Johannesburg - When you reach my age you notice that certain sounds and smells can trigger flashbacks. I still recall with nostalgia the smell of the wet hair of a girl I had a crush on when I was 17, as we lay cuddled up in the rain in the back of a Toyota bakkie at a drive-in cinema way back in 1979.
But not all smells bring a nostalgic smile to my face, one of them being that funny odour found in some Chinese manufactured vehicles. Perhaps it is the material they use, but it takes getting used to. So it came as no surprise the first time I got into the Chinese-made JMC Vigus double cab to encounter that odour again. Admittedly I soon became used to it, but it does put one off.
On test was the top-of-the-range 4x4 SLX 2.4 Vigus turbodiesel model which at R379 999 is priced slightly below an established rival such as the Isuzu KB double cab 4x4 with similar power outputs and costing R405 900, indicating that JMC consider their vehicle to be a direct competitor to vehicles such as the Isuzu, Hilux and Ranger. But the JMC is a mixed bag, falling short of the standards set by those rivals.
The JMC has a striking enough appearance from the outside with side steps and wheelarch flares, and on more than one occasion I noticed people stopping to look at it.
PACKED WITH KIT
Likewise the interior is pleasant enough with a well-thought out and functional dashboard, although the only touch of colour to enliven the black leather seats and dash are the silver inlay strips. But this ambience is spoilt by the lack of carpets, and instead the JMC has some sort of plasticky/rubbery flooring throughout the vehicle, that was creased and ill fitting, making us wonder whether the flooring was still a work in progress.
Spec levels are fairly comprehensive with air conditioning, a 6.5 inch touchscreen with DVD player, power windows and mirrors and reverse parking sensors. Satellite controls for the audio system are on the steering wheel, but the radio reception was intermittent and would keep fading.
The cabin is spacious with ample leg- and headroom in front, while passengers have enough legroom in the rear. The leather seats are comfortable although a bit on the soft side and could offer more support. The steering wheel can be adjusted for height but not for rake, but the driving position is comfortable. A handy glovebox between the front seats also serves as an armrest, and has a USB port inside.
The windscreen wipers are tiny while the windscreen washer emits a feeble stream of water but refilling the water reservoir made no difference. The dip beam on the headlights emits a weak glow that battles to light up the road when driving in poor conditions. The bright beam is fortunately better.
REASONABLE ENGINE, NOTCHY GEARSHIFT
The JMC is powered by a 2.4 turbodiesel engine which pulls strongly enough once it gets past a hole in the power delivery at lower revs and hits its powerband. Fuel consumption during a mix of driving conditions was 9.6l/100km, which although heavier than the claimed 8.2l/100km, remains fair for such a large vehicle. Ride quality was quite acceptable for a double cab, although it is not a vehicle for hard cornering.
Our biggest gripe with this double cab is the very stiff and notchy gearshift. Selecting first gear when stationary is not intuitive as we would sometimes inadvertently select third gear and then stall the JMC on pull away. The short first gear is understandable for when carrying heavy loads, but doesn’t make for a seamless pull away from traffic lights as you have to gun the throttle to overcome the turbo lag and then promptly gear up to second. The gearshift is also placed too close to the fascia which becomes noticeable when selecting the third and fifth gears.
The double cab has solid off-roading credentials with 226mm high ground clearance, and the option of switching over from two-wheel drive to four-wheel-high or four-wheel-low drive while on the fly. The torquey motor gives it ample grunt for powering over obstacles.
The JMC comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty, five-year/60 000km service plan and 24hrs roadside assist. Service intervals are every 10 000km. There are 11 dealers in the country and to find a dealer in your area you can go to: www.jmcsa.co.za/find-a-dealer/
The JMC Vigus double cab comes close to being a vehicle you could like, but fails in the execution in some key areas, particularly when being compared to price rivals such as the Isuzu KB double cab. It could be better compared to cheaper rivals such as the Tata Xenon 4x4 double cab which costs almost R100 grand less. Ultimately it’s a case of close, but no cigar for JMC.