JOHANNESBURG – In 2012 Chinese automaker Foton took on the hotly contested South African off-road bakkie market with its Tunland 4x4.The automaker sold 500 000 vehiclesworldwide in 2012 which translates to a decrease of 1% in sales compared to 2011 and a 7% decline in SA. Despite setbacks, Foton is determined to make its mark in SA, expanding its dealer network to 35 with the aim of opening 40 by the end of 2013. To help achieve its goals, the automaker has added a keenly priced 4x2 derivative to its Tunland bakkie range.The new model is available in two spec levels – Comfort (R249 950) and Luxury (R269 950). DIESEL GRUNTFoton SA managing director Brett Soso said: “Our initial foray into the top end of the one-ton pick-up market with the Tunland 4x4 has been very well accepted by customers and dealers and we're delighted that we have been able to negotiate very keen pricing on the 4x2 model, which is as much as 40% less expensive than the market leader.“The new 4x2 additions are not only excellent value for money, but also have high levels of comfort and safety. The appearance and standard equipment of the two new derivatives, the Comfort and the Lux, now allow us to compete in the largest segment of the local double cab market."Image galleryThe model is powered by a 2.8 Cummins diesel engine, which powers all the Tunland models, capable of 120kW at 3600rpm and 360Nm from 1800-3000rpm. The engine is one of few bakkie engines in SA which complies with Euro IV emission regulations. This means it can operate on 500ppm diesel due to the limited availability of 50ppm fuel at the time of writing. As a result Foton reduced service intervals from 20 000km to 10 000km. The automaker believes this is a good trade off in return for using fuel that is less expensive and readily available in Africa.The engine has a claimed fuel consumption of 8.3 litres/100km with a C02 emissions rating of 219gm/km.DRIVING ITThe Tunland 4x2 faces tough competition in the form of the Toyota Hilux, VW Amarok and GWM Steed. What the Tunland has going for it is its price which at the time of writing is 40% less than a similar specced Hilux 2.5 D4D RB (R365 500). The Tunland is ungainly at low speeds, the gear shift stodgy and there's a fair amount of rattling - all things we've come to expect from bakkies I suppose.Once it gets going it becomes a comfortable cruiser, admirably soaking up bumps and undulations. The Cummins engine has ample torque and is more than capable of pushing the bakkie without downshifts. There's a fair amount of road noise at high speed as well as the aforementioned squeaks and rattles in the cabin. Overall it was pleasant enough behind the wheel (for a bakkie) and if you're in the market for a one-ton lifestyle/utility vehicle the Tunland does what it says on the box whilst being significantly cheaper than its rivals.PLENTY OF STANDARD KITStandard kit includes aircon, an audio system with MP3 and USB compatibility, power windows, cloth upholstery and two front airbags. There's storage room under the rear seats, where the jack and a fire extinguisher also live, while a strap can be used to hold the rear seat squab upright to provide additional, secure packing space.The Lux models adds auto down/up power driver’s window, rear parking distance control, power side mirrors with demister and leather seats. Lux models also benefit from a rollover bar on the load box and a tonneau cover and side steps. Optional extras include tow hitch, underbody protection plates, nudge bar, side steps and a Beekmans canopy and mat sets.The interior is comfortable enough despite the utilitarian grey-on-black. Some of the interior fit and finishes were passable though the materials used were fairly abrasive.Both models have 16” alloy rims. The Tunland has a payload rating of 925kg with a towing capacity of 2500kg.PEACE OF MINDAs is the case with any Chinese brand in SA, the question of warranty and parts remains a deal-breaker (or sealer) for customers. Foton reports that engine parts will be supplied by Cummins, general spares will have to be shipped from China. At launch the automaker states that it has 80% parts availability and customers could expect 14-21 days' delivery.The Tunland is covered by a three year or 100 000km warranty, three-year corrosion warranty, roadside assistance for three years and a two year or 40 000km service plan.MORE FROM FOTONLater in 2013 the automaker will launch a single-cab derivative for both on and off-road. The model will be available in ether petrol or diesel guise. Foton will also launch its extended/King Cab by the end of 2013.An SUV derivative is in the works for local introduction in 2014.