Can the Toyota Fortuner’s third-row seats be easily removed? And is it even legal?

WHEN WE TESTED the Toyota Fortuner earlier this year one of the things we did with it was to go touring, because that’s what Fortuner owners are likely to do.

Despite what Toyota claim, the Fortuner is no diesel Kluger, it’s focused on offroad touring. So much so the interior and other aspects of the vehicle suffer; for example the third row is poorly implemented. The Fortuner has the old-style fold-up seats and there’s little room in the back with them in place. There’s also no easy way to remove them, and Toyota don’t offer any instructions. We decided to remove one seat anyway because many people will try. Removal was easy, just a few moments with tools after removing a trim panel – but refitting was a major pain. It also left an unsightly gap in the trim, more indication the seat was meant to be fixed in place and not removed.

However, cars like the Fortuner attract a lot of resourceful enthusiasts and now on the Fortuner forum there’s clear instructions about how to remove and then replace the seats, and apparently it takes just 15 minutes to remove and replace one seat. And in the spirit of such threads, another user posted about how to fill in the trim panel gap. Here’s the thread: 

Thanks to reader Dave for pointing this thread out to us. This is exactly why we recommend people spend time on forums dedicated to the Fortuner, and linked to that forum in the original review. With enough eyes and brains on a job lots of things get solved and worked around, such is the power of a good forum. 

Now does this invalidate our earlier comment that the seats are hard to remove and replace? Yes and no. It’s easier than we thought, but if you need to pull trim off and get socket sets out, and follow a set of instructions then it’s not easy. The Fortuner’s cargo space is limited by the seats so tourers and others will often want to remove them. And if you want to switch from 7 (or 6) seat configuration to 5 then the effort required is unlikely to be convenient when compared to vehicles that have easy fold-flat systems such as the Ford Everest, Toyota Prado or Land Rover Discovery, or those that have easier to remove third-row seats. When I owned a Discovery 3 I found it very handy to be able to convert it from a tourer with a shelf to a seven-seater in no more than eight-minutes as my shelf system was lift-in, lift-out and secured by four turnbuckles. 

A related question is whether removing the third-row seats is even legal. The answer is that it is, at least in Victoria: That also covers removal of the second row too. Other states are likely to be the same, but do check. In general, the “lift to the side” style of seats takes up more room than the fold-flat. Some people do remove the fold-flat versions and use the space for storage, usually water tanks, but most simply leave the fold-flat seats in place, especially those who need to convert to and from a 7-seater. 

We very much value informed opinion from readers here at Practical Motoring, and for more examples of where readers have added a lot of useful information take a look at the comments on our LC200 review.

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  1. I have a fortuner and have removed the rear seats for trips and put back in when i get back
    takes me 10 minutes max.. not difficult at all and I am no expert on the tools.

    I like the removable seats as it gives lots of room once they are out (and not just folded into the floor)

  2. Title funny ” is it even legal ” nothing illegal about a back seat coming out and who cares if it’s no ..,

  3. Pura Vida 🤙🏽 We live in Costa Rica and have a 2012 Fortuner SR5 3.0D4D. I will give it a go to remove the 3rd row seats and post my efforts.
    Question: I’ve had the car parked in the garage and the tires and/or axles are locked when I go to drive the car next and this has happened at least 4 times now. I left the car in 1st gear when stopping and turning off, not using the parking brake. Is this the differential lock system malfunctioning? I rock the car forward in 1st gear and back in reverse and the lock disengages. What am I doing wrong and has anyone else experienced this? Or is this an indication of a more serious problem?
    Thanks for input!

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