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, with more twists and turns than a Tom Clancy blockbuster. 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 both 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, so it is not new by any means.
There are two models available: 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 all 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 importer 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 cruise control is not like normal systems though, in that it is not adjustable. If you want to slow slightly or speed up a little, you have to turn it off, change your speed manually and turn it on again.
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 V80’s rear doors feel extremely flimsy and the metal door skin surface was not even.
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.
The V80 is a much better drive than this writer was expecting. It 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 Chinese-made VM Motori 2.5-litre common rail turbo diesel (with 100kW and 330Nm) is not bad on the whole, but is sluggish below 2000revs. It has a Hyundai-sourced five-speed manual (there is not auto option yet), which shifts smoothly and features a light clutch. It is a front-wheel drive.
Overall, the V80 gives a good impression but it needs to be a lot cheaper for customers to walk away from proven vans such as the iLoad and HiAce and take a punt on an unproven Chinese brand.
Price: from $32,990 (short wheelbase) and $37,990 (long wheelbase)
Engine: 2.5-litre common rail turbo diesel, 100kW/330Nm
Safety: 4-star (suggested)
Load capacity: 9-12 cubic meters