Fo­ton’s Tun­land 4x4 dou­ble cab ute con­tin­ues to set the stan­dard for well-priced, Chi­nese ve­hi­cles reck­ons NZ4WD Editor Ross MacKay.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and photo by Ross MacKay

Truth be told I’ve been wait­ing for a Chi­nese-built ve­hi­cle like Fo­ton’s Tun­land ute for some time. Com­pa­nies in ‘ The Mid­dle King­dom’ have been mak­ing some very good – al­beit still ul­ti­mately price-fo­cused – mo­tor­cy­cles for some time. And when a mate told me a tale about sourc­ing wheels there I re­alised that times were in­deed chang­ing. To il­lus­trate his point, my wheel-mar­ket­ing mate prof­fered his cell-phone and in­vited me to scroll through im­ages of the fac­tory one of his con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers had just opened. “They bowled the old one,” he said, “and built a brand new one on the site. Ev­ery­thing in it came from Ger­many.”

Fast track

Com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle spe­cial­ist Fo­ton would ap­pear to be the mo­tor ve­hi­cle equiv­a­lent. On the fast track since it was founded in 1996, the Bei­jing-based Beiqi Fo­ton Mo­tor Co Ltd is now a truly global com­pany. It has R&D cen­tres in Ger­many, Ja­pan and Tai­wan, joint ven­tures with Cum­mins and Mercedes-Benz, and sup­ply agree­ments with (amongst oth­ers), US com­pa­nies Borg Warner and Dana, and Ger­man out­fits Ge­trag, ZF and Bosch. Here Fo­ton is dis­trib­uted by Jeep and Alfa Romeo im­porter and dis­trib­u­tor Ateco Automotive. The Tun­land test unit we were of­fered was the 4x4 Dou­ble Cab ute beau­ti­fully fin­ished in a lus­trous me­tal­lic grey and equipped as stan­dard with 17-inch di­am­e­ter al­loy wheels, branded tray liner and leather seats front and rear.

Since col­league Damien O’Car­roll wrote up the first re­port pub­lished in this mag­a­zine about the Tun­land 4x4 Dou­ble Cab (May 2014 is­sue) Ateco has ad­dressed his main con­cern (lack of sta­bil­ity con­trol), the latest model com­ing com­plete, now, with Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol ( ESC) in­cor­po­rat­ing ABS, Elec­tronic Brake­force Dis­tri­bu­tion ( EBD), Trac­tion Con­trol (TCS) and Hill De­scent Con­trol, Hill Hold Con­trol (a handy thing to have with a man­ual ‘box as it turns out) and Hy­draulic Brake As­sist.

Discs all round

There’s also been a brake up­grade of note; from discs up front and drums at the rear to discs front and rear. Crit­ics, how­ever, will still sniff that the up­rated unit is still only worth three ANCAP stars. The Tun­land is a true 4x4, hi/lo ra­tio on/ off-roader with a BorgWarner trans­fer case, lim­ited slip (rear) diff and the abil­ity to move from 2WD to 4WD (high) on-the-fly and at speeds up to 80km/h. Want low range 4x4 though and you have to stop and flick the switch. First im­pres­sions on pick­ing the test unit up were good. Very good in fact. Like its cur­rent dou­ble cab com­pe­ti­tion the Tun­land is built big, with a de­cent step up to a large, roomy cabin and ‘master of all he sur­veys’ view from the nicely con­toured driver’s seat. From the out­side – and even un­der the bon­net – it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish the Tun­land’s Bei­jing-build from that of – say – Thai­land (where Ford’s Ranger and Mazda’s BT-50) or Ar­gentina (VW Amarok). Yes both the build qual­ity and fit and fin­ish are that good. In­side, though, de­spite a sleek con­tem­po­rary look and lay­out, the plas­tic has a thin, hard­edged feel as does the car­pet and plas­tic used on the kick pan­els. I’m not quite sure faux rosewood high­lights have a place in a work­ing truck ei­ther!

A beauty

What left the most last­ing im­pres­sion on me, how­ever, were the ac­tual daily driv­ing dy­nam­ics. Bar a lusty diesel rat­tle at idle and a need to be rowed along to get the most out it, the Cum­mins en­gine is a beauty. So too is the Ge­trag five-speed man­ual gear­box, de­spite its rather old-fash­ioned (longish) throw and rub­bery feel. Gear­ing – like the turn­ing cir­cle - errs on the high side, mak­ing the Tun­land a bit of a work in progress around town (trust me your fore­arms get a real work­out in tightly-pack­aged, low-ceilinged base­ment car parks!) but turn-in it­self is crisp, di­rec­tion change di­rect and ride qual­ity well above (yes, that’s well ABOVE) the sec­tor av­er­age. The lack of an auto trans op­tion nat­u­rally lim­its the Tun­land’s ap­peal to the city ute set. But to ev­ery­one else, at give- or-take $ 35,000, it has to rep­re­sent one of the best value propo­si­tions on the mar­ket at the mo­ment.

Fo­ton Tun­land Dou­ble Cab 4x4

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