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Car reviews - LDV - G10 - Van range

Our Opinion

We like
Value, high equipment levels, smooth styling, 165kW performance, ZF transmission as standard equipment
Room for improvement
Lack of head-protecting airbags, grime-attracting light-coloured upholstery, no driver's footrest, damage-inducing steel mounts in cargo area.

LDV logo16 Jun 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINESE car-makers have learned some severe lessons in the Australian automotive market, such as near enough is not good enough when going head to head with the Japanese and Europeans.

The pioneering Great Wall and Chery brands are as good as gone from this market, and several others that promised much have either failed to find a toe-hold and gone home or still hoping for the killer products promised by the masters in the Middle Kingdom.

Still, they keep coming, and slowly, they are responding to the demands of the market with improved products at better prices.

A case in point is LDV – the commercial vehicle arm of China's giant Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) that learned all it knows about the motor industry at the knee of its joint-venture partners General Motors and Volkswagen.

Known as Maxus in most other markets, LDV arrived in Australia last year under the tutelage of independent distributor Ateco Automotive which also has learned some lessons about Chinese vehicle sales and marketing after being bruised by Great Wall and dented by Chery.

LDV launched here with the V80 van – a decade-old British design that came with the LDV goods and chattels acquired in the global financial crisis fire sale – but the local distributor was really hanging out for a newer, more sophisticated van, the slightly smaller G10.

Here in showrooms from July 1, little more than a year after its launch in China, the Chinese-developed G10 is best described as China's answer to the Toyota HiAce or Hyundai iMax/iLoad.

Of course, when going up against Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, you need to carry a good punch. In LDV's case, it has been working on its value-for-money left hook, because it knows its reputation is basically zero in this country, despite the size of its its parent company in China.

So, the G10 is loaded up and priced down, with the goods van and minibus both getting items such as a ZF automatic transmission, alloy wheels, rearview camera, cruise control, Bluetooth and a seven-inch LCD screen as standard equipment, and all for a driveaway price below $30k.

The passenger version gets more bling, with chrome grille and door handles, along with driving lights, automatic Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and so on. And for an extra $3000, the passenger van can be ordered with nine seats instead of seven, and LDV will even throw in leather upholstery.

Walking around the G10 at an LDV event in Sydney, we couldn't help but notice the tight fit and finish, with slick paintwork and even panel gaps. So far, so good.

Climbing aboard the goods van version, we notice the light-grey cloth upholstery of the of the seats. Hmmm … better advise the tradies with their grubby overalls to order up a set of seat covers with this puppy, as no other colour is available (and the goods van comes only in white exterior colour too).

There are hard plastics in the lower trim area such as the door panels and lower dash, but other surfaces such as the dash top are reasonable for a vehicle of this working-class style.

The central LCD screen is a stand-out feature that lifts the tone, as does the steering wheel with its audio and cruise control buttons – not something you often see in your average one-box load lumper.

The doors have twin pockets – good for those order books and so on – as well as a floor-level plastic tray between the seats for bibs and bobs while still allowing walk-through access to the back.

With two side sliding doors and big lift-up hatch at the back, the cargo area is easy to access from all sides. Heavy duty tie down points abound, but the bolts fixing some of them at the side protrude beyond the surface of the load space, inviting damaged goods.

Speaking of load space, the vehicle can swallow two standard-sized pallets, and is comparable with most of its competitors.

Performance from the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine is one of the G10's selling points, offering 165kW of power and 330Nm of torque – more than most in its class.

Add a six-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment, and most city-slicker delivery van drivers are already taking notice. The dash-mounted transmission lever even has a sports mode for manual-style changes.

Some rivals – especially those from the the Euros – do not offer an automatic transmission at all, others only at extra cost with more expensive diesel powertrains, and some offer just a clunky old four speeder or automated manual gearbox.

Of course, the biggest drawback for the G10 is the lack of diesel engine, but we are assured SAIC is working on it. A manual gearbox alternative to the auto cog-swapper is in the works too.

Behind the wheel, the tilt-adjustable steering wheel helps the driver to get comfortable, while the soft and supportive seats are just what workers who spend most of their days in the saddle would appreciate.

Like Japanese and Korean vehicles of this type, all the controls are where you expect to find them, and the instrument dials easy to read..

Our only beef about the ergonomics is the lack of a driver's footrest.

In a short drive around Sydney's Homebush Olympic area, the G10 goods van came across as smooth and accomplished, dealing with speed humps without banging and bouncing all over the road, courtesy of all-round coil-spring suspension.

We did not get to try it at speed or with a load, but we were assured it takes a tonne without dragging its backside on the road, even though the design started out as a passenger van.

The automatic transmission performed like any other ZF – better than most – and while the engine's power was not always evident, it scuttled along with gusto when pushed. We noticed that the odometer had a mere 30km on it, so it is hardly surprising that it was a bit tight.

We also had quick spins in the seven- and nine-seat MPV variants that were noticeably more soft sprung at the rear – naturally – and quieter, thanks to the noise-absorbing passenger interior with its carpeted, soft finishes.

Once again, we would question the wisdom of light-coloured beige cloth in a family battle wagon or hard-working shuttle bus, which is what these vehicles will mostly end up being. No other interior colour is available. At least the leather on the nine seater would be easier to clean.

The so-called captain's chair seats in these variants are mighty appealing to families who appreciate the value of separate seats with separate arm-rests and a walkway down the middle to keep the little darlings apart on long trips.

The rear row is a three-seater, with a split-fold 60-40 back, and though it sounds cramped, it is fine for a couple of adults, even on a longish trip.

Luggage space is just adequate for a family on holiday in the seven seater, but negligible in the nine-seater unless the rear seat is folded away. This might suit some families of five or six, who just want the extra pews when grandma is in town or the soccer team mates need a ride.

But just a word of warning – when the rear seat is folded, the steel mounting clamps do protrude, and could do a nasty mischief to the matching set of Louis Vuitton hand-stitched leather luggage.

We have one major reservation about the LDV G10 – one that often raises its ugly head on Chinese vehicles – crash safety. Although it is equipped with safety systems such as ESC and ABS – which are mostly compulsory now – the G10 is without head-protecting side airbags for even the driver.

Without those, this vehicle has no chance of getting a five-star safety rating when the independent NCAP engineers get hold of it.

This is a shame, as it continues the Chinese ambivalence towards vehicle occupant safety. And just as they are getting so many other things right, too.

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