‘Remember, it’s a bakkie,’ I mutter under my breath as I muscle the recalcitrant gearshift through another change.
Driving the Foton Tunland for the second time in a few months, the sensation is oddly familiar but not unwelcome. The 4×2 double cab version keen to show its bakkie-like ungainliness at low speeds although it quickly overcomes that to become quite the comfortable cruiser when pushed.
It rides on the ladder frame chassis familiar to the range, adequately damped to soak up most of the bumps and potholes on the selection of B-roads on which the launch route was plotted.
There are two specification grades – Comfort and Luxury – with both using the Cummins-sourced 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine with outputs of 120kW/360Nm debuted in the 4×4 version in 2012. The engine is a Euro 4-compliant unit that has been tweaked to run on the 500ppm juice more readily available in South Africa. As a compromise, service intervals have had to be slashed to 10 000km from 20 000km.
Winning specification levels
As evidenced before, the Cummins mill in the Tunland is strong and torquey and willingly does without unnecessary downshifts when you want to get moving. Despite the somewhat stubborn cog swapping at lower speeds, the clutch action is nice and light and, as an improvement over the last unit driven, the five-speed’s gearshifts appear more decisive.
Gunning for the largest segment of the South African double cab market, the 4×2 bakkies are well specced and even better priced versus their rivals; the Comfort starts R249 950 while the Luxury model costs R269 950.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, an audio system that plays USBs and MP3s, electric windows and six cupholders. Luxury models add items such as leather seats, rear park distance control and a tonneau cover for the loadbox. The loadbox has a payload of 925kg.
Dual front airbags are standard inside the cabin, while ABS and EBD increase the Tunland’s safety quotient. Daylight running lights are also standard across the range, although those not in favour can have these extinguished at their local dealer (there are 35 and counting across SA).
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard across the range.
Again, Foton is pushing its value for money proposal, particularly since it sees this bakkie going head to head with market leaders Toyota’s Hilux and Ford’s Ranger.
The Tunland is covered by a three-year/100 000km warranty although, unlike the 4×4’s five-year/70 000km service plan, the 4×2 is only covered for two years or 40 000km.
Single-cab versions, using a detuned version of the 2.8 turbodiesel and a 2.4-litre petrol engine, will be rolled out in the second half of the year while extended cab Tunlands are expected towards the end of 2013, Foton SA MD Brett Soso assures.