Isuzu D-Max VS Foton Tunland
- Reversing camera as standard
- Suspension upgrade
- Off-road capability
- No AEB
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Still noisy when driven hard
- Cummins engine
- Improved build quality
- Roomy interior
- Lack of safety gear
- Front end (bullbar will fix that easily)
- Some flimsy, and awkwardly positioned switchgear
Last year heralded a raft of significant changes in Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) D-Max and MU-X line-up.
In its first-quarter 2017 launch on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Isuzu officially revealed the range’s new 3.0-litre engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and upgraded Aussie-specific suspension – all engineered for Australian drivers and our unique driving conditions – as well as a few nifty styling improvements, including a new front-end.
Well, this year Isuzu chose the Mt Cotton driver training centre, just outside of Brisbane, as the venue to let Australian motoring journalists loose in some new D-Maxs and MU-Xs. The changes this time around aren’t anywhere near as big as they were last year but Isuzu is hoping that extra safety features as standard, styling tweaks and value-added service intervals will help to build on growing buyer interest in its ute and SUV range.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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 D-Max was already a solid choice for those interested in a functional family-friendly ute and it seems Isuzu might be justified in banking on the new LS-T’s premium appeal, as well as the range’s safety upgrades, extended service intervals and styling tweaks for even more sales.
What do you think of the new D-Max? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
Nothing has changed on the D-Max’s outside – it looks chunky, solid and purpose-built for adventure – but the LS-T’s interior now has that perforated leather on body-contact areas and soft-touch leatherette elsewhere. Inside the cabin remains functional but it now has a more premium feel.
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.
We didn’t have the opportunity to spend very much time in the D-Max this time around but it appears to have retained the previous generation’s easy-to-live-with attributes. Everything is clear to see (the 8.0-inch touchscreen is a good unit), easy to use (big buttons, dials and knobs abound) and the cabin is roomy, comfortable, and hard wearing. Build quality and fit and finish remains solid and touring-ready.
The D-Max's tray is 1552mm long (at floor level), 465mm deep and 1530mm wide across the top, 1105mm wide, between wheel arches. It has four tie-down points in the tray, one at each corner.
This D-Max has a 1024kg payload, 3050kg GVM, a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg and 750kg unbraked.
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.
Price and features
There are 23 variants in the D-Max line-up, ranging from the 4x2 single cab chassis SX manual ($28,600) through to the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), costing $54,700 (recommended retail price).
There are four variants in the crew cab (dual-cab) range – SX, LS-M, LS-U and the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), which we’ll focus on in this yarn. There are 4x4 and 4x2 variants for everything in the 2018 D-Max range; and manual or auto transmissions for a lot of the line-up everything.
The LS-T is auto only and costs $54,700 (recommended retail price). Available in 4x4 or 4x2 guise, the LS-T gets, above and beyond what came before, perforated leather on body-contact areas, soft-touch leatherette in other spots (also in LS-m and LS-U), 18-inch wheels, sat nav, roof-rails, and two USB charge points.
Safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those.
There are also three new exterior colours available for the D-Max: 'Magnetic Red Mica', 'Cobalt Blue Mica' and 'Graphite Grey Metallic'. The new MU-X also has the Magnetic Red Mica option.
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.
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.
We only got the chance to spend very little time in any new models and we’d have to drive it for a week or more to get a good handle on real-world fuel consumption but Isuzu claims the D-Max gets through 7.9L/100km (combined cycle). It has a 76-litre fuel tank.
We only did brief drive loops on the launch, including a decent off-road course and towing a 1750kg boat with a D-Max on a twisting bitumen road, designed to replicate real-world driving conditions.
Running 20 psi (pounds per square inch) in our Bridgestone Dueler or Toyo Open Country tyres, the Isuzus handled everything on the 4WD loop with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, plowing through mud puddles and more.
No surprise at its efficacy on rough terrain because it works off the proven 4X4 'Terrain Command' system, operated via a dial near the auto shifter, and which can be switched on the fly from 2High to 4High at speeds of up to 100km/h. To engage 4L you need to be stationary.
The LS-T is 5295mm long, 1860mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1855mm high (excluding roof rails) and has a 3095mm wheelbase and 1570mm track. It has a 12.6m turning circle. Kerb weight is listed as 2026kg.
It has 235mm ground clearance, 30 degrees approach angle, 22.7 degrees departure angle, and 22.3 degrees ramp-over angle. The LS-T's wading depth is 600mm.
The Isuzu ute retains the previous generation’s hill start assist (designed to hold gear during climbs) and hill descent control (which maintains engine-braking speed on downhills and is able to be regulated with acceleration or braking).
The D-Max’s underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid/splash shield and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge; and sheet steel under the fuel tank.
It has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs at the rear, reduced from a five-span spring set-up to three, which has resulted in a softer and more comfortable D-Max ride than before.
We had the opportunity to drive a 2017 and a 2018 model back-to-back through lumpy sections at different speeds and the newer model exhibited a clear advantage in the ride and handling stakes over its older version.
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 D-Max has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from November 2016. As mentioned, noteworthy safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those.
Other standard safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, traction control and EBA (emergency brake assist), 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control', plus three top-tether ISOFIX child-seat points in the rear seat.
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.
It has a five-year/130,000km warranty, with five years of roadside assist and five-year/75,000km capped price service costs. Servicing is recommended at 12-month/15,000km intervals. Prices are: $350 (at 12 months/15,000km), $450 (at 24 months/30,000km), $500 (at 36 months/45,000km) $450 (at 48 months/60,000km) and $340 at 60 months/75,000km – for a total cost of $2090.