There once was a time when nobody would buy a Japanese car, then nobody would buy a Korean car. Yet today, if you want a competitively priced car that has a reputation for being reliable and cheap to run, then you would more than likely look to the East.
Now the next revolution is the advent of Indian and Chinese cars making inroads into markets around the world, and ours is one of them. We have millions of people who don’t have access to basic transport and just as many who don’t have the money for expensive cars.
There is no way to sugar coat this, the first attempts were dismal, and some still are, but there are those that are making huge improvements each time they bring out a new vehicle. JAC Motors out of China finds itself on the ever-improving list. This said, we are seldom, if ever, offered drives in Chinese products. It varies between laughable arrogance from those that think they rule the market to those that have cars that the doors fall off during a launch test drive.
So, when I was offered a drive in JAC’s new T8 4×2 Double Cab, I jumped at the chance to give it shot. And my time slot with the T8 just happened to coincide with a mountain bike event I was going to on the other side of Harties. So, instead of getting all technical and discussing each and every nut and bolt, I simply used the bakkie as a lifestyle tool, and based my opinions from this easy-going experience.
Cover up the rather large JAC badges outside and in, and I am willing to bet a few cold beers that many wouldn’t nail this as a Chinese bakkie straight off the bat. In fact, I never had a single negative comment on the styling. Most were intrigued by it and even offered a few compliments.
On the inside you get imitation leather seats, central locking, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system linked to a reverse camera, steering wheel controls, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, USB, aux and 12v socket, and electric windows all round. Sure, there is some hard plastic around the place, but that is to be expected. Generally, I had no complaints here.
Turn the key and the first real gremlin reveals itself. The 100kW/320Nm, 1.9-litre turbodiesel sounds positively agricultural. The drive is not bad, but the feel of constant urge offered by the short ratio six-speed manual gearbox is sadly overwhelmed by the engine noise. Fuel consumption wasn’t bad and came in at under 10 litres per 100 km for the time I had the T8.
The safety spec is as good as you could expect from a bakkie in this segment of the market. You get the likes of ABS with EBD, dual airbags, reinforced body, and chassis structure, that combine to give the T8 a Chinese NCAP test crash rating of four stars. I wouldn’t confuse this test with the likes of the much stricter and independent Euro NCAP test if I were you, but this bakkie does offer you at a minimum, just as much safety as many other bakkies for sale in our country do.
Another positive is that the warranty and service plans are surprisingly good. You get a five year/150 000 km warranty, a five year/60 000 km service plan that can be extended to 100 000 km and 150 000 km for a price of R12 000 and R27 000 respectively for the R379 900 you will need to part with to own this bakkie.
And right here the second big gremlin, pricing, creeps in and spoils the party so to speak. The JAC T8 is not the cheapest offering by a fair margin, and the R317 990 JMC Vigus 5, and the R319 990 GWM Steed 6 Xscape make strong bids for your money.