Foton Tunland VS Renault Kangoo
- Cummins engine
- Improved build quality
- Roomy interior
- Lack of safety gear
- Front end (bullbar will fix that easily)
- Some flimsy, and awkwardly positioned switchgear
- Purchase price
- Zippy performance
- Load-carrying ability
- Premium fuel only
- Big LHS blind-spot
- No AEB
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|
The Renault Kangoo is the closest competitor to Volkswagen’s top-selling Caddy in Australia’s small van segment (under-2.5 tonne GVM). In 2020 the enduringly popular German light commercial holds a commanding 72 per cent share of this market, compared to the Kangoo’s 21 per cent.
However, such a big imbalance in sales doesn't always reflect a similar disparity in vehicle design and performance. Fact is, after spending a working week in the Kangoo, the gap between VW’s runaway sales leader and its closest competitor is not as large as those sales figures might suggest.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
It’s an honest and willing little worker and, given the much lower purchase price compared to its VW Caddy Van equivalent, is worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for a small van. Just don’t expect premium safety at this end of the market. And Renault should show more confidence in Kangoo by backing it with a longer warranty than three years.
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.
This is a tried and tested formula that has earned the little French workhorse a loyal following, particularly in Europe. Its front wheel-drive chassis has a 2697mm wheelbase and 10.7-metre turning circle, with simple but robust MacPherson strut front suspension, rack and pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and a well-designed beam rear axle. This uses torsion bar primary springing supplemented by a pair of secondary coil springs for competent carrying of heavy loads.
The Compact lives up to its name with its 4213mm overall length and 1829mm width but the cabin is reminiscent of Doctor Who’s Tardis. The low seating height relative to the Kangoo’s 1815mm height, combined with its large glass areas, create a spacious and airy cabin environment with vast headroom you would not expect to find in such a small vehicle.
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.
The Kangoo’s 1270kg tare weight and 1810kg GVM results in a 540kg payload rating. However, we always quote kerb weights (with full fuel tank) rather than tare weights (with only 10 litres of fuel) in our reviews to keep things consistent. So if you add the missing 46 litres of petrol (or about 36kg) to the published tare weight, that drops the payload to just over 500kg which is still a very useful half a tonne.
The EDC-equipped Kangoo also has no tow rating, so if you need that capability you’ll have to opt for the six-speed manual version which is rated to tow up to 1050kg of braked trailer.
The cargo bay in our test vehicle is accessed through non-glazed sliding doors on each side (with 635mm max opening) and the optional twin barn-doors at the rear. These feature 180-degree opening to assist forklift access, asymmetric design (to minimise visual obstructions in the rear-view mirror) and a demister/wiper/washer on the left-hand door.
The cargo bay’s 1476mm internal length, with 1218mm between the rear wheel housings, means it can take either an 1165mm-square Aussie pallet or 1200 x 800mm Euro pallet. There’s also 3.0 cubic metres of total load volume available.
The load floor has a protective mat and three cargo-securing points each side plus two more at mid-height. The doors and lower internal panels are lined and there’s neat plastic mouldings over the wheel housings. However, there’s no cargo protection behind the passenger seat and only two tubular steel protective bars behind the driver’s, so if you’re moving lots of heavy stuff we’d recommend either the optional steel bulkhead or an aftermarket steel mesh-type cargo barrier.
Standard cabin storage options include a bottle holder and storage bin in each door, a cave-like storage cubby in the centre dash-pad and a smaller one above the glovebox. The centre console has two cup holders and a lidded storage box that doubles as an armrest. The optional overhead cabin storage shelf fitted to our test vehicle is well designed and can hold heaps of stuff.
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.
Our test vehicle is the L1 SWB (short wheelbase) Compact Van with 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol engine and six-speed EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) automatic transmission for a list price of $26,990. Although that’s $2500 more than the six-speed manual version, it still undercuts its Caddy equivalent (TSI 220 SWB with 7-speed DSG) by $4300, which represents a substantial 14 per cent saving on purchase price alone.
The Compact is a no-frills work-focused van, as evidenced by its 15-inch steel wheels and 195/65R15 Michelin tyres (who'd have guessed) with full-size spare, hard-wearing black plastic front/rear bumpers and side body mouldings, rubberised cargo floor mat and twin-tubular steel cargo protection bars behind the driver’s seat.
There’s minimal standard equipment as you’d expect in such a workhorse, but it does include useful on-the-job features like rear parking sensors, height-adjustable steering column, non-radar cruise control and speed limiter, rear window demister/wiper, manual height-adjustable headlights (handy when load carrying), USB, 3.5mm auxiliary jack and 12-volt accessory plugs along with a basic multimedia system including AM/FM radio, CD player (remember those?) and Bluetooth with steering column controls.
Our test vehicle was fitted with Renault’s optional overhead cabin storage shelf and twin rear barn-doors. There are numerous other factory options like sat nav, cabin bulkhead, reversing camera etc along with Business Plus Pack and Trade Pack special option packages.
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.
This Euro 6-compliant 1.2-litre petrol engine is a variant of that shared by numerous Renault passenger cars, but with more power and torque tapped at lower rpm that’s better suited to this load-carrying workhorse role. In other words, it’s not peaky and has good flexibility, but does require 95-98 RON premium petrol.
The direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder produces 84kW at 4500rpm. Its 190Nm of torque peaks at 2000rpm yet remains close to full strength all the way to 4000rpm, which is admirable for such a small engine and highlights the benefits of modern variable vane turbocharger technology.
It also offers a manually-switched ECO economy mode and Renault’s ESM (Energy Smart Management), which allows kinetic energy produced under deceleration/braking to be recovered by the engine’s alternator and stored in the battery. Given the amount of stops and starts in a typical working van’s life, Renault claims most of this recovered energy assists in engine starting.
The six-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic transmission provides brisk acceleration from standing starts and snappy near-seamless shifting, in either auto mode or when using the sequential manual shift function.
Renault’s official combined figure of 6.5L/100km looked optimistic given the dash readout was showing a 9.7 average at the end of our test, which covered just under 300km without the use of ECO mode and with more than a third of that distance under maximum GVM loading.
Our own figure, calculated from actual tripmeter and fuel bowser readings, worked out at 8.8L/100km. Therefore, based on our figures, you could expect a ‘real world’ driving range of around 630km from its 56-litre tank.
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.
The engine’s zippy performance combined with the Kangoo’s agility, particularly in city delivery work, makes it an energetic daily driver. There’s a decent-sized left footrest and enough adjustment in the seat and steering column for drivers of most sizes to find a comfortable position, even though the base cushions are a tad short to provide adequate upper-thigh support over longer distances.
The ride quality when empty or lightly loaded is surprisingly supple for such a small vehicle that can carry half a tonne. Steering feel and braking response are good and there’s excellent vision through the large windscreen and front door windows, which provide clear eyelines to the door mirrors.
However, the offset join in the rear barn-doors still blocks a fair slice of the rear-view mirror’s vision and the unglazed left-side sliding door creates a big blind-spot, which can be hazardous when changing lanes and unnerving when reversing, particularly onto a busy road. The door mirrors could do with a size increase, or at least a wider-angle lens on the passenger side to assist in this area.
The gear ratios and shift protocols are well suited to the engine’s characteristics in city and suburban driving, keeping it mostly within its optimum 2000-4500rpm range where maximum torque and power seamlessly intersect.
Gearing is also tailored for economical highway travel. At 100km/h it’s bang-on maximum torque at 2000rpm which rises to 2250rpm at 110km/h. The cruise control holds its pre-set speed with discipline, although the system’s on-off switch is located low on the right-hand side of the dash where you can’t see it while driving and have to find by finger search.
Noise in the cargo bay (emanating largely from the wheel housings) at these higher speeds is around 90 on our dB meter, which can become quite enervating the longer you spend behind the wheel. So if doing lots of highway driving, we’d recommend fitting the optional steel bulkhead which is not only an effective cargo barrier but also greatly reduces cabin noise levels.
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.
Its four-star ANCAP rating was achieved a decade ago (2011) and is overdue for an upgrade. There’s no AEB and a reversing camera is optional, but you can only get that with the optional rear barn-doors and R-Link sat-nav multimedia system.
At the very least, the option of glazed cargo bay side doors should be available. Even so, there’s driver and passenger front and side airbags, rear parking sensors and an active safety menu including hill-start assist, Grip Xtend (intelligent traction control) and more.