Marcus Craft road tests and reviews the new Foton Tunland dual-cab 4X4 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
When I told mates I’d be testing a Foton Tunland a few snort-laughed their craft beer out of their noses in not-so-mock shock. “Why don’t you save yourself the hassle and just write about another HiLux or Ranger or Amarok?” they said. The idea of me supposedly risking my skin in a Chinese dual-cab ute, lambasted in the past for lacklustre build quality and dogged by doubts over vehicle safety, delighted these blokes.
“Is your life insurance up to date?” one fella quipped. Yep, funny. Well, the joke’s on them because this latest-gen Tunland is a well built and well priced dual-cab ute with a bloody good Cummins turbo-diesel engine and a stack of other top-quality components thrown in for good measure. But, it’s not all good news – there are some safety issues. Read on.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The manual-only Tunland is available as a single cab 4x2 ($22,490), single cab 4x2 styleside ($23,490), single cab 4x4 ($25,990), dual cab 4x2 ($27,990), or dual cab 4x4 ($30,990), which we tested. Single cabs have an alloy tray. Metallic paint on any model is $400 extra.
Build quality and fit and finish have been improved well beyond expectations
For a ute firmly located at the budget end of the pricing scale, the Tunland’s interior has a fair few cheeky little extras packed into what is, at first glance anyway, a standard-looking workhorse inside and out. It has a tilt-adjustable-only, leather-trim, steering wheel with controls for Bluetooth, audio and cruise control.
The Tunland audio set-up plays MP3 files and CDs. There is an auxiliary port for a mini USB right beside the CD slot. Music can be streamed from Bluetooth-compatible devices. Air conditioning, electric windows, electric wing mirrors (with defrost function) and remote two-stage unlocking are all standard on Tunlands.
All seats in the dual-cab are leather trimmed and the driver’s seat is (manually) eight-way adjustable.
There are plenty of storage receptacles: a good-sized glove box, cup holders, door and seatback pockets, as well as a few handy little spaces for knick-knacks.
Standard features elsewhere on the dual-cab include daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear step bumper with parking sensor and fog lights, and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system; handy for off-road tourers.
Our test vehicle was one of the last of the model year 2016 examples, fitted with disc brakes all-round and stability control, and had a Euro 4 emissions compliant engine, according to general manager of Foton Motors Australia, Alex Stuart. An updated model, expected mid year, will have a Euro 5 engine, “but with the same exterior and basically same interior”, Mr Stuart said.
Accessories include pretty much everything you could ever want on a ute, ranging from a clear bonnet protector ($123.70) and full recovery kit ($343.92), to bullbar ($2237.84) and winch ($1231.84). Foton has a Tunland kitted out with most, if not all, of its available accessories as an example of what a fully geared-up Tunland looks like – and it looks bloody good.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The Tunland has a Cummins 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, producing 120kw at 3600rpm, and 360Nm at 1800rpm-3000rpm, backed up by a Getrag five-speed manual transmission. These are two components with great reputations made by the best of the best in their respective fields: engines and transmissions.
BorgWarner, another industry leader (in powertrains, among other things), built the two-speed transfer case in the Tunland 4x4s. All Tunlands in Australia have Dana axles and differentials; the rear is a LSD.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The Tunland looks good, not spectacular; like a noughties-era dual-cab rather than a contemporary one. And you know what? That’s fine with this journalist because it’s an easy fix. The Tunland is not unlike the BT-50 of recent years, in that once you’ve thrown a bull bar over the ordinary-looking front end (with its Wi-Fi-symbol-rotated-90-degrees-looking Foton logo) then all is forgiven.
Elsewhere, the Foton is a softer edged beast than some of its modern counterparts, with rounded headlights flowing back to a 'truck-lite' rear end, but it retains a robust, old-school ute presence.
Inside, the Tunland is neat, tidy and roomy. It looks ready for day-to-day duties – whether as a job-site workhorse, a daily driver, or a family mover. There is grey plastic everywhere but the cabin has nice touches like the leather-trim seats and wood-look panels.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The Tunland has a three-star ANCAP rating, and was last tested in 2013.
As standard there are driver and front passenger airbags (no front side airbags); height-adjustable, front seat belts with pre-tensioners, as well as ABS and EBD. Our test vehicle also had the ESC package, which includes disc brakes all around.
There is only a lap belt for the middle passenger in the rear and there are no curtain airbags.
There are no top tether points in the rear seats for child-seat restraints, but those are coming in the 2017 model, Mr Stuart told CarsGuide. Only booster seats, which don’t require those top tether points, should be used in the 2016 models.
Those safety flaws are substantial, but it seems Foton plans to have them sorted out in the next-gen Tunland.
How practical is the space inside?
Tunland’s remote entry is two-stage: first press unlocks only the driver’s door; second press unlocks the other doors – that can be annoying when you have people champing at the bit to get into the vehicle during a heatwave, and there is an almost-comical series of mistimed attempts at opening doors and pressing buttons.
The cabin is spacious. Build quality and fit and finish have been improved well beyond expectations. One or two buttons feel a bit flimsy and the button to adjust the wing-mirrors is tucked away on the right-hand-side dash behind the steering wheel; quite awkward to see, reach and use.
The air con defaults to ‘off’ every time you re-start, which is a bit of a niggle, especially during the heatwave conditions during which some of this review took place.
Seats are supportive enough without going beyond the call of duty; the front seat bases are a touch too short for tall people and extra side bolstering would be welcome.
There is ample head and leg room, front and back, although rear-seat passengers are forced into an upright, knees-high position; still they should be used to that if they’ve been riding around in utes for any length of time. Cupholder count runs to two in the front centre console.
The dual-cab Tunland has a 1025kg payload, a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg (1000kg less than most other utes) and 750kg unbraked.
Its cargo area is 1500mm long, 1570mm wide (1380mm, internal width at floor level; 1050mm internal width between the wheel arches) and 430mm deep. The tray has four tie-down points at each interior corner and a poly tray-liner which protects the top ‘lip’ of the tray and that’s a big bonus.
What's it like to drive?
The dual-cab Tunland is 5310mm long, 1880mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1870mm high, and has a 3105mm wheelbase. Kerb weight is listed as 1950kg.
In other words, it’s a big ute, one of the biggest models in Australia, but it doesn’t feel like such a cumbersome beast when you drive it.
The Tunland has a wide stance and sits well on the road, only exhibiting that tell-tale ute sway when it was really thrown into corners. Its hydraulic steering is faster and lighter than you’d assume in a hefty ute at this price-point although there is some ‘play’ in it.
The Cummins engine is a real cracker; gutsy and responsive. We had fun with it in city traffic, on the highway and along back country roads, winding it up, giving it the boot, hearing it growl. Driven judiciously it maintains the rage throughout the rev range.
The five-speed manual is a tall-geared, big-shifting unit; slick and fun to use. We had a few moments early on, but swiftly became used to the notchy action.
The Tunland has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs down the back. The set-up seemed firm but nothing out of the ordinary for a ute. Overall, ride and handling was drawing ever nearer to that of car-like dual-cabs that cost at least $10,000 more than this.
Our test vehicle was shod with Savero HT Plus 265/65 R17 tyres, which were generally fine on bitumen, gravel and off-road, however, we’d opt for ATs for off-road touring.
Visibility is mostly good, except for the chunky A-pillar and window shield combination, which eats into the driver’s view, and the shallow slit of a rear window, again not an unfamiliar feature for ute drivers everywhere. (The window shields are dealer-fit accessories).
Off-road, the Tunland is more than capable. It has an unladen ground clearance of 200mm, the BorgWarner dual-range transmission and LSD at the rear.
We took it through a couple of shallow water crossings (the air intake is up high in the engine bay), over a section of knee-high jagged and staggered rocks, along a heavily rutted bush track, through sand and along washed out dirt roads. Some of it was very slow going, challenging stuff. The Tunland handled everything with ease.
Working through 4WD modes is simple enough: the driver uses buttons just in front of the gear stick to shift between 4x2 High and 4x4 High at speeds of up to 80km/h. You have to stop the vehicle to engage low range.
Underbody protection includes a steel plate sump guard, which is standard on the Tunland 4x4.
How much fuel does it consume?
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
There is a three-year/100,000km warranty, including roadside assistance.