ROAD TEST: Foton Tunland Single Cab 2.8 Luxury
Foton's Tunland bakkie has been making waves among those who've driven and rated it. Quite frankly, this is the first bakkie to come out of China that can really hold its head high among its mainstream rivals from Japan. That's not to say it's exactly "as good" in every respect - rather it shines as a "very nearly there" offering at a much lower price. At least in double cab guise.
Foton recently expanded the range with two high-rider 4x2 single cab models (Comfort and Luxury) as well as a lower-riding workhorse - effectively expanding the range into the real heartland of the hard-working bakkie world.
The Luxury model featured here costs R249 950 and it's likely to appeal to farmers or other private buyers that would like to veer off the beaten track from time to time. Foton calls it an 'Off Road' model due to its 220mm ground clearance and limited-slip differential that will give it some ability on rough roads - but it doesn't feature four-wheel drive. For that, you'll need to stretch your budget to a R369 950 double cab.
Easily the Tunland's best asset, as far as I'm concerned, is its Cummins 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine, which is fitted across the range. The single cabs get a less powerful version of the engine, rated at 96kW and 280Nm (down from 120kW/360Nm) although it certainly doesn't feel short-changed out on the open road.
I transported a large and heavy load of furniture from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng in our test unit and I was impressed by the willingness of this engine. Even Van Reenen's Pass proved no match for the Tunland - chugging its way up the steep inclines, it effortlessly kept up with faster traffic as if it had forgotten there was a load on the back.
It simply has chunks and chunks of torque on demand, right from the bottom pits of the rev range, and as a result it pulls with lag-free enthusiasm in any situation - be it on the open road or slogging through traffic.
You could accuse it of being a bit noisy though and the engine emits a decidedly industrial soundtrack - more so than in other diesels I've driven - but I actually found that appealing in a way.
For something so large, the Tunland is easy enough to drive but it doesn't feel quite as polished as the best bakkies on the block in some respects - the gearbox feels a little notchy at times, for instance, and the clutch has a slightly mushy action.
The cabin is solidly bolted together and the components come across as durable enough, but I don't think many owners will enjoy the sight of the fake wood inlays on the dashboard and doors.
You get a lot of kit for your money as both Comfort and Luxury models come with aircon, multi-function steering wheel, a CD/MP3/Aux/USB audio system with Bluetooth connectivity and electric windows. On the outside, each gets 16-inch alloys, but the Luxury version (which costs R10 000 more) adds a roll bar, tonneau cover, side steps and a nudge bar.
Safety kit includes dual front airbags and ABS brakes but, irresponsibly on Foton's part, there's no traction control.
The Foton Tunland single cab is a capable worker bee of a bakkie that offers better value than most of its rivals and plenty of kit for the money. Yet it doesn't undercut its Japanese rivals to the same degree that its double cab sibling does. Give me R250K to spend and I'd be more tempted by the Ford Ranger 2.2 XL, even though the Ford has less in the way of creature comforts. The Foton would be a close second on my list though, and it's well worth a look-in.
Foton Tunland 2.8 Luxury
Engine: 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 150km/h
Consumption (claimed): 8.0 litres per 100km
Ground clearance: 220mm
Price: R249 950
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service plan: Optional
Ford Ranger 2.2 XL Hi-Rider (88kW/285Nm) - R248 900
GWM Steed5 2.0 VGT Lux (110kW/310Nm) - R239 999
Isuzu KB 250 D-Teq LE (85kW/280Nm) - R290 900
Nissan NP300 2.5 TDi Hi-rider (98kW/304Nm) - R293 200
Toyota Hilux 2.5 D-4D SRX (75kW/260Nm) - R280 500
VW Amarok 2.0 TDI Trendline (103kW/340Nm) - R342 600