If there is a people-mover out there that screams ‘showroom superstar’, it’s the LDV G10 from China. This van-based family hauler produced by the massive SAIC Motor Group is pitched as “Australia’s best value people mover” — a claim that, on paper at least, has some veracity.
This fully loaded nine-seater version sells for just $32,990 drive-away, undercutting the best-selling Kia Carnival, Honda Odyssey and Hyundai iMax by thousands while offering capacity for one or two extra bums.
Given family shoppers looking at this type of vehicle privately are likely to be fiscally minded, it looks like an unbeatable proposition. If you need that new-car smell, only the SsangYong Stavic ($29,990 to $36,990) compares, and that car is stylistically challenged.
The LDV G10 is actually a bit of a looker, albeit an under-wheeled one. The wedged shape with lots of body sculpting, the raked side windows, and the sharp and quite aggressive nose give it road presence. You won’t feel ashamed looking at one in your driveway.
A further bonus is that metallic paint (in black, gold or silver) also costs a very reasonable $500 extra.
There’s no doubting the value on offer elsewhere. Standard features include cream leather seats (good luck keeping them clean), six-speaker audio, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a rear-view camera, push-button start, Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and climate control with front and rear adjustment.
Moreover, on first inspection the cabin looks appealing. The horizontal multi-tier layout is modern and ergonomic, the high driving position is commanding, and key touch-points such as the steering wheel, gear shifter and door armrests are of at least passable quality.
Spend more time behind the wheel, though, and you start to see how the LDV is so affordable. The build quality is fine for the most part, but many of the cabin the plastics are a grade down from those used in the more established rivals mentioned.
The LDV G10’s nine seats are set out in a 2+2+2+3 formation, meaning four rows have to be squeezed into a vehicle that’s 5.2 metres long on a 3.2-metre wheelbase — not an awful lot bigger than three-row rivals such as the Carnival eight-seater.
In their favour, all rear seats come with plane-style fold down arm rests, the ability to rake backwards, adjustable headrests and storage pockets. There are also two child-seat attachments, while some of the seats fold flat and the middle rows move on rails.
Furthermore, the twin sliding doors are huge, and the big pop-out windows give great outward visibility. Those vents also make the cabin environment rather nice indeed.
On the downside, none of the seats are overly supportive (the padding feels underdone, and the bolstering non-existent), nor do they offer particularly great legroom, or sport leather trim of a hardy nature. If any LDV has clean and un-frayed seats three years from now we’d be surprised.
Occupants in the final row also sit abutted right against the tailgate glass, and there’s next to no cargo space behind them, unlike the highly practical seven-seat Hyundai iMax. Not that the 743kg payload really allows nine people and their gear anyway.
It’s at this point we’d point out that the three-row G10 seven-seater can be had for $29,990. This feels like the go.
The other major issue with the LDV G10 is the fact that it only has two airbags — dual-front units. The complete lack of side impact protection is a clear black mark in a family car. Are you going to put your kids in a van with no side airbags or ANCAP rating?
Under the bonnet of the LDV G10 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a very robust 165kW of power and 330Nm of torque, matched to a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox sending torque to the rear wheels (the G10 has commercial van origins).
It’s a throaty, rasping unit that does a relatively acceptable job of lugging around the 2.1-tonne tare mass of the G10, though tackling an incline at or near the gross vehicle mass (GVM) makes you long for the low-down torque of a diesel. The calibration of that name-brand transmission is generally pretty decent, at least.
Braked towing capacity is 1500kg for people with a luggage trailer.
LDV claims combined-cycle fuel consumption of 11.7 litres per 100km, though you’d need to be driving very cautiously to manage that. At least the tank is a voluminous 75L in capacity.
Dynamically, the G10 might surprise you. The hydraulic power-assisted steering is relatively light though dead on centre, and the ride afforded by the (MacPherson strut front/five-link with coil rear) suspension is good around town.
The LDV smooths out inputs from sharp hits quite well, and isolates the cabin from most potholes and cobbles. The NVH suppression is also decent, as is the high-speed stability (backed by a Bosch ESC system). For long trips you also have a full-sized spare wheel, though we don’t know much about the longevity of the Wanli tyres fitted.
The only real bugbear is the body control over undulations or through corners. We know this is a big tall toaster-shaped van, but there’s a little more body roll than we’d like, and the dampers could use a little more rebound force to settle the car faster.
From an ownership perspective, the LDV G10 comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and is covered by a full roadside assist service. The company’s Australian distributor also has 40-plus franchise service centre partners nationwide.
Naturally, don’t expect much in the way of resale value, considering this Chinese brand doesn’t have many runs on the board in Australia — yet.
The big question for us, is would you opt for a several year-old people mover from Korea or Japan, with a badge you trust and some warranty remaining, or are you better served with the new LDV?
The way we look at it, the iffy seat and plastic trim quality, and the frankly sub-par safety on offer (just two airbags) means we’d look at a 2014 or '15 Kia Carnival, unless we really needed the nine seats.
The LDV is a showroom superstar, but to our minds it’s more a signal of what SAIC may produce down the track, rather than anything overly compelling in the here and now.
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