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel Consumption: 7.1l/100km (claimed), 9.5l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 187g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

RearPark distance control, cruise control, USB ports, multifunction steering wheel controls, electric folding mirrors, auto on/off lights, rain sensor wipers, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless central locking, hill descent control, ABS brakes, stability control and seven airbags.

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Four years/120,000km

Maintenance plan: Optional

Price: R734,000

Lease*: R15,689 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Ford Everest 2.0 SiT 4WD XLT Sport

WE LIKE: Cushy ride, spacious cabin, features

WE DISLIKE: Fuel consumption

VERDICT: Brilliant family wagon with a single foible

Motor News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * *

Ride * * * *

Handling * * * *

Safety * * * *

Value For Money * * * *

Overall * * * *

The Competition

Isuzu M-UX 3.0TD LS 4x4, 140kW/450Nm — R771,600

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 DI-D 4x4 Exceed, 133kW/430Nm — R739,995

Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4x4, 110kW/400Nm — R658,200  

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