Can LDV win back Australian buyers? – Report by Rob Randazzo
LDV (Leyland DAF Vans) has certainly had a rocky past, changing ownership four times since becoming an independent company in 1993, and moving base from Britain to China to become part of the SAIC conglomerate.
After much hype but little action by the previous Australian importers and distributors, WMC (Australia), Ateco has now taken up the challenge of reintroducing the brand to Australian buyers.
As Edward Rowe, Ateco’s media spokesperson, explained:
“SAIC Motor is the 40th biggest company in the world. Not the 40th biggest carmaker, but the 40th biggest company of any type.
“SAIC has been producing vehicles since the 1940s, and involved in joint ventures with some of the world’s leading vehicle makers from Europe and the USA since the mid-1980s, including Volkswagen and General Motors. With plans to build more than seven million vehicles in 2017, SAIC is now the largest single vehicle maker in China.
“Drawing on this wealth of expertise, its light commercial vehicle division, LDV, has been able to produce a ground-up new design for the LDV G10, with an all-new platform for its van and commercial vehicle range”.
When asked how ATECO would restore confidence in LDV after false starts by WMC (Australia), Mr. Rowe replied:
“The key issue for LDV in Australia is not the product, as the G10 clearly illustrates. LDV has the right product, with the right specifications – especially now that the G10 diesel in manual and automatic is here – and at the right prices. It (the solution) is ensuring and enhancing the crucial support for vehicles that are the working tools of trade, and essential parts of business, for each and every customer that will grow that confidence. This is why Ateco has, and will continue to, put significant work and investment into providing a strong and effective national dealer network, backed by the full range of support services in marketing, parts, aftersales and training in all areas”.
Delivery Magazine recently ran a week-long evaluation of the newly-released 1.85-litre, turbodiesel, six-speed manual LDV G10 van.
The outside appearance certainly suggests design aspects being influenced by the Mercedes-Benz Vito and Hyundai iLoad. However, once seated, a quick glance around the interior reminds you that this is a van designed and built to a budget – from just $28,990 drive away!
The cloth-covered seats are comfortable, and the inner side of each has a drop-down armrest, which can be lifted to make walk-through access to the cargo area easier – as long as the low-set cupholder has been pushed in. Manual three-way adjustment (height, reach and back angle) to the driver’s seat makes it easy to get comfortable, but the passenger can only play with reach adjustment.
Visibility is excellent over the sloping bonnet thanks to the high, upright, driving position.
Storage in the cabin is adequate, with two pockets in each door and an average-sized glovebox, as well a low-profile floor tray between the seats. This tray is easy to step over, but provides a handy place to store those bits and pieces that usually float around the floor. It could also hold a clipboard, or your lunch.
Except for some sharp plastic edges where the door trims meet the power-operated windows (mirrors are also powered), the interior and dash are neat and well finished, but relatively spartan compared to some of the competition. Things like the lack of the usual controls for phone and radio, etc., on the tilt-adjustable steering wheel is an immediate hint that this is an entry-level commercial vehicle. The new-car smell of the G10 definitely has more than a hint of plastic, which could possibly be blamed on the cargo area floor covering.
The seven-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash controls the two-speaker audio system that includes audio streaming, Bluetooth phone connectivity, USB/MP3 input, SD card reader and CD/DVD player. Yes, a DVD player!
As standard, the touchscreen also displays the colour images from the reversing camera, which includes park assist and sensors. A rear camera is something only seen in two of the G10’s six competitor’s entry-level vans.
The air-conditioner is very effective, with a selectable range between 16 and 28 degrees. However, positioning of the controls requires the driver’s line of sight to be diverted down from the road to make adjustments.
Two column stalks for indicators, high beam, info menu selector and wipers sit behind the wide middle spoke of the steering wheel.
Information displays in the main cluster include various fuel consumption readings, distance to empty, distance travelled, trips, setting of upper speed limit, digital speedo, etc., and are easily viewed along with the analogue fuel gauge, tacho and speedo through the open section of the rather stocky, but comfortable, steering wheel, once its height is correctly adjusted. There is only one 12-volt outlet.
A bonus in the dash display is a four-wheel tyre-pressure monitor, which is standard in the G10, but not something you will see in other brands’ entry-level vans.
The 5.2 cu m cargo area, with a height of 1270 mm, width of 1590 mm and length of 2500 mm has a thick plastic floor covering, half-height padded wall/door panels, four lights and 10 heavy-duty tie-down anchor loops (six recessed into the floor and four on the side). Unfortunately, a slight design fault means that the bolt heads that secure the anchors into their recessed pockets in the floor poke up slightly above floor level. This could definitely cause damage to a delicate load, or tear holes in bags of stockfeed or cement if they were dragged across the bolts during unloading. Sheet material such as gyprock would also come out second best, but simply changing to more suitable bolts and/or washers would resolve this issue.
Once the anchor problem is solved, standard 8’x4’ (2400 mm x 1200 mm) building sheets would easily be accommodated, and a limited number of timber lengths up to 2700 mm, if pushed under each seat. Lengths up to 3200 mm will run between the seats, if they sit on the floor tray.
The G10 is 5168 mm long, 1980 mm wide and 1928 mm high, on a 3198 mm wheelbase with a 1030 kg payload. You can tow a braked trailer up to 1500 kg (750 kg unbraked).
Two sliding side doors is another appreciated standard feature of this van, and entry via these doors is made easier by well-placed steps, but the door openings are only 860 wide – so no forklift loading.
The 1278 mm spacing between the wheel arches will accept an Aussie pallet, and the floor length will allow for two, but it would be a risky (almost impossible) task loading with a standard forklift without optioning up to barn doors ($600 extra) from the standard lift tailgate.
With the 1.85-litre turbo diesel engine driving the back wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox to produce 106.5 kW at 4000 rpm, and a handy 350 Nm of torque at 1800-2600 rpm, the G10 is a willing little performer – as long as you don’t let the rpm drop below the torque range. At a highway speed of 110 km/h in sixth gear, the engine is buzzing at 2500 rpm, which accounts for some of the noise intrusion and slight cabin vibration. Road noise from the cargo area also adds to this, but could be reduced by the installation of a solid bulkhead (aftermarket), which would also reduce the amplified noise from rain, and summer heat generation, from the uninsulated roof of the cargo area.
The noise levels are not overwhelming, but are higher than some competitors at higher speed. At lower around-town speeds, with the engine at lower rpm, noise is not an issue.
The gear change is a little notchy, so the six-speed ZF auto G10 (at $31,490) might be a better option if this bothers you (I liked it), or if you are doing city deliveries.
Sixteen-inch alloys are standard, and 215/70 R16 tyres keep them off the road – the test van was fitted with Hankook Radial RA08s. The MacPherson strut front suspension and four-leaf rear suspension do an excellent job of keeping things going in a straight line on all surfaces, including poor-quality sealed and unsealed roads.
Safety features are better than expected from this Chinese import, with anti-skid brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, roll movement intervention, rear camera, parking sensors, remote keyless entry with central locking, rear fog lamps, headlight height adjustment, a tyre-pressure monitor, and two airbags (one each for the driver and passenger). No ANCAP rating is yet available.
The advertised combined fuel usage from the 75-litre tank is 8.3 l/100 km, which would be easily achievable as our test van averaged 8.1 l/100 km.
Warranty is three years/100,000 km, with 24/7 roadside assist during the warranty period.
At $28,990, the G10 is the second most powerful of the seven brands in the entry-level, medium-sized, van category, but, it is $7991 cheaper than the nearest competitor and a whopping $14,756 cheaper than the dearest.
As long as Ateco can actually provide the service and support Australian buyers expect, the LDV G10 could well do your business, and bank account, a huge favour – so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Having been a strong critic of the quality and technical ability of light commercials coming out of China, the arrival of the G10 has caused Delivery Magazine to rethink its views.
The overall appearance of the interior, dashboard fit and finish, and fit-for-purpose aspect of the G10 in the Australian market is a quantum leap ahead of where the Chinese industry performed just 12 months ago.
Memories of Great Wall customers having to cope with the on-again/off-again/on-again marketing behaviour, which resulted in atrocious resale values and poor product support, are still relatively recent. Chinese manufacturers have to gain credibility and respect from the buying public and prove their credentials, but with products such as the G10 the industry is getting closer to achieving faster acceptance.
The six-speed manual gearbox is notchy, but with an auto option at minimal additional cost this is one van that is going to win sales at the entry-level end of the market.