Five surprising features in China's new ute-segment challenger
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It's a hard climate for those who love traditional three-box sedans and charismatic little hatchbacks.
SUVs and utes continue to forge a path through the sales record books in New Zealand. The Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger are the two obvious stars, but behind them are a whole bunch of different challengers and pretenders trying to sink their teeth into the same exponentially growing piece of pie.
Mercedes-Benz's new X-Class, and Holden and HSV's SportsCat exist as two of the big 2017 products of this phenomenon. But one should also consider those manufacturers on the fringes; Mahindra, Foton, SsangYong, and LDV.
One of the last vehicles on the Driven test-car plate for the year was LDV's new T60 ute (specifically the range-topping automatic Luxury model, priced at $40,238 plus on-road costs).
It was a ute that impressed almost straight away with its bevy of features. So ahead of our full road test, let's dive into five of the T60's most impressive features that are standard across the range.
There are two kinds of vehicle that are likely to posses tyre-pressure monitoring. Low-slung serious sports cars, and off-roaders.
Since the LDV is most certainly not the former, then it clearly fancies itself as the latter on paper with features like these. Hill Descent Control and on-the-fly four-wheel drive help further the narrative.
The TPMS sits in the main infotainment system under the vehicle service section, which highlights things like engine oil and oil/air filter condition. It's an impressive addition, that a lot of the T60's primary rivals don't have as standard.
10-inch touch screen
In an age where premium manufacturers are installing insane screen set-ups that stretch from one side of a car's interior almost to the other, it's perhaps harder than it used to be to be surprised by a 10-inch infotainment screen.
But, considering that the LDV T60 is A) a sub-$35,000 vehicle in its cheapest form, and B) a humble ute, packing a 10-inch screen is impressive.
The Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux we mentioned earlier? They get by with an 8.0-inch screen, as do most of the other utes on the market.
The LDV system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a range of other niceties. Is it perfect? No. But it's bigger, and if society tells us anything, it tells us that big is good.
No, we're not talking about some gimmicky Apple silliness. We're talking about the LDV's windscreen, mirrors, and headlights.
The windscreen comes with rain-sensing wipers to … wipe rain off your windscreen. The mirrors are heated, to help during those frosty early morning wake-up calls. And the headlights are adaptive, shifting in real time to not dazzle oncoming drivers.
Again, a bit like the 10-inch screen, these aren't features that'll sweep you off your feet. But, this is a cheap ute. It was only a few generations ago that you'd be lucky to get anything even remotely 'luxurious'.
5 Stars with ANCAP
If the LDV doesn't become a massive sales success (it already looks like it will be... But let's just be hypothetical), it won't be because of how it looks, or the price, or the drive.
It'll be because it's Chinese.
Ute buyers, by and large, are traditionalists. The people who buy Hiluxes now, have probably owned Hiluxes in the past. Ranger buyers are probably Falcon owners from a few years ago, when Australian cars were in a rosier place.
The LDV's pricing is really impressive, but that doesn't negate the stigma towards Chinese cars.
And that's a shame, because the Chinese industry have made massive inroads over the last few years. And if one thing about this LDV sums that up, it's the safety chops.
The T60 proudly wears an ANCAP 5-star safety rating. Test results released in September showed it scoring 35.46 out of a maximum score of 37 — that's more than just about everything else. More than the Hilux (34.45), more than the Holden Colorado (34.89), and the Volkswagen Amarok (30.99) among others.
A big part of that score comes down to its standard driver assistance systems. Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Brake Assist and Brake-force Distribution support your standard airbag fare.
And these are all standard in the entry level T60. The only safety feature exclusive to the top-spec model is Lane Departure Assist. Still, that's plenty of kit.
A big ol' warranty
Need more assurance than merely safety? Then know that new T60s come with a pretty healthy warranty package.
Each ute comes with a five-year, 130,000km factory-backed warranty (whichever comes first), as well as a 10-year Anti-Perforation (aka anti rust) warranty.
What happens beyond five years or 130,000km? Who's to say this early in the game. Regardless, it's a vehicle that on paper and in person is proper value for money.
Is it any more than that? We'll need to wait and see.
Keep up to date with Driven for our full road test of the LDV T60