Competitive pricing helps LDV to  more than double its market share.

Chinese van maker LDV flew under the radar in 2018, quietly growing its market share and producing a growth rate to the end of November of 145 percent (source: VFACTS). Sales increased from 2017 to the corresponding 11-month period of 2018 from 2315 to 5679 vehicles, represented by the LDV G10 van, G10 People Mover, T60 4×2 and 4×4 ute, and V80 van and bus.

LDV’s parent company, SAIC Motor Corporation, is no third-rate manufacturer. With origins dating back to the late 1940s, this Chinese state-owned automotive design and manufacturing company had the largest production volume of any Chinese automaker when, in 2014, it built more than 4.5 million vehicles. In 2010, SAIC acquired the intellectual property rights to what had once been known as Leyland DAF Vans from administrator Pricewaterhouse Coopers, subsequently commencing manufacturing in China in 2011 under its Maxus division.

The Australian van line-up starts with the medium-sized G10, which offers the choice of a turbocharged petrol 2.0-litre four-cylinder, a naturally aspirated petrol 2.4-litre four-cylinder, or a 1.9-litre, turbocharged diesel four-cylinder.

Power and torque come in at 105 kW/200Nm, 165 kW/330Nm and 106 kW/350Nm respectively. Transmission choices are a five-speed manual for the 2.4-litre, a ZF six-speed auto for the 2.0-litre turbo, and a six-speed manual or auto for the diesel. Pricing ranges from $27,358 to $30,516.

Moving up in size is the LDV V80 Low Roof SWB (short-wheelbase) in manual and automatic form at a driveaway price of $32,621 and $34,736. ABN holders get the preferential treatment, with a reduction to $30,990 and $32,990 respectively.

Moving up to the LDV V80 Mid Roof LWB (long-wheelbase) brings in driveaway six-speed manual pricing of $37,886, with the auto at $39,989 ($35,990 and $37,990 for ABN holders). At the top of the van range, pricing for the LDV V80 High Roof LWB hits $39,989 and $42,095 (manual and automatic driveaway), with ABN holders paying $37,990 and $39,990.

Along with a revised pricing structure, the 2019 models have stronger frontal styling, contributing a more purposeful appeal for quite a long-standing design.

The engine throughout the V80 van range is a VM Motori Eco 2.5-litre turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder diesel with Bosch common rail direct injection that produces 100 kW at 3800 rpm, with peak torque of 330 Nm rated at 1800 to 2600 rpm.

From an engineering perspective it’s all pretty conventional, with MacPherson struts and coils on the front and taper leaf springs on the rear, plus disc brakes all-round. Standard features include sliding doors on both sides, plus barn doors at the rear with 16-inch alloy rims running 215/75/R16 tyres.

Technically and electronically, it’s not disadvantaged. Every V80 buyer benefits from ABS braking, electronic stability control, hill hold, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist system, reverse parking sensors, reversing camera, driver and passenger SRS airbags, and central locking.  Buyers of the LWB version gain blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems.

When compared to long-standing brands such as the Ford Transit, the base specification stands up well. Admittedly, the wider range of wheelbases, cargo lengths and roof heightsof the Ford are not available, but most buyers can cope with what is offered dimensionally, especially when everything is included in a one-size-fits-all driveaway pricing structure.

To reach the same level of inclusions as Ford usually brings a hefty series of extra costs, illustrating that Ford product planners have little interest in the practicality of the specification. For them, it’s all about technology and voice-activated command systems that annoy drivers more than the old alternative of pressing a button.

Payload figures come in at 1204 kg for the SWB, rising to 1419 kg for the LWB Mid Roof and dropping back slightly to 1389 kg for the LWB High Roof. As most vans in this segment carry volume rather than weight, that’s all acceptable to the average buyer. The maximum towing limit for a braked trailer is 1200 kg, but very few buyers would consider towing an important part of the purchase decision, as the extra length compounds problems when parking.

With cruise control, power windows, a sound system and three years’ roadside assistance, the warranty of 100,000 km is somewhat on the short side of distance travelled if buyers are going to be made to feel comfortable at the time of vehicle selection. Nobody raves about driving a van − it either works well or doesn’t, and with some good safety features and driver aids to assist with parking, that’s usually enough to keep the owner or driver satisfied.

The actual driving experience is little different from its competition, although there are indications that higher-priced alternatives feel more solid and more dynamic in performance.

The customer receiving the parcels certainly won’t notice that the van bringing them was $15,000 cheaper than a European-manufactured alternative. As long as it starts and stops when required, and parts are available on demand, expect sales to continue to rise.

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