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First drive: Foton shoots for the stars with Tunland ute

Better late than never: After being delayed by six months, the Foton Tunland ute arrives in local showrooms this month priced from $28,000.

Australia gets new Chinese brand with the launch of the Foton Tunland dual-cab


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13 Nov 2012

THE Australian car market has officially gained a second Chinese ute range following the launch today of the diesel-powered Foton Tunland dual-cab, with prices starting at $28,000 plus on-road costs and climbing to $35,000 for the top-line 4x4.

Arriving in local showrooms six months later than projected and following extensive Australian engine, suspension and corrosion testing, the Tunland is the first salvo from local distributor FAA Automotive ahead of a wider product and dealer roll-out over the next 48 months.

Just 45 Tunlands are in the country as of this week, with a further 100 units set to arrive in December, to be sold from a small initial network of 12 dealers spread across Queensland (5), Victoria (3), South Australia (2) and Western Australia (2).

FAA intends to expand the network to 31 dealers by the end of 2013, firstly into the crucial New South Wales market, plus the Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania.

In 2014, the Foton range will be expanded to include a Tunland-based passenger SUV and a 12-seat minivan.

Aimed squarely at western markets such as Australia – which will act as a test-bed for a potential roll-out into the United States and is the second market outside China to receive the car, after South Africa – the Tunland is priced and positioned above smaller bargain-basement rivals including the Great Wall V200 and SsangYong Actyon.

However, it is priced $5000 below the Toyota HiLux dual-cab diesel on which it is benchmarked.

For now, the Tunland comes in four models – two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive in Quality and Luxury specification levels – all of which have five seats and are powered by a Cummins 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, and matched to a five-speed Getrag manual gearbox.

The 2WD Quality variant is priced at $28,000, the 4x4 starts at $34,500 and the Luxury specification adds $500 on both.

By comparison, the Great Wall V200 dual-cab starts at $24,990 (2WD) and $27,990 (4WD) driveaway, while the Actyon starts at $26,990 driveaway for the 2WD and $30,066 driveaway for the 4WD.

The Cummins joint-venture factory in Beijing where the engines are built is a new facility adjacent to the Foton plant that uses modern production technology sourced from Cummins’ US and UK operations.

Cummins produces more large-capacity (more than 3.0-litres) diesel engines worldwide than any other company.

The Euro4-complaint (and Euro5-enabled) engine produces120kW of power at 3600rpm and 360Nm of torque between 1800 and 3000rpm, and uses a claimed 8.4 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle.

Cummins projects a lifecycle of 500,000km.

FAA said it plans to broaden the Tunland range in early 2013 with the availability of a single-cab bodystyle and six-speed automatic transmission from German company ZF, while a petrol engine is also in the works for later next year, with a supplier currently being sourced.

FAA has a modest target of about 1700 sales in 2013 whereas Great Wall has sold 6518 V200 and V240 utes to the end of October this year, while Toyota has sold 34,000 HiLuxes.

The launch variants have a class-competitive towing capacity of 2500kg – which Foton claims will eventually be expanded to 3300kg – and a loading capacity of 1000kg in the 1520mm-long, 1580mm-wide and 440mm-high fixed tray, which is enough to carry a quad.

With overall dimensions of 5310mm (length), 1880mm (width) and 1870mm (height), the top-line Tunland is slightly bigger than the market-dominating HiLux, being 50mm longer, 45mm wider and 10mm higher than Toyota’s range-topping SR5 4x4.

The 210mm ground clearance is 17mm less than the Toyota’s but the 30-degree departure angle beats it by some seven degrees.

All Tunland variants come with a limited slip differential, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and dual front airbags.

Foton expects a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating for the vehicle and, while ANCAP testing has not been undertaken, FAA is confident of attaining four stars.

With neither side curtain airbags nor stability control available at launch, the Tunland is precluded from a five-star ANCAP safety rating and, as a result, those private and business fleet buyers that demand the top rating.

FAA claims both safety aids will be offered from 2013.

In the meantime, four ANCAP stars would fall short of the maximum already scored by certain versions of the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado and Volkswagen Amarok, but would match the HiLux (until that model gets a safety upgrade in 2013 that should take it to five stars), and far exceed the Great Wall’s two-star rating.

Standard features on the base 2WD include underbody protection, 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows, micro-USB and auxiliary points for the sound system, “woven velvet” seat trim, automatic dipping rear-view mirror and reversing sensors.

The base 4WD picks up a Borg Warner transfer case, while the top-line Luxury versions gain leather steering wheel and seat trim as well as iPod/Bluetooth compatibility.

All models feature the same 3105mm wheelbase, front disc and rear drum brakes (normal for a ute), double-wishbone front suspension with coil springs and sway bar, and longitudinal leaf springs at the rear.

Beijing-based Foton has big growth plans and aims to export 1.4 million passenger and commercial vehicles, plus heavy trucks, by 2020 out of a total production of 4.0 million vehicles.

It eventually hopes to be among the world’s top ten vehicle-makers.

This push starts with Australia plus developing markets including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, India and Indonesia, before expanding into the developed markets of Korea, Japan, Europe and the US.

FAA distribution development and operations manager Paul Vuko said the Tunland had proven it is tough enough to follow in the wheeltracks of mainstream rivals after a trio of early top-spec versions this week tackled some steep and rocky Queensland terrain.

“The Tunland is a versatile vehicle that promises exceptional performance both on and off the road,” he said.

“It [the Tunland] was designed for the Western market and is built to cater for Australian work and recreational transport demands.

“Notably, the Tunland also successfully tackled Lesotho’s tortuous Bobbejaans Pass in South Africa earlier this year.” 2012 Foton Tunland pricing*
2WD Quality $28,000
2WD Luxury $28,500
4WD Quality $34,500
4WD Luxury $35,000
*Plus on-road costs

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