A lot is riding on the LDV T60. The dual-cab-only ute range is spearheading a new generation of better-built and better-equipped Chinese utes and (very soon) SUVs, aimed at carving out their own slice of the lucrative Aussie work-and-play market.
It’s the first Chinese commercial vehicle to receive a five-star ANCAP rating, it’s well priced and packed with standard features and safety tech across the range, but realistically is that enough to make it an appealing proposition in the eyes of the ute-buying public? And to overcome the public's wariness about vehicles from the People's Republic? Read on.
From the outside, the LDV T60 is not unpleasant to look at – part-chunky ute, part-SUV styling – but there’s nothing startlingly special about it, either. It has the scalloped sides of an Amarok look-alike, the sporty stretch bonnet of a HiLux wannabe and everything in between.
I like it for its lack of pretension, as if its designers had a beer down the pub, scratched out their ideas on a coaster as a bit of a joke and then they decided they were actually pretty good, so those guidelines have stuck.
The LDV T60 is not unpleasant to look at but there’s nothing startlingly special about it.
The interior is all clean lines and big surfaces, especially the plastic everything in the Pro, which is not a bad thing as this tradie-targetting model has a real everyday working ute feel to it.
The cabin is dominated by the huge expanse of dash-top and the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen entertainment unit.
The cabin is dominated by the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen.
The cabin is neat and roomy with adequate storage space for driver and front-seat passenger; a lidded centre-console bin, big door pockets, a dash-height cupholder for driver and front passenger (although our supplied water bottles only fit in with a little bit of twisting and forcing) and a knick-knacks tray, replete with two USB ports and a 12V socket.
Those in the rear get door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
Rear passengers get door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
The front seats are comfortable enough but lack support, especially at the sides; the rear seats are flat and workmanlike.
Interior fit and finish is a big improvement on what’s come before in Chinese-built utes and these build-quality positives may go a long way to helping convince Australia’s ute buyers that the LDV T60 is a worthwhile purchase – or at least worth considering.
The 10-inch touchscreen is clear, neat and simple to operate, although prone to glare. I did see one colleague struggling to get his Android OS phone working through his Luxe. (I didn’t even bother trying to hook up my iPhone; I’m a dinosaur like that.)
The LDV T60 is 5365mm long, 2145mm wide, and 1852mm high (Pro) and 1887mm high (Luxe). Kerb weight is 1950kg (Pro manual), 1980kg (Pro auto), 1995kg (Luxe manual) and 2060kg (Luxe auto).
The tray is 1525mm long and 1510mm wide (1131mm between the wheel arches). It has a plastic tub liner and four tie-down points (one in each corner) and two ‘tub rim anchor points’, which seem like a bit of a flimsy afterthought. Loading height (from tray floor to ground) is 819mm.
The tray is 1525mm long and 1510mm wide (1131mm between the wheel arches).
The TDV T60 has a 3000kg braked tow capacity (750kg unbraked); many rivals hit the 3500kg benchmark. Its payload ranges from 815kg (Luxe auto) to 1025kg (for the Pro manual). Towball download is 300kg.
One final quirk we should mention is that the two Pros we tested had the indentation for a driver-side 'Jesus!' handle, but no actual handle. Strange.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
In an age where each new vehicle seems to offer a mind-boggling variety of trim and spec levels, the LDV T60 range is a refreshingly small and simple one.
The diesel-only five-seater LDV T60 is available in one body style – dual-cab – and two trim levels: Pro, aimed at tradies, and Luxe, aimed at the dual-purpose or family recreation market. The range is limited to dual-cabs at the moment, but, at the launch LDV Automotive Australia did tease the arrival of single-cab and extra-cab models in 2018.
The diesel-only five-seater LDV T60 is available as a dual-cab. (2018 LDV T60 Luxe shown)
The four options are Pro manual, Pro automatic, Luxe manual and Luxe automatic. All are powered by a 2.8-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine.
The base-spec T60 Pro, the manual, is $30,516 (drive away); the Pro automatic is $32,621 (drive away), the Luxe manual $34,726 (drive away), and the Luxe automatic $36,831 (drive away). ABN holders will pay $28,990 (for the Pro manual), $30,990 (Pro auto), Luxe manual ($32,990) and Luxe automatic ($34,990).
The T60 Pro comes with 17-inch alloy wheels standard.
Safety gear includes six airbags, two ISOFIX child-seat restraint attachment points in the rear seat, as well as a raft of passive and active safety tech including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Above and beyond that, the top-spec Luxe gets leather seats and leather-bound steering wheel, electrically six-way adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control and a 'Smart Key' system with Start/Stop button, as well as an automatic locking rear differential as standard.
The Pro has a multi-bar headboard to protect the rear window; the Luxe has a polished chrome sport bar. Both models have roof rails as standard.
The Pro has a multi-bar headboard to protect the rear window.
All T60 models have roof rails as standard.
LDV Automotive has launched a range of accessories including rubber floor mats, polished alloy nudge bars, tow bar, ladder rack, colour-matched canopies, tonneau covers and more. Bullbars for the ute are in the pipeline.
The LDV T60 has a claimed fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km for the manual; and 9.6L/100km for the auto. It has a 75-litre fuel tank. We were seeing 9.6L/100km on the info display towards the end of our drive.
We did more than 200km around Bathurst in some LDV T60s, most of it in a Pro auto, and much of the drive program was on bitumen. A few things became obvious quite early on and, later, a few quirks popped up as well.
The 2.8-litre four-cylinder VM Motori turbo-diesel never seemed to struggle – on the blacktop or in the bush – but it almost felt too relaxed, as it was slow to respond and wind up, especially when pushed on long, steep hills.
However, a bonus of that under-stressed engine is that it is very quiet – we had the radio off and engine-related NVH levels were impressive. There wasn’t even any wind-rush from the big wing mirrors.
The six-speed Aisin auto trans is a smooth unit – no hard-shifting up or down – but there’s no real discernible difference in drivability between modes; Normal or Sport.
Ride and handling are adequate if unspectacular, although it turned in nicely – steering was very precise for something like this – and the ute held stable through long sweeping bends. Our tester was on 245/65 R17 Dunlop Grandtrek AT20s.
Ride and handling are adequate if unspectacular, although it turned in nicely.
While our stiff-set Pro exhibited no arse-end skipping-around straight away, typical of an unladen ute, we did hit a few surprise lumps and bumps early on in the drive-loop and that got the back end jumping about in a brief but brutal manner.
As for the quirks, our overzealous ABS kicked in on several occasions for seemingly innocuous reasons when we tickled the brakes (discs all round) at lower and high speeds on bumpy stuff, which was concerning.
Secondly, a couple of journalists in a Luxe reckoned the blind-spot monitor in their LDV T60 failed to alert them to the presence of a passing vehicle.
The Pro auto was an easier drive over any off-road bits than the manual Pro was.
While the Pro suspension was too firm (to cope with heavy loads, no doubt), the Luxe’s tended to wallow.
For off-roading enthusiasts, here are the numbers worth noting: ground clearance is 215mm, wading depth is 300mm, and front and rear departure angles are 27 and 24.2 degrees respectively; ramp-over angle is 21.3 degrees.
The launch off-road loops were more scenic than challenging but when we intentionally veered off-course and onto some steep hilly sections, we had the opportunity to check out the LDV T60’s engine braking (okay) and hill descent control (good).
The Pro auto was an easier drive over any off-road bits than the manual Pro was, as the light feel of its clutch and the loose throw of its gear-stick didn’t inspire confidence.
Underbody protection includes a plastic bash-plate at the front.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The LDV T60 packs a lot of safety gear in for the price. It has a five-star ANCAP rating, six airbags (driver and front passenger, side, full-length curtain) and includes a raft of passive and active safety tech across the range including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. It has two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
5 years / 130,000 km warranty
It has a five-year/130,000km warranty, five-year/130,000km 24/7 roadside assistance and 10-year body anti-perforation rust warranty. Service intervals are 5000km (oil change), then every 15,000km. There is no capped-price servicing.
The LDV T60 is a big step in the right direction for Chinese-built utes and should go a long way to convincing Aussie ute buyers that these are finally a worthwhile consideration. Well priced and feature-packed, this dual-cab range exhibits a marked improvement in build quality, fit and finish and all-round drivability. Right now, the Chinese are not major contenders by anyone's estimation but at least they're moving in the right direction.
For our money, and for work-and-play versatility, the Luxe auto is the pick of the bunch; you get all the standard kit with a few nifty add-ons, including on-demand rear diff lock, chrome door handles and door mirrors, sports bar and more.
Would you consider buying a Chinese-built ute? Tell us what you think in the comments below.