Foton: 2014 Tunland 4×4 double cab ute review

Foton: 2014 Tunland 4×4 double cab ute review

There was a moment during my week with the Foton Tunland 4×4 where I realised, that if I’d driven down the road with a blind fold on, I could momentarily be forgiven for believing I was behind the wheel of a current generation Toyota Hilux, because the noise of the engine, the power delivery, the feel of the transmission shift, and the steering feel and ride quality were very similar if not damned near identical.

2014 Foton Tunland 4x4 rear tubYes the Hilux is an old design, and it’s due for replacement this year, and we’d hope that the new model is a quantum leap to give the Ford Ranger a run for the money, but it also shows that the Chinese have been very quick to catch on to what the market expects, and produce a light commercial vehicle with a level of sophistication, quality and technology thats mirrors an ageing Toyota.

It took the Korean manufacturers two decades to match the Japanese in terms of engineering and build quality and I don’t think the Chinese domestic manufacturers will be that far behind.

2014 Foton Tunland front cabinThe jarring disparity of course is that the entry level Hilux 4×4 double cab ute with a five speed manual gearbox has a starting retail price of $54,290 plus on road costs, while the Tunland is currently offered at $30,426 plus GST.

For the comparison record, the manual Ford Ranger 4×4 XL double cab ute starts from $54,940, the manual Mitsubishi Triton 4×4 GL double cab starts from $48,490, and the manual Holden Colorado LS 4×4 starts from $44,490.

Now of course the Toyota sales person will tell you that the Hilux 4×4 has a proven track record of 30 plus years, more dealerships across the country, a huge plethora of factory approved accessories, 5 star safety (on 4×4 models only), bullet proof resale value, etc etc.

But I look critically at the Foton from the point of view of a private buyer, and I think I’d get just as good a farm/trades/building/forestry workhorse for my money and save $20,000.

The Thai built Utes (which is now pretty much all mass market brands barring the VW Amarok) might have more safety 2014 Foton Tunland rear seats upspecifications and greater towing capacity, and a few more bells and whistles than the Chinese-built Tunland, but I don’t think they’d do the job of being a workhorse any better.

Technology and specification

Let’s be clear the major drivetrain components which make up the Tunland are very sound.

The Cummins 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, Getrag 5-speed gearbox, Dana axles, and the Bosch engine management unit and Bosch 4-channel ABS with EBD are all built under licence in China, but to European and American standards.

Unlike other Chinese ute makers, Foton haven’t used old technologies, they’ve gone out and sourced the best available yet still kept the price of their product affordable. And I’m sure there are future developments to come, such as ESP and more safety features.

It’s a Euro 4 compliant engine offering 120kW/3600rpm, and a torque figure of 360Nm/1400rpm with combined fuel consumption rated at 8.4L/100km, which isn’t bad for a vehicle weighing 1950kg.

So what else do you get for spending your hard earned thirty grand, well rather a lot actually.

The Tunland 4×4 offers leather upholstery, rear parking sensors, dual airbags, keyless entry with two stage door unlocking and window open/close function, powered side mirrors with defrost function, tilt adjusting steering wheel with controls for the Bluetooth, audio and cruise control.

There are ISOFIX child seat anchors (but no top tether points), theres a woodgrain-look trim around the dashboard and on the door cards, and while the acreage of plastic is hard to touch, it looks no worse than whats on offer in the Japanese utes, and I have no doubt it will be just as durable and easy to clean.

The cabin also provides plenty of grab handles (useful for off-roading) as well as cup and bottle holders, and storage places

Uniquely, the Tunland 4×4 gets a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) with a digital dash readout – this is especially handy for those folks who do go off road, and air down when in sandy and muddy conditions.

Sound quality from the audio unit is perfectly acceptable, and while the Tunland arrived with a Simply Red CD album in the driver’s door pocket, I didn’t have time to play it.

The Tunland is wider and more spacious inside than other Chinese offerings, and its on par with the Japanese. Rear seat passengers are treated extremely well thanks to the more relaxed seat back angle. The three person rear bench seat has a flip up seat base which allows large tool boxes or bags to be stowed in the cabin rather than in the rear tub.

Incidentally the rear tub comes with a plastic liner as well as fold back tie down hooks, theres a rear step in the rear bumper, and the Tunland is also equipped with daytime running lights up front and rear fog lamps at the back.

The American designed driver’s seat has 8-way adjustment including height, lumbar, fore-aft slide and recline. Over long distances its pretty darned comfortable.

Driving impressions

As I said at the beginning of the article, apart from the ornately chromed grille which gives away its Chinese origins the Tunland 4×4 could be mistaken for a Hilux, the engine noise, driving character, and ride quality on road, and on off is remarkably similar.

The overall design is also similar to the Hilux and Triton which gives the Tunland a distinctive presence on the road.

It’s not the quickest beast off the line, but that said, when you select low range for off-road work the torquey 2.8-litre Cummins comes into its own providing plenty of stump-pulling traction, and this feature will be very useful for slippery boat ramps as well as muddy stock yards or forestry roads.

The Hilux 4×4 has always ridden better off road than on, and the rear leaf-sprung axle of the Tunland is not far off with the same behaviour on tarmac. Unladen it is a bit jittery over city bumps, and because its a two tonne vehicle with a higher centre of gravity, you need to take a bit more care when slowing down for corners, especially when in the wet, or the tail might break loose.

On the plus side of the ledger the Tunland has nice big side mirrors, offering good visibility, and its very few blind spots which is excellent in a commercial vehicle.

Because its a European specification vehicle, you find the indicators are on the left hand stalk and wipers are on the right, that tripped me up once or twice, only managed to change lanes by indicating with the wipers twice!

When you fire the Cummins up theres no mistaking what lies beneath the bonnet but once you’ve selected fifth gear on the motorway the cabin is surprisingly quiet, and our test car which only had 580km on the clock showed an average fuel consumption figure of 8.6L/100km. Not bad given we’d been mainly driving in a urban environment.

It also stops pretty well for a two-tonne vehicle with a front disc rear drum braking system.

In summary the Tunland feels very solid on the road, and it feels very solidly built, nothing on the test vehicle creaked or rattled and I expect this ute will be trucking along quite happily in ten years time in the same condition.

If I were a Japanese ute manufacturer I’d be watching the Tunland 4×4 sales figures very carefully this year as word gets out and people vote with their cheque books.

Facts and figures:

Warranty: 3 Years/100,000km
Service Interval: 6mths/10,000km
Safety: 2 Airbags, Abs, Ebd
Crash Rating: Not Tested
Engine: 2.8-litre, 4-cyl Turbo-diesel; 120kw/360nm
Transmission: 5-spd Manual, 2-spd Transfer; Part-time 4wd
Thirst: 8.4l/100km; 222g/km Co2
Dimensions: 5.3m (l), 1.8m (w), 1.8m (h)
Towing capacity: 2500kg (braked) 750kg (non braked)
Payload: 1025kg
Weight: 2025kg
Spare: Full Size
Fuel tank capacity: 76 Litres

Price: $30,426 plus GST

Words and pictures:

 

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