Good buy in the van mar­ket

With a change in ser­vice providers, good af­ter-mar­ket ser­vice is as­sured

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

WHEN we first re­ported on the Maxus 16-seat midi-bus in Fe­bru­ary last year, we put on record our lik­ing for the prod­uct but re­served judg­ment on the af­ter-mar­ket ser­vice.

At that stage, Maxus was one of two new 16-seaters try­ing to im­press taxi own­ers against the BAW, which is as­sem­bled in Springs, and the Nis­san NV350 Im­pen­dulo, which is avail­able only in petrol.

We ended up rec­om­mend­ing the Citroën Re­lay 15-seater with its 20 000 km ser­vice in­ter­vals as the best buy at that stage.

Since then, UD trucks has taken over the sales from what amounted to in­dif­fer­ent mul­ti­fran­chise car deal­ers, en­sur­ing that the sturdy Chi­nese van now has sales staff who re­spect the needs of com­mer­cial-ve­hi­cle own­ers.

Th­ese needs are quick fi­nance and quicker ser­vice, as Wheels found when our test van came com­plete with a driver from UD Pine­town, who hitched a ride to fetch a V80 for its ser­vice from a school in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

Dur­ing the week of testing, we parked the Maxus at sev­eral taxi ranks, (alas, we had no per­mit to trans­port pas­sen­gers) and asked com­muters for their opin­ions. Top of the like list were the very solid grab han­dle and step, the spa­cious seats and the au­to­matic lights at night.

Top of the dis­like list were the light-grey seat cov­ers (wena, how will you keep this clean, eh?) and the au­to­matic door locks (you mean I have to press that un­lock but­ton ev­ery time I stop for a pas­sen­ger? Aikona!).

At night, the Maxus is at its most im­pres­sive, with ad­justable head­lights, au­to­matic in­te­rior lights and all-blue back light­ing on the es­sen­tial but­tons like the elec­tric win­dows and air con­di­tioner.

On the road, a rat­tle on the back doors and squeak on the side door be­came very ir­ri­tat­ing very quickly. Th­ese were the only nig­gles, and the able sound sys­tem soon drowned them out, with the ra­dio pro­vid­ing clear FM sig­nal and an aux plug-in point for MP3 play­ers.

Maxus claims 100-year-old Bri­tish genes for its 2,5 TD V80, and 330 Nm from 1 800 rpm. On the never-end­ing in­cline that is Fields Hill, it be­came clear that this power is mea­sured on the fly­wheel, not the tar, as the empty V80 could not keep to a steady 100 km/h against a loaded Mercedes-Benz Sprinter which has sim­i­lar power specs.

But then even a used Sprinter costs sub­stan­tially more than the R300 k price of a new Maxus 16seater, which does look a good buy at R299 000. This in­cludes a three-year or 100 000 km fac­tory war­ranty and an op­tional five-year or 90 000 km ser­vice plan for R13 900. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are at 15 000 km and as a truck­ing scribe, I can vouch for UD’s ser­vice. In the Ja­panese truck­ing sta­ble, the Maxus taxi has fi­nally got a home wor­thy of its genes, and with the price now be­low R300 k, this Chi­nese van com­petes head on with the French Re­lay for those rare buy­ers will­ing to ex­per­i­ment out­side the Toy­ota fold.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The in­te­rior of the ‘luxury’ Maxus V80 is as comfy as it gets, while the drive of the van lives up to its sturdy stance.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The Maxus 16-seater midi-bus im­pressed would-be com­muters with its spa­cious seats.

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