The LDV G10 van is brand new, but the formula behind the mid-sized van is familiar.
It’s cheap, and it’s Chinese, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen that method used – particularly in the commercial vehicle segment. The word that usually followed the two that started this sentence, and continued the alliteration, was another ‘c’ word: crap.
But unlike many of the Chinese-built models that have come before it, the all-new LDV G10 – which is built by industrial giant SAIC and priced at just $29,990 driveaway for ABN holders – doesn’t feel instantly rubbish, and nor does it look like a hatchet job copycat car.
In fact, our first impressions of the styling of the van are very positive. It’s tidy, sharp, clean, and not awkward looking at all, unlike many Chinese models that have come before it.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, there’s a similar level of polish in terms of design.
There’s an element of familiarity in terms of the controls in the van, too. The stalks for the wipers and indicators, for example, appear borrowed straight out of the General Motors’ parts bin, while the dash layout and twin-toned plastics look very similar to the Kia Carnival – a mix of the previous one and the impressive new-generation model.
The dashboard is clean and uncluttered, topped by a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system, and the feel of the buttons and the material finishes are all competitive for the class. The screen is touch-capacitive, and the display is clear and crisp.
The steering wheel lacks reach adjustment and the audio and cruise control toggles aren’t backlit, but the seating position is good enough, and there’s enough adjustability, that drivers of different shapes and sizes can find a comfortable position fairly easily. The instrument cluster is easy to read thanks to a digital speedometer, and there's even tyre pressure monitoring.
For passengers there’s a single bucket seat, with no availability of a bench seat for two passengers.
Cabin storage is good, with big door pockets and a large centre storage tray between the seats, and there’s a nicely hidden cupholder caddy down low, too. There aren’t, however, dash-top storage bins as you’ll find in many competitor products, but there are two sunglasses stowage points (one where the driver’s grab handle would otherwise sit, and a central one above the rear-view mirror).
Outward vision is good – you sit up high and the mirrors offer good side vision, though the lack of rear side door glass on the kerbside is a bit annoying, and you can’t option that either.
While Chinese vehicles haven’t put safety as a high priority in the past, the LDV G10 comes with dual front airbags and electronic stability control as standard.
There are no side airbags available, which is disappointing – at least you can option that safety gear into better-known models like the Mercedes-Benz Vito and Renault Trafic (though if you ask us, those airbags should be standard in both of those vehicles!). The Ford Transit Custom remains the benchmark for airbag coverage, with dual front, front side and curtain airbag protection standard.
However, LDV must be commended for fitting a reverse-view camera and rear parking sensors as standard to the vehicle. The aforementioned rivals can’t match that (Renault: rear sensors standard; Merc: no parking aides standard; Ford: no parking aides standard).
In terms of size, the LDV G10 is aimed at offering an alternative to the likes of the aforementioned models, as well as the top-selling Toyota HiAce, Hyundai iLoad and the soon-to-be-updated Volkswagen Transporter.
It is close in size to variants of all of those models, too, measuring 5168 millimetres long, 1980mm wide and 1928mm tall, while riding on a 3198mm wheelbase.
At the business end, the LDV G10 has a competitive load area – the size of the cargo bay spans 5.2 cubic metres, and in terms of physical dimensions it measures 2365mm long by 1235mm wide and 1270mm high – competitive figures. While it doesn’t have a bulkhead as standard (nor does a Vito), you can option one.
According to the brand, the cargo area can swallow two standard pallets (the standard Aussie pallet size is 1165mm by 1165mm), but the standard liftback tailgate makes loading pallets in with a fork quite difficult – actually, impossible.
That is perhaps the biggest issue with this vehicle – if you’re the sort of business buyer that needs to load pallets in and out on a regular basis. And to make matters worse, there is no barn-door option for rear access.
That said, the side doors – yes, twin side doors are standard: big tick, that! – allow good access to the space, and there are six floor-mounted tie-down points to secure a load, as well as four further tie-down hooks mounted on the wheel arches. In terms of capacity, the payload for the LDV G10 is 1093 kilograms, which is also class-competitive.
In short, it’s not so much suited to being a daily-driven courier van. It would, however, make a commendable compatriot to tradespeople such as plumbers, painters, electricians or landscapers.
Under the bonnet is a powertrain that’s unique to this segment – a turbocharged petrol engine.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder produces 165kW of power and 330Nm of torque, which are big outputs for a load-carrying van with a petrol engine. It comes only with a six-speed automatic gearbox, sourced from renowned specialists ZF.
Rival petrol models such as the Hyundai iLoad (2.4-litre naturally-aspirated petrol, 129kW/228Nm, manual only) and Toyota HiAce (2.7-litre naturally-aspirated petrol, 118kW/243Nm, manual or auto) can’t match the LDV for outright power.
That said, the turbocharged engine in the G10 is thirstier than those rivals. It claims 11.7 litres per 100 kilometres, while the auto HiAce uses a claimed 9.8L/100km and the manual-only iLoad uses 10.1L/100km. At least the claim is close to what you’ll achieve in the real world – we saw 11.5L/100km during our highway/city loop, but it is advised that 95RON premium fuel is best.
For a bit of extra market context, the Trafic, Transit Custom and Transporter only have diesel engines, and the Ford and Renault only come in a manual.
LDV claims that engine gives the rear-drive van (another point of difference over the Volkswagen and Ford) “effortless power and torque, smooth auto gear changes and positive steering response”.
They’re 100 per cent right.
The engine is a gutsy thing – smooth revving, quick to respond to throttle inputs and actually pretty quick in general. It never feels like it’s struggling to haul the van’s 1907kg heft.
The six-speed automatic is a big part of the reason the LDV G10 is so good with its power delivery.
The transmission is smooth, generally quick-thinking and will hold gears when you want it to, for the most part. We did notice a few times when we would have expected it to drop back a gear to better use the torque of the engine, which is on song from about 1400-2000rpm, but there’s the option of self-shifting if you need to overrule the auto.
The G10 drives really nicely, too. The ride – as with the vast majority of these types of vans – is quite good, with the suspension ironing out small bumps decently and settling quickly post-speedhump, too.
Part of the reason it drives so well is that it’s built off the same platform as the G10 people-mover models, and as such it has a five-link coil-spring rear suspension, where most vans in the class have leaf-spring rear ends.
The steering isn’t as light at lower speeds as we’d like – the hydraulic system loads up inconsistently when you’re manoeuvring in to and out of parking spaces quickly, but once you’re at speed the response is good.
It also gets disc brakes all around, so stopping isn’t an issue, and the response of the pedal is easy to acclimatise to.
On the highway it is noisy – there’s no bulkhead dividing the cargo zone and the cockpit – but it’s not boomy, thanks to the lining on the floor and the thick padding in the roof-lining. And you’ll notice that it does get blown from side to side in windy conditions, something a Vito doesn’t do thanks to its more advanced electronic stability control system with Crosswind Assist.
In terms of ownership, the G10 comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty, and is covered by a 24-hour roadside assistance program over that period. The first two services are required after 5000km and 10,000km respectively, and thereafter the van's service intervals are every six months or 10,000km, which is more regular than most van owners might like.
This is a thoroughly impressive offering from the van specialist arm of SAIC.
Yes the LDV G10 is cheap, and yes it’s Chinese, but it’s such a long way from that third ‘c’ word that buyers in the market for a capable, comfortable work van really should take a look at it.
Click on the Photos tab for more LDV G10 images by Glen Sullivan.