The biggest automaker in China, SAIC, has just put a toe in the water here with a selection of LDV vans. SAIC sells 4.5 million vehicles a year and is in cahoots with GM and VW as wells as a swag of well know component manufacturers.
LDV is handled here by WMC motor group, a privately owned company that already has Chinese brands Higer buses and JAC light trucks under its wing. LDV (Light Duty Van) is the product of a bold move by the Chinese more than a decade ago when they purchased the LDV plant in Europe and transplanted it to a location near Shanghai.
They upgraded both the line and the vehicle bringing them into the 21st century. Up to 75 per cent of components in LDV vans are globally sourced.
VALUE AND RANGE
Prices for the first three models are $32,990, $37,990 and $39,990 in ascending order. There is one spec' only with generous equipment levels that includes aircon' with multiple vents, 16-inch alloys, ABS, dual front air bags, reverse sensors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors.
The vans are well set up for work with a low centre of gravity, low floor clearance, passenger vehicle comfort levels, plenty of cargo space, good axle load allocation and crash benefits. The interior is well endowed with storage options and has three seats.
It will target tradies, rental fleets and freight organisations. WMC hopes to win conquest sales over the likes of Hyundai iLoad, Iveco, Benz Sprinter, VW Transporter, Fiat Ducato and Renault among others.
Comparing apples with apples (i.e. similarly specced vehicles), the LDV offers a value proposition despite being pitched higher than expected. It's a couple of grand under the most likely competitor, well entrenched iLoad, and is the lowest price van on the market today.
Called the V80, the new front drive vans feature a four cylinder, 2.5-litre, turbo diesel engine from VM Motori, manufactured under licence in China. The initial batch of vehicles is five-speed manual with a six-speed automated manual (semi-auto) due later this year along with a drop side, tray back cab/chassis, people mover and other variants.
Three variants are available initially; a short wheel base low roof, long wheelbase mid roof and long wheelbase high roof. They have load capacities of between 9-12 cubic metres, or two pallets and payloads between 1.3 and 1.8 tonnes.
No crash rating was available but four stars seems attainable with stability control and a couple of more airbags.
It's pretty good to drive too - a lot better than expected particularly in terms of ride and performance. The gas filled dampers give a smooth ride even over rough roads and the engine has plenty of performance once underway. It's good for 100kW/330Nm output.
The manual change mechanism is similar to other offerings in the segment and the interior could also be from any of LDV's competitors - not flash but utilitarian and hard wearing. They need to reposition the instruments onto the left side of the dash instead of the middle.
WMC is also offering the V80 as a wheelchair accessible vehicle available, ready to roll from the dealers. Currently, this type of vehicle is fitted-out by third party manufacturers at high cost and with long delays.
It's a tempting workhorse from LDV that benefits from a solid European influence and competitive pricing.
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
Price: from $29,990
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl, 100kW/343Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Thirst: 8.0L/100km 212g/km CO2
Price: from $36,690
Engine: 2.3-litre 4-cyl,
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD