I had to admit my shoulders did slump a fraction when I first lay eyes on the Gran Max. The name led me down the garden path. Instead of a spicy hot hatch, the vehicle that greeted me was suspiciously reminiscent of a Chinese labourer I once knew, called Benni.
But looks can be deceiving.
Because not only is the Gran Max Daihatsu’s first foray into the commercial market, it’s a really good one at that. For starters, it’s designed and engineered in Japan (with a little help from the world’s largest carmaker no doubt) and built in one of five low production cost plants in Malaysia, China and Pakistan to keep prices down. With a payload of over tonne, the Gran Max takes it to not only the established half tonners like the Opel Corsa Utility 1.4i (R105 900); Nissan NP200 1.6 16V (R131 800) and Ford Bantam 1.6 (115 995), but also the more expensive full one tonners like the KIA K2700 (R152 995) and Hyundai’s H100 (R146 900) on affordability.
Although the Corsa and Bantam are better lookers, the Gran Max’s utilitarian load bay won’t deter small business owners (garden services, building contractors etc.) as the drop down sides are far easier to load and offload cargo. The loading deck stands only 720mm from the floor making it physically easier to load, particularly with forklifts. The load deck and drop sides are of a two-stage skinned construction (the same as the Hilux) and the deck area is 3.7sqm in size.
Running costs will also be a trump card of the Gran Max over its competitors as its proven 71kW 1.5-litre VVT adopts a maintenance free EFI fuel system and chain driven timing belt. Given that most drivers will be employees, owners and fleet managers will also be glad to learn that the Gran Max has clutch protection mechanism that engages when the clutch is dropped to extend component life.
Allied to this, the Daihatsu’s cabin is spacious, ABS brakes are standard and its power steering makes it easy to manoeuvre (10m turning circle – wall to wall).
That the Daihatsu is rear wheel drive, relatively inexpensive (R119 995) and offers 90% of its 134Nm of torque as low as 2000rpm, makes it easy to recommend.
Price R119 995
Engine 1 495cc, 4cyl, 16V, 71kW @6 000rpm; 134Nm @ 4 400rpm
Transmissionfive-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Stats n/a 0-100kph; 7.5L/100km; CO2 n/a