Diesel. It’s the fuel that most commercial vehicle buyers rely on, and now one of the most affordable commercial vehicles on sale – the 2017 LDV G10 – has that fuel type as an option.
The new diesel version of the LDV G10 is the most affordable mid-sized diesel van on the market. It’s priced from $28,990 drive-away for the manual model we have here, undercutting mainstream rivals by more than $7000. Oh, and if that’s not cheap enough, LDV is currently selling this model for more like $27,500 on the road - and if you want a petrol one, you can get it even cheaper.
So it’s budget-friendly, and we know from our tests in the manual petrol model and the turbocharged petrol automatic that the van itself has some redeeming features. But let’s cut straight to the chase: this is the first LDV I’ve driven that has felt like a cheap Chinese van.
It isn’t fundamentally bad - but the drivetrain is one of the least user-friendly examples available in the commercial van class, and that’s not because of its outputs: the 1.9-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder has 106.5kW (we'll call it 107kW) at 4000rpm of power and 350Nm of torque from 1800-2600rpm. Those outputs are adequate.
It’s the way that you have to make use of the power that’s the problem. The six-speed manual gearbox is clicky, like a Sega Rally shifter in the arcade – it doesn’t offer any meaningful feedback to your left hand when changing gears.
The clutch, too, is terrible. It’s extremely hard to modulate – the friction point is mid-way up the stroke action – and the gearing of the transmission means that it’s difficult to ride the clutch in lower gears. When you might think you’ll be able to labour the engine in second, you’ll invariably end up stalling it instead. It makes you look – and feel – like a numpty.
That’s also in part because the throttle has a bit of a delay, too: it can take a fraction of a second for the engine to react to accelerator input, and likewise when you back off the throttle there can be some rev-hang.
The gearing is a problem at highway speed too: instead of sixth ratio allowing the car an overdrive gear in which to amble along, it is geared too high, meaning you’ll be sitting at highway speed at 2500rpm or more, with the steering wheel vibrating in your hands and the rear-view mirror fuzzing in your line of sight. Add to that the lack of cruise control, and this quickly becomes an unfriendly workmate on long commutes.
Other aspects of the drive experience aren’t so problematic. The steering is a bit slow and heavy but accurate enough, and its un-laden ride comfort is fine – considerably better than a HiAce without anything in the back, at least.
As for loaded lugging, we strapped 750 kilograms in the cargo area to see how it handled the mass, and we managed that in spite of the standard fit tailgate, in lieu of barn doors: you can option them for $600, and unlike some other vans you don’t lose the standard fit rear-view camera by optioning the pallet-friendly dual rear doors.
There are dual side sliding doors, too, but the side opening width is just 820mm, so many forklifts/pallets will not be able to fit larger items in.
In fact, at Crown forklifts in Western Sydney we had issues attempting to load in our ballast for testing because, once the weight was in, the sag of the suspension saw the tailgate sink: we had to stop and swap for a much larger forklift with a double-pallet scissor reach to load in our weight. For smaller and lighter items, hand-loading isn’t such a problem!
The load space measures 2500 millimetres long, 1590mm wide at the broadest point (1278mm between the wheel-arches, making it Aussie pallet suitable), while the cargo area height is 1270mm: all told, LDV claims the cargo volume is 5.2m3
, and the load space doesn’t taper in too much at the top meaning there’s not a lot of lost space when full.
In diesel spec the payload is 1030 kilograms, which is certainly adequate for this type of van, but less than the petrol versions, which both have 1093kg of payload capacity.
Securing it was relatively easy, though. There are six floor mount D hooks - they're a bit too far inboard for pallets, which may or may not be an issue depending on your intended use - plus two on the wheel arches and two just aft of the side doors, meaning options are plentiful when it comes to tying down a heavy weight.
If you have larger boxes to shift, the standard lining up the sides of the van walls to the window line is good, and there are four lights in the back - handy for those who work outside daylight hours.
There is no safety cage or bulkhead, but you could likely fit an aftermarket one, and under the plastic (not rubber) covered floor there’s a full-size steel spare wheel. The alloys are 16s, and it rolls on Hankook Radial RA08 tyres in 215/70 size.
The LDV G10 diesel manual handled the load without too much stress: the transmission again left a little to be desired, and early up-shifts weren't appreciated by the engine. Still, once you got it on the move, the LDV pulled its weight willingly, and it rode with better pliancy and retained decent control, too. The suspension dealt with bumps fine, and the steering remained accurate, if a little lighter at the nose.
If you plan to tow, the diesel model has no higher capacity than the petrol version, meaning a limit of 1500kg with a braked trailer and 750kg for one without brakes. We didn’t test that as our van wasn’t fitted with a towbar.
Fuel use for the LDV G10 diesel manual represents a decent improvement in efficiency compared with the petrol versions: the company claims it will sip 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres, making it the most efficient version of the van on offer. On test, we saw an average of 8.3L/100km: bang on the claim. Not bad, LDV...
As for the interior, the driving position is quite good. You sit up high and the forward vision is excellent, though over-shoulder there’s not much to be seen apart from internal panels, but the rear-view camera has a reasonably wide-angle lens to help you see what’s coming when you’re backing out of driveways, and there are rear parking sensors, too.
A big gripe we have with the LDV G10 is the smell of the thing. Your tester, who may or may not have been suffering from a sensitive schnozz at the time, was left feeling pitiful, ill and unhappy after his hour-long commute in the G10 with the air-con on. The smell – an acrid plasticky perfume – may be from the glue, or the rubber, or the plastic, or something else, but it’s sickening to the sensitive, so keep that in mind. It may dissipate over time: we’d sure hope so.
The media system isn’t the last word in ease-of-use, but once you figure out that you need to initiate the Bluetooth connection process from your phone, not the screen, you’ll be set to roll. It reconnects quickly, too, and the call clarity was adequate. There’s Bluetooth audio streaming as well, and if you feel like watching a movie the low-mounted disc drive can display a DVD (not while driving, please!).
The seats themselves are adequate for comfort – the two chairs even have captain’s armrests on the inner side – but there are some ergonomic anomalies. Shorter-armed drivers, for instance, may find the reach to get to the volume controls (there are no steering wheel toggles) or climate controls a bit much, while the pop-out cup-holders down below the centre console aren’t ideally placed for easy, no-look access to your beverage.
The glovebox is a decent size, but there really isn’t that much storage for odds and ends – the LDV lacks a clever overhead folder bin, and there’s no covered centre storage between the seats (there is a tray on the floor for your backpack or suitcase). As for safety, you get two front airbags and electronic stability control, but no side airbag protection.
LDV offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty for all of its vehicles, and it also covers the van with the same period for roadside assist. There’s no capped-price service plan, and the first service is due at six months/5000km, the second at 12 months/10,000km, and then every 12 months/10,000km after that.
As budget vans go, the LDV G10 remains a solid choice, but in this spec, it might be too much of a punish for a business owner to deal with day-to-day.
That said, if you’re higher up the totem pole and you’re buying a commercial van for your staff to help you make money, it could be a fine choice. Or you could wait for the automatic, which is what we’d do. Stay tuned for our review on that model soon.