Ups and downs

Ups and downs

We’ve seen some vehicles from JMC – another contender from China – on our roads for the past few years now. This is GAVIN MYERS’s first time behind the wheel of one, though. Here are his thoughts.

“It stands for Jiangling Motor Corporation …” was my standard response to those inquisitive enough to ask. “Yes, it’s from China,” followed shortly thereafter, as I explained the merits of the company’s latest entrant to our market; the Vigus.

Despite JMC having a presence (which is slowly growing) in the local market for some time now, and being in existence since 1947, most of the people I encountered during my time with the Vigus didn’t have much knowledge of the brand. Those in the trucking fraternity will know it for its Carrying range of light trucks and Boarding range of single- and double-cab bakkies.

The Vigus is a slightly different animal, though, as it attempts to move the brand upmarket. For review, JMC South Africa handed us the keys to the R379 990, 4×4, SLX version.

The basic shape of the Vigus is made up of soft, flowing lines. Looks being a subjective topic, some might say it’s almost “feminine”. Being the 4×4 variant with raised ground clearance (225 mm), our Vigus was fitted with chunky wheel arch flares and side steps – adding a bit more bravado. The overall design is pleasant, though.

Ups and downsThe interior came as a pleasant surprise too, showing the Chinese can do modern and good quality. The Vigus certainly has one of the best interiors of the Chinese bakkies we have yet sampled – it’s pleasing on the eye, there are no cheap-feeling touch points or rattles and the trimming has been well thought out.

However, it’s not without some faults … the cabin feels a bit tight for a modern bakkie; the driver’s seat (itself comfortable) has no adjustment for height and the steering wheel no adjustment for reach, making finding an ideal driving position a bit tricky; the handbrake is uncomfortably positioned way over to the left of the centre consol; and the entertainment system’s touch screen is invisible in harsh sunlight.

The Vigus SLX offers an interesting array of features, chief among them being the entertainment system. Its highlight feature is a DVD player, while it also supports the usual MP3, auxiliary and USB inputs. The system continuously dropped my flash drive, though. Given the incorporation of a DVD player, one would also have expected Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, but this is not offered. Also conspicuous by their absence, on a vehicle aimed upmarket, were an onboard computer and, although not a “must have”, cruise control.

Other standard features include leather seats, a multifunction steering wheel, rear parking sensors and auto-locking doors. On the safety front, dual airbags, front and rear fog lights, and ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are fitted.

The 2,4-litre diesel engine, as fitted to our test unit, produces 90 kW and 290 Nm. While these figures aren’t class-leading, performance is acceptable. Claimed fuel consumption is 8 l/100 km.

The five-speed gearbox on our vehicle was notchy and had a tendency to “lose” the gate, with one unable to move the gearlever over and select first … Despite this foible, it is by no means the worst gearbox we’ve encountered in a Chinese vehicle. Electronically selectable four-wheel drive is fitted, but there are no diff-locks.

The Vigus is fitted with fairly compliant suspension, treating occupants to a comfortable ride. Its rubberised load bay measures 1 475 (l) x 1 475 (w) x 500 mm (h). Gross vehicle mass is rated at 2 770 kg while the payload is 815 kg.

The Vigus SLX is something of a mixed bag. In some regards, particularly interior quality and its five-year/60 000 km service plan (it also has a three-year/100 000 km warranty), it moves the game up for Chinese bakkies. On the other hand, it’s filled with too many niggles that detract from its upmarket ambitions and is short on some features expected at the price.

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