Foton Tunland VS Nissan Navara
- Cummins engine
- Improved build quality
- Roomy interior
- Lack of safety gear
- Front end (bullbar will fix that easily)
- Some flimsy, and awkwardly positioned switchgear
- Composed on-road dynamics
- Deeper tub for dual cabs
- Punchy engine
- Noticeable price jump
- Safety equipment could go further
- Aged interior
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.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
Whereas passenger cars and SUVs are refreshed every four or five years with a new-generation model, utes often have a much longer shelf life. This doesn’t mean customer expectations are changed, though, as new pick-ups should still have the latest and greatest in safety and specification.
So, what is a brand meant to do when their all-new pick-up model is still years away?
|Engine Type||2.3L turbo|
Foton Tunland 7/10
The Tunland is a damn good value-for-money proposition and it’s the best of the budget dual-cab ute mob, but a less than ideal suite of safety features impacts its appeal.
If those flaws are erased from the updated model, then it will likely stake an even stronger claim in a highly competitive ute market.
Does Foton's Tunland make the cut as a family-friendly work truck? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Nissan’s new Navara might not move the ute game forward as much as some recent entrants, but those that want to stand out from the usual Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger crowd would do well to check out Nissan’s workhorse.
The added standard safety across the board is nice for those looking for a dependable workhorse, but the small quality-of-life updates such as a new steering wheel keep the Navara from feeling stale.
Would be even better if the interior was given a bigger overhaul, like the exterior, but the 2021 Nissan Navara remains a strong option in a competitive segment.
Foton Tunland 7/10
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.
Nissan’s updated 2021 Navara wears a new exterior design featuring a revised front grille, bulkier bonnet, fresh bumper design and tailgate stamped with its name.
By borrowing the look from the US market-Titan, there is no doubt this makes the new Navara butcher and more muscular than before, but I actually prefer the sleeker look of the outgoing car.
Maybe it’s the swathes of chrome surrounding the front grille? Either way, I think the Pro-4X is the best interpretation of the new Navara, mainly thanks to its blacked-out bits that make it look even tougher.
The rest of the exterior hasn’t changed much, though the tray in dual-cab variants is now 45mm deeper, making the tub slightly larger.
The tray now measures 1509mm long (floor), 1490mm wide (top), 1134m between the wheelarches, and 519mm deep, though it still won’t fit a full-sized pallet.
The 2021 Navara’s off-road chops remain intact with approach, departure and breakover angles at 32.7, 20.3 and 23.2 degrees respectively for our ST-X dual-cab, while ground clearance when unladen is measured at 224mm.
Stepping inside the 2021 Navara, and the cabin looks much the same as it did before.
The steering wheel is new however, and borrows its design from the Qashqai and Leaf to make the interior feel a little less utilitarian and a just a little more chic, while the driver’s display is also a fresh addition to the 2021 model.
However, these small changes don’t do much to detract from the ageing interior, which has remained largely the same since 2015.
Foton Tunland 7/10
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.
Much of the 2021 Navara is carried over from last year, which means familiar switchgear, seats and trims.
Up front there is plenty of room for occupants, and storage options extend to generous door bins that accommodate large bottles, a deep centre console bin, two cupholders and a small tray just ahead of the shifter for wallets/phones.
All options offer usable storage space, but the wallet/phone tray could be a little deeper with higher sides to stop things sliding around when cornering.
In the back – at least in dual-cab versions – the seating situation is, again, familiar to anyone who has been in the current-generation Navara.
Outboard passengers are afforded decent head-, leg- and shoulder-room, but middle passengers might find it a bit of a squeeze.
Unfortunately, it’s a little no frills back there, with the only amenities being a fold-down armrest with cupholders, door bins, map pockets and air vents.
Price and features
Foton Tunland 7/10
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.
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.
The price of Nissan’s Navara has increased across the board this year, but more equipment is added as compensation.
There are four grades of Navara available for now – SL, ST, ST-X and Pro-4X – mixed up with 4x2, 4x4, manual, automatic and three different body style options for a total of 22 possible permutations.
Prices for the SL kick off at $32,300, before on-road costs, making the point-of-entry to the Navara range $5150 more expensive than before.
However, Nissan has justified this, somewhat, with the inclusion of more standard equipment and safety.
The SL is fitted with 17-inch steel wheels, a 7.0-inch driver display, cloth interior, keyless entry, and powered windows and door mirrors, as well as more safety equipment, which we will detail further below.
The next-step-up ST is available exclusively in dual-cab pick-up form and starts from $47,780, but adds digital radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-accented steering wheel and shifter, a chrome sports bar and LED headlights.
The ST-X meanwhile, is offered in king- and dual-cab pick-up bodies, priced from $51,270, and is fitted with 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, leather-accented interior, push-button start and auto-folding side mirrors.
Our test car, the 4x4 ST-X dual-cab automatic rings the till up at $58,270 ($1870 pricier than before).
Sitting atop the range for now is the Pro-4X, which is available exclusively in 4x4 dual-cab pick-up form, priced at $58,130 for the manual ,and $60,630 for the automatic.
It differs from the rest of the Navara range with bespoke styling, leather interior and all-terrain rubber as standard.
All versions of the Navara are also fitted with an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, Bluetooth connectivity and six-speaker sound, but ST grades and up also score satellite navigation and digital radio.
However, this is somewhat offset a little by promotional drive-away pricing available to both private and business customers.
Engine & trans
Foton Tunland 8/10
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.
The engine line-up for the 2021 Nissan Navara carries over unchanged from before, which means all but the base grade are fitted with a 2.3-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder that produces 140kW/450Nm.
The entry-level 4x2 SL manual versions meanwhile, are powered by a single-turbo 2.3-litre diesel engine, outputting 120kW/403Nm.
Despite the carryover powertrains, the higher-output engine remains competitive against the ute segment, even when stacked up against newer rivals like the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 that need a 3.0-litre engine to produce the same figures.
The engine also affords a payload rating of between 1004-1146kg, depending on spec, as well as a braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
Official fuel consumption figures for the Nissan Navara range from 7.2-8.1 litres per 100km, depending on engine, transmission, spec and body style.
The ST-X automatic we drove for review is rated at 7.9L/100km, making it about as thirsty as its competitors.
After a day of mixed driving conditions, including road and gravel with and without a load (as well as with a trailer), we averaged 9.0L/100km.
Foton Tunland 7/10
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.
Without much changing under the skin, the 2021 Nissan Navara drives much as it did before; and that is to say it handles itself admirably on the black top.
With a unique multi-link rear suspension set-up, the Navara feels composed on the road, even without a load in the rear.
And when driving with some weight in the tray – in our case a 325kg box – the Navara remains as calm and collected as you would want in a dual-cab ute.
Even with a trailer attached, the added weight and change in handling geometry is not enough to perturb Nissan’s ute on some of Melbourne’s tight and twisty roads.
Likewise, the carryover engine offers enough grunt to haul cargo about without much fuss, though the 2.3-litre twin-turbo-diesel unit in our ST-X test car proved a bit loud and grunty under load.
It’s certainly punchy enough without any weight or a trailer in the back, though, and its 140kW/450Nm outputs keep it very competitive against other utes in the segment.
The seven-speed automatic transmission paired with the engine is also smooth and fast shifting, never hunting for a gear when needed.
For those that like to shift themselves, there is manual ratio selection available on the shifter, though there are no wheel-mounted paddles.
Road noise is also quite prevalent in the ST-X, due to the 18-inch wheels, while wind noise is also noticeable at freeway speeds thanks to the Navara sporting the aerodynamic profile of a large brick.
These cabin intrusions are still noticeable despite Nissan’s claims of bulking up sound deadening to improve noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, but we’d have to drive both new and old cars back-to-back to determine if the tweaks are successful.
The big question mark here though is how the new Navara handles itself off-road, and with our driving limited to just paved roads, we’ll have to wait and see if Nissan’s new ute is still as adventurous as its rivals.
Foton Tunland 6/10
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.
The 2021 Nissan Navara wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, though its examination was conducted in 2015 when the current-generation model was introduced to Australia.
While the Navara from six years ago didn’t feature any form of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or lane support systems, it still managed to score 14.01 out of 16 for the frontal offset test, and full marks in the side impact (16 points) and pole (two points) tests.
The overall score awarded to the Navara in 2015 was 35.01 out of 37 points.
Standard safety features in the 2021 model now include AEB, hill-start assist, cruise control, seven airbags, automatic headlights and trailer-sway control.
A reversing camera is standard on all grades barring the single cab, SL king-cab chassis and SL dual-cab chassis variants.
Stepping up to the ST adds rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view monitor, automatic wipers, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and high-beam assist, while the ST-X scores rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitor.
There’s no doubt the 2021 Navara is the safest iteration yet, but when competitors offer features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard throughout the range, it’s hard to ignore the shortcomings on the Nissan ute’s spec list.
Like all new Nissan Australia models, the 2021 Navara comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with five years roadside assist.
However, the benchmark for warranty remains Mitsubishi and its Triton, which is offered with a 10-year/200,000km assurance period.
Scheduled servicing intervals in the Nissan Navara are set for every 12 months/20,000km, whichever occurs first.
Service costs are different for manual and automatic vehicles though, with five years/60 months maintenance on the manual adding up to $2883, and $2847 for the auto.
This means the Navara is more expensive to maintain than some rivals, which hover around the $2500 mark for five years’ worth of servicing.
However, the service intervals of the Navara are slightly longer at 20,000km, instead of competitor’s 15,000km range.