It took a while for Foton to actually get here but finally, the Chinese brand made it with the Foton Tunland one tonne utes in dual cab and the new single cab/chassis. And they're really good too, much better than other Chinese offerings in terms of performance and looks.
As part of upping the quality, Foton uses premium powertrain components from Cummins, Getrag, Dana and Borg Warner, made at factories in China.
PRICE / FEATURES
Those powertrain companies charge royalties for their technology, which makes Foton's price point higher (from $24,990 drive away) than the likes of Great Wall and the other cheap utes from Indian manufacturers Tata and Mahindra, but the Foton is way better.
Foton equips the Tunland with plenty of kit to make the working day easier. Air conditioning, cruise, ABS, dual air bags, power windows and mirrors, remote entry, multi function wheel, anatomical y design seats, storage bins, overhead console, low beam height adjustment and Bluetooth phone are standard. No safety rating is quoted.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
The single cab/chassis line-up is in 4x2 and dual range 4x4 spec' with the latter scoring more power and torque thanks to a retuned engine. A five-speed manual is standard with a six-speed auto likely in the near future.
The engine is a 2.8-litre, single cam, Cummins ISF four cylinder, turbodiesel with 96kW/280Nm in the 4x2 and 120kW/360Nm in the 4x4. Fuel economy rates as low as 8.0-litres/100km in the 4x2, slightly more in the 4x4 -- which push button 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low.
DESIGN / STYLE
The Foton Tunland stacks up well against all other one tonners on the market in terms of spec' and work attributes. It sports a best in class rear chassis rail span, the longest endorsed alloy tray body deck, less rear overhang, the largest diameter front discs and best designed tray back.
The large tray features a laser cut mesh cab guard, spring loaded metal anti-rattle latches, external tie rails and stiff drop sides. It's built on a robust ladder chassis with leaf rear springs and coils at the front. All components look robust and up to the task of toting more than a tonne or towing 2.5 tonnes.
The wheels are 16-inch steel disc with chunky tyres and a full size spare under the tray, and ground clearance is 212mm in the 1735kg vehicle. It rides high in 4x4 variants, possibly the highest in class and thanks to the anatomically (US) designed seats, and is comfortable over a long haul. Exterior styling is inoffensive -- fairly generic for a ute with an imposing face, and the cabin is large to match the external visual.
ON THE ROAD
The drive experience is truck-like with firm suspension set for load carrying, a truck-like gear shift and possibly over boosted brakes. Fifth cog is high geared to facilitate highway cruising but there's too big a drop in revs from 4th to 5th. That's about the only criticism we would make apart from not being able to figure out how the Bluetooth phone system worked.
We had no problems using all the controls because the Foton is just like any other one tonne ute -- simple, functional. Heck, even the turning circle is on par with the competitors (too big). There's a bit of diesel rumble in the cabin but that drops off once you attain the desired speed.
The Foton takes a load easily thanks to the combination of large tray, torquey engine and robust construction. We put a tonne in the back of the 4x4 model tested and it made little difference to how it went. The drop sides are best in the business. All Foton needs to do now is get a decent national dealer network happening and get people into the vehicles.