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Is JMC's affordable bakkie up to scratch?

Road tests
Johannesburg - Chinese brand Jiangling Motors Co (JMC), which has been operating in South African since 2010, recently introduced a new Boarding single cab bakkie with a cleaner 2.8-litre diesel engine conforming to Euro IV emissions standards.

It lets you lug loads with a cleaner conscience about the effect on the environment, and though the price has risen as a consequence, the Boarding’s still one of the most affordable one-tonners you can buy.

The standard 4x2 version retails for R194 880 and comes with key-operated central locking, an audio system and electric windows, while there’s an LX model (on test here) that adds a couple of additional comforts like aircon and faux leather seats for an extra R10 000. Both Boarding derivatives can be ordered with optional ABS brakes for five grand more but you sadly don’t get any airbags – not even as an extra-cost option.

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JMC Boarding has great ground clearance and big load space.

Both Boarding versions get a radio/CD player but our test car’s radio had poor reception.

The payload is a full one ton and the ground clearance is usefully high 185mm which is suited to tackling rough farm roads. But you’ll ideally want to drive bumpier surfaces with a decent-sized load in the back as the ride – as is typical for a one-ton workhorse – is chronically bouncy with the bay empty.

In terms of interior quality finish this Chinese vehicle seems reasonable for a workhorse. There’s lots of hard, scratchy plastic but the fit and finish seems decent. That said, there was a loose plastic panel rolling around in the footwell that had unclipped from somewhere.

There’s good head and elbow room inside the two-seater cabin but the seat backrests aren’t able to tilt very far in this single cab. However there is some leeway for different-sized drivers due to the height-adjustable steering column.

Some features have not been properly thought through. The slippery underside of the floor mat made it slide around the driver’s footwell, which is irritating and could become a driving hazard; I decomissioned the mat and stuffed it behind the seat.

Also, the lid of the storage binnacle between the seats can’t be fully opened as it snags against the cabin’s rear bulkhead – clearly an afterthought feature.

The new 2.8 engine’s slightly more powerful (by 4kW and 10Nm) than the more polluting Euro II version, but with 88kW and 245Nm it’s still rather under endowed for its size. Diesel rivals like the Ford Ranger 2.2, Tata Xenon 2.2, Nissan NP300 2.5, and Toyota Hilux 2.4 all muster a lot more from smaller engines. That said, most of them are much more expensive than the JMC and in terms of power-per-penny the Boarding outpowers its closest price rival, the GWM Steed 2.0.

The new Euro IV engine may be more environmentally friendly but it’s not too easygoing on the eardrums. It’s overwhelmingly noisy, and you never manage to drown out that diesel’s tractor-like clatter even when you crank up the audio system’s volume.

The JMC pulls reasonably well and has a gutsy torque delivery without any major turbo lag, and when unladen it is able to maintain the 120km/* speed limit. The factory-claimed fuel conomy is 8 litres per 100km, but expect this to rise with a load on board.

The five-speed manual gearshift is somewhat sticky but it slips into its gates positively and you don’t tend to miss gears. There’s some play in the steering which doesn’t promote too much confidence in cornering, but the Boarding maintains decent directional stability in a straight line.

VERDICT

This blue-collar 4x2 bakkie from China is a competitively-priced workhorse and comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty and roadside assistance, with an optional service plan.

The fact that it’s based on a previous-generation Isuzu may help appease those still wary of Chinese vehicles. The Boarding seems capable of an honest day’s work and the turbodiesel engine delivers reasonably gutsy pulling power. But bring earplugs.

JMC VS RIVALS

JMC Boarding 2.8 TD LXR209 88084kW/235NmABS, no airbags
Ford Ranger 2.2 R239 90088kW/285NmTwo airbags and ABS optional
Foton Tunland 2.8 TD Comfort R209 99596kW/280NmOne airbag and ABS
GWM Steed 5 2.0 WGT R199 90078kW/225NmNo airbags or ABS
Isuzu KB250R236 50058kW/170NmNo airbags or ABS
Mahindra Scorpio Pik-up 2.2CRDeR223 99589kW/290NmTwo airbags and ABS
Nissan NP300 2.5 TDiR233 90098kW/304NmNo airbags or ABS
Tata Xenon 2.2R219 995110kW/320NmTwo airbags and ABS
Toyota Hilux 2.4 GD R272 100110kW/343NmOne airbag and ABS

IOL Motoring

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