Maxus im­pact

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels -

about $32,000 could wound its im­me­di­ate ri­val, the Hyundai iload and imax duo, and dent more ex­pen­sive play­ers.

‘‘ It’s a big­ger van than the iload so the price will be a bit above Hyundai,’’ says Maxus spokesman Jon Thom­son on be­half of Aus­tralian im­porters WMC. ‘‘ But it will be be­low Volk­swa­gen and MercedesBenz.’’ Maxus will have about nine mod­els of the V80 here in Oc­to­ber, rang­ing from de­liv­ery vans and nine- to 16-seater pas­sen­ger ver­sions, in short, medium or long wheel­base and with low, medium or high roofline. The pas­sen­ger ver­sions are ex­pected to ac­count for up to 20 per cent of Maxus sales.

The Maxus V80 is a Bri­tish- de­vel­oped ve­hi­cle from the now de­funct Ley­land-daf ven­ture. The col­lapsed ve­hi­cle mar­ques in­clud­ing Rover and Mg­were sold to Chi­nese in­ter­ests. Most have been re­vised un­der own­er­ship of China’s big­gest car com­pany, SAIC (Shang­hai Au­to­mo­tive), which has huge joint ven­ture fac­to­ries with com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Volk­swa­gen and Gen­eral Mo­tors, and a string of do­mes­tic ve­hi­cle mak­ers.

The Maxus re­tains the Bri­tish-de­signed and de­vel­oped 100kw/330nm 2.5-litre com­mon-rail four-cylin­der turbo diesel, now driv­ing the front wheels through a fivespeed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

Thom­son says a five-speed Aisin gear­box will be added soon to meet Aus­tralian de­mand for au­to­matic trans­mis­sions.

SAIC claims 9.0 litres/100km for the van but Aus­tralian test­ing is yet to be done.

The mono­coque chas­sis has Macpher­son strut sus­pen­sion at the front and a solid axle ar­range­ment with leaf springs at the rear. The brakes are fourwheel discs with stan­dard ABS, EBD and brake as­sist but there is no elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, even as an op­tion.

The van ver­sion has cargo space rang­ing from 6.9 cu­bic me­tres (3.1m short wheel­base, low roof) to 11.6 cu­bic me­tres (3.85m long wheel­base, high roof). The big­gest pay­load is 1.8 tonnes and max­i­mum in­te­rior ceil­ing height is 1.93m. Barn doors open 180 de­grees and there are dou­ble or sin­gle side slid­ing doors.

A cab-chas­sis sin­gle-cab model, us­ing a lad­der-frame sub­frame for the rear, will join the van later this year and a smaller van is due in early 2015.

DRIV­ING

We drove two pas­sen­ger vans on a brief test around the fac­tory block. The right-hand drive ver­sion with 3000km on the clock and des­tined for South Africa or Malaysia, typ­i­fies what Australia will get. The en­gine was tardy in the LHD model, with only as­sem­ble-line kilo­me­tres.

The van is taut with a body that does not creak. The en­gine is sur­pris­ingly re­spon­sive— po­ten­tially be­ly­ing the glacial 22-sec­ond 0-100km/h ac­cel­er­a­tion claim— and the short-throw gear shift ac­cu­rate and light. The ba­sic rear sus­pen­sion sur­prises with its com­pli­ance and does not jar or thump over dam­aged bi­tu­men.

But the steer­ing is vague and the brakes feel like sponges. It is a ba­sic, yet hon­est van.

The ma­te­ri­als and fit and fin­ish were good and the colours cho­sen for the plas­tics were creams and browns, hint­ing more at a Euro­pean ve­hi­cle than one from China.

A third Maxus van— a deluxe, leather-trimmed model used for the 180km road trip to Shang­hai air­port— proved as quiet, com­fort­able and as neatly fit­ted as any ri­val.

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