BEHIND THE WHEEL
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org