BE­HIND THE WHEEL

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS -

Ed­i­tor’s thoughts and opin­ions on this month’s mo­tor­ing hap­pen­ings.

clichéd ex­cuse for lack­ing in qual­ity. In the 1980s, ‘Made in Tai­wan’ used to be a com­mon mark­ing on toys and prod­ucts of vol­ume, and some­what, some­times ques­tion­able qual­ity; but times evolve and both qual­ity and per­cep­tion change – nor­mally strictly in that or­der. Even Back to the Fu­ture III’S Doc Brown made a sim­i­lar com­ment in 1955, when he as­sumed the cause of an elec­tri­cal com­po­nent prob­lem was due to it be­ing ‘made in Ja­pan’. Of course by 1985, where the com­po­nent came from, comes the re­ply: ‘all the best stuff is made in Ja­pan’. A year later in 1986, a Korean car com­pany launched lo­cally, and by the end of the 1990s, was one of the best-sell­ing cars in the coun­try. And over the past 15 years, Hyundai has re­li­ably pro­duced a range of ve­hi­cles that have proven pow­er­ful, stylish and price com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially for the equip­ment level. Fel­low Korean car­maker Kia may have been a few years be­hind Hyundai in its de­vel­op­ment time­line, but over the re­cent decade, it’s pro­duced some great mod­els that have com­pared to the best global of­fer­ings from Ja­pan and Europe. Even fel­low Korean car­maker, Ssangy­ong’s most re­cent SUV, the Rex­ton G4 is a big step for­ward for the com­pany and coun­try, with the loom­ing Musso promis­ing sim­i­lar things. In the early 2000s, ‘Chi­nese-made’ car­ried the stigma of cheap and not that cheer­ful, but over the past 20 years, it’s done and do­ing to the au­to­mo­tive world what Hyundai and Kia have both man­aged. In its early days, the Chi­nese car in­dus­try was more bla­tant and blase about its au­to­mo­tive copy­cat­ting… er, sorry, ‘styling in­flu­ences’, but since then, the Chi­nese mar­ket as a whole has shown signs of im­prove­ment and ma­tu­rity. While we still may be in rel­a­tively early phases, we have re­cently seen a run of im­pres­sively de­cent Chi­nese cars. Launched just five years ago, Haval is one that has shown prom­ise for such a young com­pany, with the H9 SUV tested last is­sue rank­ing as a solid, ex­tremely well equipped and pricecom­pet­i­tive SUV. Along with the H2 and H6, there’s a range of Haval SUVS cov­er­ing all sizes, and though the H9 was not de­void of gripes, they were mi­nor, par­tic­u­larly with the value-for-money re­minder. Haval’s par­ent com­pany Great Wall Mo­tors pro­duces the three-model Steed ute, and while it’s easy to dis­miss its hand­ful of short­com­ings, there’s a nig­gling re­minder that the price po­si­tions it as the sec­ond-cheap­est ute in the coun­try, be­hind Mahin­dra’s Pik-up. Fo­ton’s Tun­land is an­other Chi­nese ute that has proven it­self as very solid for the price. Not for­get­ting LDV, the other player in the Chi­nese ute mar­ket, and ar­guably the best of the Chi­nese take-aways. In the $30-$40k bracket, it’s a nice niche found as the val­ue­for-money bell­curve starts to rise, well be­fore the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns, while its key and con­ven­tional ri­vals all ‘start’ around the $40k mark, and progress up to and be­yond $70k. It’s gen­er­ally a mat­ter of get­ting what you pay for, but like the Korean cars of decades past and to an ex­tent still to­day, the Chi­nese prod­ucts of­fer more for less, to help en­tice buy­ers, im­press and prove them­selves in the mar­ket. Cover up the badge, if you must, but the Chi­nese SUVS and utes are com­ing, they’re get­ting bet­ter with ev­ery model up­date, and con­tinue to of­fer up solid al­ter­na­tives to the likes of the pop­u­lar mod­els. While the likes of Ranger, Hilux, Colorado, Tri­ton, Navara, BT-50 and D-max are the top sell­ers for good rea­son, the evo­lu­tion of the Chi­nese brands are prov­ing that cheap is no longer an au­to­matic pas­sage to nasty. Dean Evans – dean@trucker.co.nz

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