The LDV G10 is the latest in a growing fleet of cut-price people-movers pitched at big families on a budget that until recently had been forced to scour used car lots for a van big enough for their clan.
Unknown to most Australians, LDV is a division of China’s largest automotive manufacturer, SAIC. Available locally since 2013, LDV’s range includes the older and larger V80 van and minibus, as well as a commercial van version of the G10.
The LDV G10 people-mover is available in two configurations: the seven-seater (with 2+2+3 seating) from $29,990 driveaway, and the nine-seater (2+2+2+3 seating) from $32,990 driveaway – roughly the going rate for a two-year-old Kia Grand Carnival or a three-year-old Toyota Tarago.
There are a handful of other brand new options for moving seven people at this price point: the Proton Exora is the cheapest of the bunch at $24,390 driveaway, undercutting the Ssangyong Stavic ($29,990 driveaway) and smaller Kia Rondo ($30,240 plus on-roads) and Toyota Prius V ($34,490) vans. The Mahindra XUV500 ($29,900 driveaway), Holden Captiva 7 ($30,490) and Nissan X-Trail ($31,580) SUVs boast the same people-carrying ability, though they’re really 5+2 cars, with the rearmost seats best for occasional use only.
The nine-seater is a unique proposition, however. The Honda Odyssey ($37,610), Hyundai iMax ($38,290) and Kia Carnival ($41,490) offer eight seats, but you have to step up to the significantly pricier, soon-to-be-updated Volkswagen Caravelle (currently $50,690) to squeeze the entire netball team in behind mum and dad.
"What’s the catch?" you’re probably wondering.
The LDV G10’s biggest shortcoming is its airbag count. With just two front airbags, there’s no side protection for front-row occupants, and no airbags at all for passengers behind the front seats.
Unfortunately, the absence of rear airbags isn’t unusual in the cheap people-mover market, though that doesn’t make it any more excusable. The iMax matches the G10 with just two airbags. The Exora and Stavic likewise only protect the driver and front passenger, though with four airbags rather than two. The Rondo gets six airbags, but they don’t protect third-row passengers.
The XUV500, Captiva 7 and X-Trail all get six airbags that extend all the way to the back, but if you want a van with protection for all passengers, the Prius V, Odyssey and Carnival are your only affordable options. In our eyes, they’re worth spending the extra money on.
If $30K is your limit, however, and you’re shopping the G10 against second-hand people-movers, it’s good to know it gets some other potentially lifesaving safety systems that older cars may not. These are features such as electronic stability control and roll movement intervention, as well as convenience features like a reverse-view camera, rear parking sensors and two sets of Isofix ports in the second row with child seat anchor points.
The G10 also comes with the usual benefits of a new car, including a three-year/100,000km warranty, as well as matching roadside assistance.
It requires services at 5000km and 10,000km, and then every 10,000km after that. LDV doesn’t offer capped-price servicing, and claims cumulative servicing costs for the first 60,000km total about $2300 – roughly $600 more than an Odyssey. It’s one of the few areas where the G10 doesn’t beat its mainstream rivals in terms of value.
From a sheer metal-for-your-money perspective, the G10 blitzes the big names. Measuring almost 5.2 metres from nose to tail, it’s more than a foot longer than the Odyssey. It looks enormous on the outside and feels even more cavernous on the inside.
In seven-seat configuration, there’s brilliant flexibility for both the second-row captain’s chairs and the third-row bench. All three can slide more than two feet fore and aft, and even with the bench in its rearmost position there’s still loads of space in the boot.
This versatility also makes climbing into the back seats easy, with passengers able to slide the captain’s chairs forward or simply walk down the corridor between them. Kids may need help with the twin sliding doors however, as they’re a bit heavy – particularly if you’re parked facing downhill.
Once aboard they’ll hopefully find little to grumble about. The seats are comfortable, providing ample room for three across the bench, as well as plenty of headroom and legroom in both back rows, and cup holders for all seating positions.
Six air vents in the roof ensure there’s good circulation in the back, and roof-mounted climate controls allow passengers in the second row to set their own temperature and fan speed.
Big windows and high-set seats mean all occupants have a commanding view of the outside world, though the sliding door windows (as with the rear windows) only pop out rather than open fully.
Beige cloth upholstery is a silly idea in a people-mover, though. Our test car was less than 5000km old and already had a number of scuffs and dirty marks on the seats. Think of poor mum-or-dad-of-five who has to clean who-knows-what off them every other week! Fortunately, the nine-seater gets leather trim that’s easier to wipe down.
Up front the layout is clean and the controls are user-friendly. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is a particular highlight, with a sharp display and colourful, modern graphics that make many of its established rivals look dowdy and old, though satellite navigation isn’t available. Pairing your phone via Bluetooth for calls and music streaming is an easy process.
The climate control system is positioned a long way from the driver, forcing you to reach awkwardly across the dashboard.
LDV’s build quality is better than many budget brands, though the G10 isn’t without its shortcomings. The indicator stalk feels like it’s about to snap off every time you tap it, the gear lever feels tacky and loose, and the plastic trim panels are of the hard, scratchy variety.
Other things about the cabin nag away at you too. The steering wheel lacks reach adjustment and backlighting for the buttons at night. The door bins are large but the glovebox is tiny. Also, there's only a tray on the floor between the front seats that’s hard to reach when you’re on the go and it doesn’t secure your phone, wallet and other items as well as a conventional centre box (like its rivals have).
The driver’s seat is soft and comfortable but lacks lateral support and a footrest, which were factors that became tiresome on a long drive from Sydney to the NSW south coast.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 165kW of power and 330Nm of torque, while a ZF six-speed automatic transmission sends drive to the rear wheels.
The engine lacks the refinement of its mainstream people-mover rivals. It sounds raspy, and becomes loud and thrashy north of 2500rpm. The German-engineered transmission does its best to keep the engine out of the less aurally pleasing regions of its rev range, but with a 2057kg body to haul around (call it 2500kg with seven passengers and cargo on board), it’s impossible to avoid them altogether.
Refinement aside, the engine produces a healthy dose of torque down low, pulling up hills with satisfactory hustle. The transmission could be more intuitive in grabbing lower gears around inclines and quicker to downshift when you accelerate hard, but it does a decent job in most other areas.
The G10’s official combined cycle fuel consumption of 11.7 litres per 100 kilometres is steep for a 2.0-litre engine. The Odyssey is more than 35 per cent more fuel efficient, while even the more powerful Carnival V6 is marginally more frugal.
We experienced the good and the bad in our real-world testing. Our long highway and country road trip returned a figure of 10.7L/100km, though slower city and suburban driving pushed the trip computer’s readout beyond 16L/100km.
More welcome is the G10’s dynamic ability, which is not only capable, but better than some mainstream rivals. Ride comfort in particular is impressive, with the G10 far more composed than the fussy Odyssey. It irons out small bumps and ruts effectively and takes speed humps well, and while it does fall harder into sharper holes and road joins, it’s never unsettled.
Put some of that absorbency down to its tall Wanli Cross tyres that, despite being a bit of an unknown name in Australia, provided excellent traction on wet roads. While obviously no performance car, it feels balanced through corners and sits flatter than you expect it to.
For a car of its size, it’s overwhelmingly easy and unintimidating to drive, and more manoeuvrable than you might think.
If the LDV G10 had airbags that protected all passengers its overall score would be higher, as it boasts a versatile and comfortable interior, reasonable equipment levels, and decent on-road manners – factors that potentially make it the best cut-price people-mover on the market.
But for a vehicle whose primary responsibility is transporting precious cargo, it’s difficult to recommend when mainstream rivals, both new (though more expensive) and used, offer enhanced safety.
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