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by Tim Beissmann

A new Chinese brand will launch in Australia in the second quarter of this year when Foton, a light commercial vehicle manufacturer, introduces a new ute range.

Gold Coast-based automotive distributor FAA Automotive Australia has secured the rights to sell the brand locally. FAA will launch with the Foton Tunland, a dual-cab pick-up aimed at stealing sales from vehicles like the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton.

FAA Chairman Peter Llewellyn says the distributor is currently planning the first shipment of Tunlands, and confirmed it will include turbo diesel manual models in both 4×2 and 4×4 drive modes.

“[The Tunland] is very highly [specificied] and positioned to compete favourably in the Australian pick-up market,” Llewellyn said.

The new Chinese ute is powered by a Cummins 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine with 120kW of power and 380Nm of torque. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes around 13 seconds. Initially it will be available only with a Getrag five-speed manual transmission, although Llewellyn says a ZF six-speed automatic should become an option “down the track”.

FAA also plans to add a petrol engine to the line-up, expected to be a Mitsubishi-sourced 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit.

At 5310mm long, 1880mm wide, 1810mm high and with a ground clearance of 220mm, the Tunland will be 180mm longer, 120mm wider and have a 10mm larger ground clearance than the comparative Toyota HiLux. It has a loading capacity of 1000kg and a towing capacity of 2500kg.

Standard features include 16-inch aluminium wheels, front and rear fog lights, CD player with UAX/USB inputs and air conditioning. Safety features include ABS, EBD and two front airbags, but the Tunland will not come with electronic stability control.

The top-spec Luxury 4×4 model scores a number of additional features, including leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, full leather upholstery, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod integration.

The entry-level Tunland 4×2 should be priced below $30,000. Final prices will be confirmed closer to the ute’s local launch in a few months’ time.

Looking further into the future, FAA says the Tunland will be joined in Australia by a range of Foton passenger vehicles by 2015.

Note: Updated January 6, 2012 with new information.