It’s finally here. The drivetrain the Chinese brand has very high hopes for. Meet the most affordable van of this type on the market – the LDV G10 diesel automatic.
Price is everything for this relatively new brand, and with the newly-added diesel auto version of the LDV G10 coming in at just $31,490 drive-away, it has certainly gone the right way about making a statement of its intent in the commercial vehicle segment – actually, there are deals for just $28,990 drive-away! To keep things simple, all LDV G10 models are equipped identically.
It already held the mantle for the cheapest mid-sized petrol van in manual and auto guises, and the diesel manual was the most affordable version of that type, too. Now the auto – which LDV says will account for the vast majority of sales – again undercuts its chief competitors.
Let’s consider the most affordable versions of those diesel automatic rivals: Hyundai iLoad – $41,790 plus on-road costs; Toyota HiAce – $40,080 plus on-road costs; Volkswagen Transporter – $41,390 plus on-road costs; Mercedes-Benz Vito – $45,875 plus on-road costs. There's a new Ford Transit diesel auto (which starts from $42,440) and you can't even get an automatic Renault Trafic (yet).
So, you’re going to be saving yourself $10,000 – at least – by choosing the LDV G10 diesel auto. And are you going to be sacrificing anything by doing so? Yes. But not as much and you might think…
Let’s start off with the main talking point – the drivetrain.
The diesel engine is the same 1.9-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder seen in the manual model, with 106kW of power at 4000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-2600rpm.
Instead of swapping cogs yourself, though, there’s a six-speed automatic that takes care of things for you. And it does an excellent job of doing so, too, particularly bearing in mind that this isn’t the ZF-sourced gearbox that is in the petrol model.
We were pretty critical of the diesel manual drivetrain in the G10 a while back, but the auto takes away the vast majority of those gripes. The six-speed auto is smooth, making much easier work of, well, work, and it's the type of gearbox that is as comfortable shuffling through the ratios at lower speeds in traffic or settling into to its tallest gear on the highway.
There’s a touch of turbo lag before you hit the torque sweet spot from a standstill, and the way it builds pace is surprisingly effortless without a load on board. It isn’t as rapid with weight in the back, but nor is it particularly lethargic. It served its purpose during its time with us as a moving van for two different staff members, and both reported back the thing was exactly what was expected, even a little better than predicted to some extent.
Because you have an automatic gearbox you also get cruise control (unavailable in manual models), and that’s a handy thing if you’ve got a long commute or spend a lot of time on the road like, say, a courier.
Fuel use for the diesel auto model is rated at a claimed 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and on test – with loaded and empty driving across an array of different situations and settings – we saw 8.9L/100km. Impressive.
As we’ve found with the G10 in the past, it lives up to the tradition of vans of this type as being quite adept at driving. The brakes are reasonably responsive in stop-start traffic, but the pedal is a bit soft when you attempt to slow progress at highway pace.
The steering is a little slow at times, but accurate and weighted nicely, and with a turning circle better than a Ford Fiesta (said Rob, who also drove it, and owns a Fiesta, and on the same Newtown street the Fiesta requires a two-point turn, the LDV swings a U-ey with no hassle).
The suspension deals with bumps in a well-mannered way. It isn’t carpet-ride smooth, but its smooth enough to keep things settled in the load area, even over sharp-edged bumps.
The G10’s load space measures 2500 millimetres long, 1590mm wide at the widest point (1278mm between the wheel-arches, making it pallet-friendly), and the cargo area is 1270mm high. Volume is claimed at 5.2m3, with the load space being usable up high as it doesn’t taper in massively at the top meaning. The payload of this model is the lowest of all the G10 models at 1010 kilograms – suitable for this type of van, but less than the petrol versions, which both have 1093kg of payload capacity, and the diesel manual has an extra 20kg of rated capacity.
All G10 models have dual side sliding doors but the side opening width is just 820mm, so sliding in pallets may not be possible, but for hand loading boxes it’s perfectly fine. Our tester had an optional side window, as well as an optional cargo barrier with plastic screening, which affects rearward vision to a degree, but not dramatically.
There are optional barn doors ($600) if you want them, and they could be handy if you plan to use the van to load in pallets. The G10 retains the standard-fit rear-view camera whether you get the tailgate or twin doors, too.
There are few considerations, inside. The interior – as many CarAdvice employees can attest – is a bit smelly. It’s mainly when you’re using the air conditioning, and we think it comes down to the plastics that have been used in the piping behind the dash. I ended up driving with the windows down when possible, because it’s pretty potent.
There are other bits that are on the nose inside the cabin, too, with some ergonomic quirks that you won’t find in rival models, like a touchscreen that’s a bit of a reach for the driver to get to, and a CD player slot that’s almost hidden from view. There are pop-out cupholders in the centre console that are way too low to be useful, too.
That said, the storage is well sorted. There are decent door pockets, and the large open area between the front seats is handy for backpacks, lunchbags – even handbags.
The media system is relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it, but bear in mind that if you’re the type of person who is constantly listening to music through a Bluetooth connected device, there’s no way you can select the album or artist you want through the screen. And the connecting part of the process isn't that intuitive: you can try and connect through the screen all you want, but you just have to find the van (SAIC) on your phone, and connect that way.
The seats themselves offer decent comfort and adjustment, albeit not best in class support. There is a flip-down armrest on the inner edge of each of the seats which is a tad flimsy. Remember, too, that it only has dual front airbags, with no side airbag protection available.
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. Buyers won’t have the peace of mind of a capped-price service plan, though.
In conclusion the LDV G10 diesel auto is the best version of the van the brand makes. It’s fair enough that this is the cheapest mid-sized diesel auto van on the market – but in this spec it’s also good value, which is a very important distinction.