Chi­nese van set to pick up load

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By JAMES STAN­FORD

A BRI­TISH van has started its sec­ond life as an af­ford­able Chi­nese load hauler.

It’s called the LDV V80 and has just gone on sale in Aus­tralia.

LDV has a con­vo­luted his­tory. Own­ers in­cluded com­pa­nies from Eng­land, Amer­ica and Rus­sia, be­fore it was moth­balled in 2009.

Chi­nese com­pany Shang­hai Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­trial Cor­po­ra­tion (SAIC) bought up LDV and the rights to its only prod­uct, the V80 van.

SAIC is huge — build­ing 4.5 mil­lion cars last year — and has joint ven­tures with Volk­swa­gen and Gen­eral Mo­tors in its home mar­ket.

The V80 van is now made in China. It is largely the same as the model that was in­tro­duced in Europe in 2005 and was orig­i­nally devel­oped in con­junc­tion with Dae­woo, be­fore it went belly-up back in 2000.

There are two models: A short-wheel­base ver­sion aimed at the Hyundai iLoad and Toy­ota HiAce and a long-wheel­base ver­sion, avail­able with a reg­u­lar roof and a high-roof body, which lines up against the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Tran­sit and Fiat Du­cato.

It is cheaper than its ri­vals, but not by a lot in the case of the short-wheel­base ver­sion. Pric­ing for that model is $32,990, which is around $2000 less than a Hyundai iLoad and $4000 less than a Toy­ota HiAce.

The long-wheel­base model is $37,990, with the high-roof vari­ant adding an­other $2000.

SAIC and its Aus­tralian im­porter WMC isn’t re­ly­ing on dirt-cheap prices, un­like Chi­nese ri­val Great Wall. It is hop­ing a high level of stan­dard gear will en­cour­age cus­tomers to switch to a Chi­nese brand.

It has fit­ted a lot of gear as stan­dard, in­clud­ing 16-inch al­loy wheels, cruise con­trol, air­con­di­tion­ing and LED day­time run­ning lights as well as dual slid­ing doors and rear barn doors.

The V80 tack­led some tough roads on the launch and coped well, much like ri­val vans.

The ride is much the same as other vans and cargo space and ac­cess through the doors is ex­cel­lent— load ca­pac­ity runs from nine to 12 cu­bic me­tres and pay­load ranges from 1300kg to 1800kg.

The in­te­rior is ba­sic and the qual­ity is good, bet­ter than some ri­vals but not quite to the stan­dard of oth­ers.

The cen­trally mounted in­stru­ment clus­ter, with a speedo on the left, is aw­ful and it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to tell how fast you are go­ing from the driver’s seat.

The Chi­nese-made VM Mo­tori 2.5-litre com­mon­rail turbo diesel (with 100kW and 330Nm) is not bad on the whole, but is slug­gish be­low 2000 revs.

It has a Hyundai-sourced five-speed man­ual (there is no auto op­tion yet), which shifts smoothly and features a light clutch. It is a fron­twheel drive.

Anti-skid brakes (with front and rear discs) are stan­dard, along with driver and pas­sen­ger front airbags.

There are no side airbags or elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, although SAIC is re­port­edly work­ing on them. It has not been tested by Euro NCAP or AN­CAP yet and while SAIC’s own test­ing sug­gests a four-star re­sult, many cus­tomers will want to wait for an of­fi­cial rat­ing.

Over­all, the V80 gives a good im­pres­sion but it needs to be a lot cheaper for cus­tomers to walk away from the iLoad and HiAce and take a punt on an un­proven Chi­nese brand.

The LDV V80 has had sev­eral in­car­na­tions but is now ready to chal­lenge for mar­ket share in Aus­tralia

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