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Top 5 Base-Spec 4×4 Wagons

Basic is often best when you want to travel off-road or into remote areas. Here are the Top 5 base-spec 4×4 wagons currently on the Aussie market for proper adventuring.

  1. Toyota 76 LandCruiser Workmate ($63,740+ORC)

Nothing adheres the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principal quite like Toyota’s 76 LandCruiser Wagon, which is exactly what you want when heading deep into the outback where things can go wrong and you’re a long way from help.

LandCruiser Workmate

The 76 LandCruiser is an old-school 4×4 with a separate chassis, live axles front and rear, five-speed manual gearbox, a part-time 4×4 system and, in base-spec Workmate trim, unencumbered with fancy stuff like carpet and cloth trim. Yep, it’s all old-school vinyl inside the 76 Wagon, which is great when you’re jumping in and out of the vehicle in dirty, dusty or muddy conditions, because all you have to do to clean up later is wipe everything over with a damp cloth.

Gone are the Cruiser’s old split rims, these days replaced by one-piece 16-inch steel wheels that can take a beating in the bush and be easily repaired if they cop a hard knock. And the off-road-friendly 225/95R16 tyres offer plenty of sidewall for driving in extreme conditions.

The 76 Wagon scores the same lazy V8 turbo-diesel as its Troopie and Cab Chassis siblings, meaning there’s a handy 151kW of power available at 3400rpm and 430Nm of torque from a low 1200rpm through to 3200rpm. Low-range gearing is well suited to off-road crawling too, with an overall reduction in first gear of 44:1, and a 130L fuel tank provides a decent touring range. A generous 785kg payload means you can kit it out with accessories such as bull bar, winch and lights and still have plenty of load carrying capability.

Despite its bare bones simplicity, the 76 Wagon Workmate still has technology where it’s needed, and it comes standard with ABS, TC, VSC, HSA (Hill Start Assist), BA, EBD and front airbags. Oh, and there are some concessions to comfort, too, such as air conditioning and a Bluetooth compatible sound system with two speakers.

If you’re after a simple 4×4 wagon that can be kitted out with accessories and tailored to suit your bush-touring needs, the Toyota 76 LandCruiser Workmate tops the list.

  1. Toyota Fortuner GX ($42,590+ORC)

There was a time not so long ago that buyers paid a hefty premium to jump into a vehicle wearing a Toyota badge but, in an effort to grab a larger slice of market share, some Tojos are now significantly cheaper than their direct competitors, including the base-spec Fortuner GX, which undercuts its nearest rival (the $47,990 Holden Trailblazer LT) by a shade over $5k.

Toyota Fortuner GX

Based on the HiLux platform, the Fortuner is a basic yet robust bit of kit. It has a separate chassis, independent front suspension with MacPherson struts, a live-axle rear with coils, a six-speed manual gearbox (or optional six-speed auto) and a part-time 4×4 system. Its 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine makes a claimed 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 420Nm of torque from 1400-2600rpm, and decent low-range gearing aids slow-speed off-road driving, as does the standard rear diff lock and electronic traction control.

When originally launched, the Fortuner GX was equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, but an update in late-2017 saw these replaced with 17-inch alloys shod with 265/65R17 tyres. At this time the base-spec GX also scored rear parking sensors to go with its reversing camera. The standard equipment list is pretty basic, however, with the seven-seat Fortuner GX equipped with manual seat adjustment, durable cloth trim, manual front and rear air conditioning, a 7-inch display with Toyota Link and a cooler for the glovebox.

Standard safety equipment on the Fortuner GX includes seven airbags, ABS, TC, VSC, EBD, HSA (Hill Start Assist) and TSC (trailer sway control). The manual variant offers a class-standard 3000kg towing capacity.

The Fortuner has an 80-litre fuel tank which provides a reasonable touring range thanks to the economical nature of the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, and the 4×4 aftermarket caters to Fortuner owners with a full range of accessories.

Sure, the Fortuner might not be the best of the ute-based 4×4 wagons on the market, but it certainly represents great value for money, especially in bare-bones GX spec.

  1. Toyota Prado GX ($53,490+ORC)

What?! Another Toyota? Yes, and for good reason. Like its smaller Fortuner GX sibling, the base-spec Prado GX has everything you need for bush travel and not too much of the unnecessary ‘fruit’ that you’ll find on higher-specification (read: higher-priced) models.

Toyota Prado GX

The Prado has separate chassis architecture with independent front suspension and a live axle rear with coil springs. Like the Fortuner, the Prado is powered by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes a claimed 130kW of power at 3400rpm and 420Nm of torque from 1400-2600rpm mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, or 450Nm with the optional six-speed auto, which adds $3k to the price.

The Prado GX offers a generous 150L fuel capacity which results in a touring range in excess of 1000km, and it features a full-time 4×4 system with a lockable centre diff. Low-range reduction is excellent and the Prado offers a good combination of ground clearance and wheel travel for off-road forays.

The Prado is significantly larger than the Fortuner but if you opt for the manual transmission GX variant you’ll have to make do with five seats (third-row seats are optional on Prado GX auto). This results in a cavernous cargo area that’s well suited to carrying gear for extended trips into the bush. While the Prado GX manual has a generous 760kg payload capacity, those who want to haul a heavy trailer should note that maximum braked towing capacity is 2500kg with the manual transmission, increasing to 3000kg with the auto.

Standard equipment on the base-spec GX includes cloth trim, manual air conditioning, air-conditioned cool box, 8-inch colour touchscreen, satnav, smart entry and start system, and 17-inch alloy wheels with 265/65R17 tyres. On the safety front, the Prado GX manual has seven airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, TC, VSC, TSC (Trailer Sway Control) and a reversing camera. The Prado GX auto adds PCS (pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection), ACC (active cruise control), lane departure alert and auto high beam.

The Prado GX is an impressive base-spec 4×4 wagon that combines good on-road comfort with strong off-road capability and an impressive list of standard safety equipment.

  1. Mitsubishi Pajero GLX ($53,990+ORC)

There’s no denying the Mitsubishi Pajero is getting a little long in the tooth, but when the NM variant (on which the current model is based) was launched back in 2000, it was far more advanced than most of its competitors, and it’s still able to hold its head high today.

Pajero GLX

Unlike traditional separate chassis 4×4 wagons, the Pajero has a monocoque structure with fully independent suspension. Power comes courtesy a 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces a claimed 141kW of power at 3800rpm and 441Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and the Pajero GLX features Mitsubishi’s excellent Super Select II 4WD system that can be run in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive on the road, and 4WD-locked off the road in high or low. A standard rear diff lock complements the electronic traction control system.

One of the Pajero’s strengths is its relatively sporty on-road handling courtesy its fully independent suspension design. While this suspension set-up doesn’t translate into a lot of wheel travel for off-road driving, the Pajero’s traction control system and rear diff lock make up for it, and off-road capability is impressive. The Pajero GLX offers a good 775kg payload capacity and class-standard 3000kg maximum braked towing capacity, while the 88-litre fuel tank provides a decent touring range.

Even in bare-bones GLX trim, the seven-seat Pajero is still a relatively well-equipped 4×4 wagon, with standard gear including 18-inch alloys with 265/60R18 tyres, privacy glass, roof rails, fog lights, LED DRLs, cloth trim and carpet, front and rear zone climate control air conditioning, keyless entry and a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Standard safety gear on Pajero GLX includes six airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, traction control, stability control and reversing camera.

Despite a $53,990 list price, the Mitsubishi has recently been advertising the Pajero GLX for as little as $49,990 drive-away, making this well-equipped base-spec 4×4 wagon exceptional value for money.

  1. Holden Trailblazer LT ($47,990+ORC)

It’s no secret that the Trailblazer shares its underpinnings with the MU-X, and it was tempting to list the ever-popular Isuzu wagon in this list instead of the Holden, but the latter’s keen pricing and more potent turbo-diesel engine push the Trailblazer LT over the line.

2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ Review

Like all of the ute-based wagons, the Holden Trailblazer LT has a separate chassis with independent front suspension and a live-axle rear with coil springs. It’s powered by a potent 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that punches out an impressive 147kW of power at 3600rpm and 500Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The engine is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed auto and the Trailblazer has a part-time 4×4 system with a two-speed transfer case.

As you’d expect, on-road performance is strong, with an abundance of torque low in the rev range. While the Trailblazer offers good low-range reduction (37:1 in first), off-road capability is let down by limited ground clearance and a traction control system that’s not as effective as some competitors. The standard limited-slip rear differential is also not as effective as a rear locker. But these minor quibbles are nothing that can’t be resolved by fitting an aftermarket suspension kit and a rear diff lock.

The seven-seat Trailblazer LT offers a generous interior and a 626kg payload capacity, along with the class standard 3000kg maximum braked towing capacity. The 76L fuel tank isn’t huge so, with a real-world fuel consumption figure of around 11L/100km, you can expect a safe touring range of around 700km.

In base-spec LT trim, the Trailblazer is equipped 17-inch alloy wheels with 255/65R17 tyres, roof rails, cloth trim and carpet, a 7-inch colour touchscreen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto, multi-function display with trip computer, keyless entry and fog lights.

There’s plenty of standard safety equipment on the bare-bones Trailblazer LT, including rear park assist and reverse camera, electronic stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, trailer sway control and a full complement of airbags.

At just $47,990, with an automatic transmission, the Holden Trailblazer LT is currently one of the all-time bargain 4×4 wagons. And despite its base-spec status, it has enough on- and off-road performance and enough standard equipment to make you feel like you’re not driving a poverty-pack special.

Question: What vehicles do you think we should have placed on our list?

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Dean Mellor

Dean Mellor