MANILA: The most awaited present that comes from the evolving Chinese automaker Foton for the Philippine market is the all-new Foton Toplander that was recently launched in the 2015 Foton's Big Show. The Chinese automaker that has managed to earn a 52% sales growth in the Philippine market aims towards stretching the score to 55% till next year. Owing to this, the company has been taking some well-calculated initiatives like expanding the dealership network in the Philippines and improving the aftersales services. However, the most influential of all the steps is the release of the first ever SUV from the company titled as the Foton Toplander.
The all-new Foton Toplander is a mid-size SUV that will be battling some of the biggest Japanese and American sales movers on company's behalf in the deeply ingrained SUV market of Philippine. The eagerly awaited SUV has surely managed to fetch some glory but being a new child to the race, the SUV has a long way to go. Looking from the automaker's side, the Chinese automaker has particularly crafted the car to squeeze itself well into the tight SUV market dominated by some of its desirable competitors like Toyota Fortuner and Isuzu MU-X.
It’s uncertain that the car would be able to stretch brand’s chariot to an extreme level but sitting on the driving seat let us look at the car in a different perspective. With the exclusive road test conducted by Carbay, you will definitely get all your questions resolved regarding the Foton Toplander.
With hands on the steering wheel we turn on the ignition to feel and percept each unit of knowledge and engineering injected down the veins of this SUV. So let’s walk down the page for some essential details:
Just functionality doesn't define a SUV but sportiness do. The Chinese automaker has shown some good knowledge of aesthetics to display a sophisticated sense of sportiness with the harmoniously designed exteriors of the car. The robust front look of the SUV is complimented well by the exclusive grille design and the well-contoured headlamps. Further as we take an all-around look at the SUV, the car appears to be larger than it seems on papers owing to the dimensions reading - 4380 mm x 1910 mm x 1840 mm (L x W x H). The rear profile of the car is also given a sporty touch with the functional rear spoiler and the chromed tail bar above the registration plate.
The interiors of the car have been worked upon passionately to incorporate a perceptible sense of comfort and convenient ergonomics. The seats of the car do lack a leather cover, but personally we felt that the fabric used also serves well unless it becomes some stiff with time. With this, one can notice plentiful of plastic trim employed in the cabin, however, it doesn't feel cheap, as we experienced in the past with "Chinese" vehicles. They feel the same as the one present with the big Japanese manufacturers; Tough and durable.
The dashboard assembly further defines sophistication with the compact and ergonomically designed control panel that resembles that of Nissan's. The SUV though lacks a multi-media screen that comes as a standard for the competition. You may feel the absence of rear vents for the 2nd-row, but the 3rd-row passengers can enjoy their individual third-row air vents.
Talking about the space concept, the car promises you a capacious cargo space, which can be expanded with 3rd-row seats folded. We would also like to praise the automaker for the comfortable head and leg room.
Engine and Performance
Foton Toplander employs the same power-mill as found in the Foton Thunder. The power-mill is a 2.8L Cummins Turbocharged diesel engine that is capable of generating 170 hp of maximum power and 360 Nm of maximum torque. This engine though isn't the most powerful among its competitors, it is capable enough to pull this 2-ton behemoth plus 3 tons of towing capacity to spare. With this, the maximum power output is available at low RPMs, thus gaining in fuel efficiency benefits which is claimed to be 8.5 litres/100km.
The light clutch operation serves well over busy routes, which presently remains the condition with the increasingly worsening traffic in the Metro Manila. The transmission operation also feels responsive, however, I felt some gear shifting Knick Knacks, which fades some charm. Normally starting from 2nd gear is easy with a diesel powered vehicle, but for the Toplander, starting with 2nd gear is a little too rough. NVH levels for the engine is also high, making the lack of insulation more apparent inside the cabin.
Ride and Handling
From busy city routes to highways to off-road stretches the SUV to prove its capability fairly well, which added to our surprise and emerged as a high point for the car. We wouldn't mind calling it an excellent commuter along with an adventure lover. The suspension system fitted in the car is precisely damped to absorb all the bumps and uneven off-road conditions, thus restricting the road shocks from penetrating the cabins. However, you may or may not like the heavy and particularly responsive steering operations of the car. The brake pedals are screwed to feature light operating force, which came contrary to my expectations with a mid-size SUV with 4 wheel disc brakes.
Lacking in sophisticated entertainment features, the Toplander certainly makes up for it with safety features. Standard across the range are the ABS-EBD, Dual Airbags, ISO-FIX, Engine immobilizer, Headlight levelizer, and reverse parking sensors. Addition to the 4x4 variant are the Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Stability Program, and Hydraulic Braking Auxiliary System. You know what, for something that costs a little over a million peso, that's quite a lot of features.
So as we sum up the experience into a conclusion, the new Foton Toplander with its sophisticated styling, comfortable interiors, capable power values and dependable safety surely serves as a good value for money car. The ride experience the car has for you is also worth experiencing. However, the not so impressive gear transition operation and the soft braking functions may annoy you. Emphasizing on the automaker's take, the Foton Toplander is priced very competitively, costing almost half a million cheaper than its already established competitors. The price benefits are sure to serve faithfully but picking up a fight with the big dogs is a bit ambitious. So will the praises transform in some volumetric sales numbers?