The Foton Tunland is a rather unusual entry into the local bakkie market. Like the GWM Steed, the Tunland is a bakkie from a Chinese manufacturer, but there is an important difference between the Tunland and the Steed: price.
The Tunland is fairly expensive for a Chinese for bakkie (R369 950 for the top-spec 4×4 model). Of course, it is a bit unfair to call the Foton expensive, since it is substantially cheaper than a lot of bakkies from more established manufacturers. But we have become used to the fact that Chinese vehicles are far more affordable than their Japanese and European counterparts. And a Chinese vehicle such as the Steed certainly offers a lot of bakkie for your money.
So why is the Tunland more expensive than the Steed, or any other Chinese bakkie, for that matter? Well, Foton’s bakkie is arguably the first Chinese double cab that can legitimately be called a competitor to established models such as the Ranger, Hilux and KB.
The Tunland certainly has the bulk and aggressive looks to place it on par with the Ranger or KB. As soon as you walk up to the Tunland, you realise just how big it is. It is long and wide, and its load area is huge. Although the bakkie certainly shares some design cues with other popular models, it can’t simply be called a clone. It has a unique and attention-grabbing design that stands on its own.
The vehicle’s most impressive feature, though, is undoubtedly its engine. The Tunland is powered by a 2.8-litre Cummins oilburner that develops 120 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque. Cummins is a well known American company, albeit one that tends to focus on large commercial vehicles, so potential buyers will undoubtedly be impressed by the fact that this Chinese bakkie sports a Cummins engine.
This is Cummins’ first foray into bakkie engines, so how does the engine perform on the road? Pretty well, actually. Its power and torque figures are right up there with that of the popular Hilux, so the Tunland certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of power. It doesn’t feel as if its peak torque is developed as low down as that of the Toyota, but the Foton isn’t a chore to drive. Mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox, the Tunland’s engine does well on the open road. The bakkie accelerates well when you put your foot down, and overtaking isn’t an issue.
The Tunland’s engine isn’t as refined as that of many other double cabs – it sounds a tad agricultural – but, overall, the bakkie is comfortable and surprisingly plush. It’s got a sound system that can play MP3s, electric windows, air conditioning, and plenty of other nice-to-haves.
Priced at around R370 000, the top-spec 4×4 Tunland is good value for money. It offers a drive that, if not quite on par with the latest double cabs, such as the Ranger, Amarok or KB, certainly comes close enough, especially if you take its price into account.
The Tunland seems like a good bakkie. It offers a pleasant enough ride, it has a load capacity of 965kg, and its cabin is comfy. The only real omission is a rear diff lock. But unless you’ll be tackling very bad 4×4 terrain, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The Tunland has joined our long-term fleet, so we’ll be reporting on it regularly. It’ll be interesting to see what it is like living with the Tunland for an extended period of time. For now, though, we’re pretty impressed…