2013 FOTON TUNLAND REVIEW
What’s Hot: Reputable component suppliers, rear seat accommodation, relative pricing
What’s Not: Quality niggles. No auto, no cruise, nor ESC, no traction control, side or curtain airbags
X Factor: Gutsy Cummins diesel engine carries plenty of trucking cachet.
Engine: 2.8 litre turbodiesel | Transmission: five-speed manual
Fuel consumption listed: 8.4 l/100km | tested: 9.0 l/100km
Foton’s Tunland pickup has finally landed on Australian shores. It launches with a dual cab-only bodystyle into the increasingly competitive light commercial sector.
The Tunland is the first passenger model from the Chinese manufacturer to be launched locally.
So, its not quite the cheapest ute in the land, but it still undercuts its mainstream competition.
An all-new design, the Tunland was launched onto the Chinese market earlier this year; Australia is the second export market to get the model after South Africa.
Like many recent light commercial models, Foton benchmarked the segment-hero Toyota HiLux during the Tunland’s development - but the Tunland is larger in all key dimensions than the equivalent HiLux SR5 dual cab model.
The Tunland’s 3105mm wheelbase is 20mm longer than HiLux, while its 5310mm overall length and 1880mm width are 50mm and 35mm larger respectively.
Likewise, the ute tub matches HiLux for length (1520mm), while its 1580mm width is 65mm greater and 440mm height is just 10mm shallower than the Toyota.
Foton also claims that the Tunland’s chassis is stronger than the HiLux, though no specific figures have been offered to support this.
Unique among the light commercial segment is the Tunland’s Beijing-assembled 2.8 litre Cummins ISF turbodiesel engine.
Producing a handy 120kW/360Nm, the engine is to be a hallmark of Foton’s Australian range: the renowned truck drivetrain supplier’s logo is proudly affixed to each of the Tunland’s front doors.
Cummins has designed the engine to last an impressive 500,000km, though the requisite 5000km service intervals will need to be adhered to.
Other brand-name components include the German-built Getrag five-speed manual transmission, Dana axles, Borg Warner transfer case, and Bosch electrical components.
Local Foton distributor Foton Automotive Australia (FAA) undertook an 8000km local evaluation program with the Tunland, which sees Australian-spec models coated in more corrosion-resistant PPG paint, along with unique windscreen wipers and wing mirrors, and a vacuum booster added to the clutch mechanism.
But there are some serious omissions. The Tunland’s spec-list does not include cruise, stability or traction control, and nor are there side or curtain airbags.
On the up-side, all models are fitted with ABS and reversing sensors as standard.
Foton expects the Tunland to achieve a 4-Star Euro NCAP safety rating, but it has is yet to be submitted for local ANCAP testing.
A 4-Star rating would position the Tunland below its many 5-Star light commercial rivals, but it would also outshine other budget alternatives like the 2-Star Great Wall V240 and 3-Star Mahindra Pik-Up and Ssangyong Actyon Sports.
The Tunland is available now in both 4x2 and 4x4 dual cab models, with either ‘Quality’ or ‘Luxury’ trim levels.
FAA had three 4x4 Luxury models available at this week’s local media event on Queensland’s Gold Coast. We got behind the wheel for nearly 200km of urban, highway, rural and off-road conditions.
The Tunland’s interior is contemporary and inoffensive; cabin materials feel in line with the more recent category rivals.
First impressions were tarnished however: two of the three Tunlands on test emitted a constant squeak from behind the instrument cluster, evident even on smooth tarmac.
(A similar foible was found in another of the test cars, where what seemed to be a loose plastic wheelarch liner resonated annoyingly against the Tunland’s body throughout the test.)
Front seats are flat and broad, offering sufficient cushioning over the test route but likely to leave most drivers wanting greater support on longer journeys.
Rear seat accommodation offers comparable legroom with the current best in the segment, while the backrest angle is similarly impressive.
The rear-seat base also folds upright to sit against the seatback via a unique cantilevered hinge, maximising the space available when the seat base is lifted.
Centre rear occupants make do with a lap-only belt design, while front seatbelts are equipped with pretensioners and force limiters.
Each door is equipped with bottle holders, and two cupholders are integrated into the centre console.
Steering adjustment is rake-only; steering-wheel controls will be added exclusively to Luxury models from 2013.
The Luxury model tested looks set to be the volume seller of the Tunland line-up. Its modest $500 premium over Quality models (both 4x2 and 4x4) brings heated mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity from 2013 onwards, iPod port, leather steering wheel and leatherette seat trim.
Significantly for family buyers, FAA’s press material suggests that rear child seat anchorage points will only be fitted from 2013.
ON THE ROAD
All three Tunlands on test were literally box-fresh. The unit assigned to this correspondent showed just 11km on its odometer at the start of the drive program.
We expected - and found - a really taut engine and mechanicals, though the five-speed gearbox loosened up considerably throughout the day.
The 2.8 litre engine felt as strong as its 360Nm from 1800rpm would suggest, but turbo lag was greater than expected of a modern design (perhaps due to the fresh engine).
Nonetheless, our Tunland had no trouble keeping up with Gold Coast traffic as we headed out of town, but the lack of cruise control proved annoying on the highway.
Relatively tall gearing results in a relaxed 1900rpm in fifth gear at 100km/h, but it doesn’t have the useful flexibility of a six-speeder.
Open-road acceleration is hampered by the turbo lag, but once on-song, the 2.8 litre had no trouble moving the 1950kg 4x4 Tunland Luxury.
Foton claims sub-13.5 second 0-100km/h acceleration and 150km/h top speed for all dual-cab Tunland models; on the basis of this test, we have no reason to doubt this.
We drove the cars unladen, but Tunland’s specs quote a 1025kg payload and 2500kg braked towing rating.
FAA admits that this tow rating is currently being reassessed in light of recent 3000kg-plus rated models from other manufacturers, and is confident of achieving a 3000kg official rating in the near future.
The Tunland’s suspension layout features a double wishbone independent front end, with spring-over-axle rear, along with a disk/drum braking combination.
This is in-line with the category standard.
It works okay in practice; the Tunland corners relatively flatly although the jiggly unladen ride is more reminiscent of utes of old rather than what the likes of Ranger/BT50 and Amarok.
The brakes performed adequately, however one of the three Tunlands on test ended the drive program with a smoking right-rear brake (right side only) - suggesting a poorly adjusted dragging brake shoe.
OFF THE ROAD
We put the Tunlands over a low-range fire trail, with plenty of second and third-low constant inclines and the odd washout to test wheel articulation.
The rear suspension articulated well for an unladen leaf setup, while the independent front design gave no cause for concern.
Foton doesn’t quote any entry/departure or ramp-over angles for the Tunland aside from a minimum ground clearance of 210mm; off road, it seems comparable with the HiLux (but a more demanding test is necessary).
In its favour, the Tunland’s off-road credentials are boosted by a steel sump-guard and limited-slip diff.
This LSD goes some way to disguising the Tunland’s lack of traction control, but the surfaces of the off-road course were not loose enough to properly put it through its paces.
Tyre choice for all Tunland dual cabs are 245/70R16 GT Radial highway terrain boots. They seemed to work okay off-road.
Transfer case selection is via shift-on-the-fly console button (at low speeds) giving a useful low-range for heavier off-road work.
At the end of the off-road section though, one of the Tunlands on test was reluctant to shift out of low-range 4x4 mode, despite trying the usual ‘reverse back’ trick.
A few cycles of the 4L and 2H buttons soon saw the appropriate 4x2 high range mode engaged and we were able to proceed as planned.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Importer FAA is counting on the sticker price value and the reputation of the other brand names the Tunland is carrying - Cummins, Getrag and Bosche et al - to find a mid-point buyer niche.
There’s no doubt however that its appeal is diminished by the omission of safety features like side/curtain airbags, stability control, and traction control, and also by the lack of an automatic transmission option.
The several quality niggles experienced on test were also unfortunate. FAA’s Daniel Phelan explained that the three Tunlands on test were so fresh from importation that they had not been subjected to a pre-delivery inspection.
Hmm, that’s a shame. It’s perhaps the best of the cheapies but a full test of a more well-travelled unit is necessary before we’d be confident of making a call on Foton’s enigmatic Tunland.
- Foton Tunland Quality 4x2 - $28,000
- Foton Tunland Luxury 4x2 - $28,500
- Foton Tunland Quality 4x4 - $34,500
- Foton Tunland Luxury 4x4 - $35,000