It’s easy to fall into the trap of disregarding the cheapest option in a segment, especially if it’s well specified at the same time, as something not worthy of consideration. Once upon a time, that default position might have been a little more accurate.
The lower-priced gear is upping its game, however, and is catching up to the peloton of mainstream players. One good example of this is the 2019 LDV D90.
In particular, we have the 2019 LDV D90 Executive 4WD, which is the most amount of money you’ll spend on this make and model. The D90 range recently benefited from a price adjustment, bringing the asking price down by $3000 for our test vehicle to $43,990 drive-away. That’s four grand more over the 2WD Executive model, and $8000 more than the entry-level D90.
I’m not able to speculate on how reliable a vehicle might or might not be, or tell you what kind of importance a brand’s reputation or cachet has to the end user. What I can tell you, however, is how the LDV D90 was to live with for one week. Let’s get into it.
There’s only one option available for this D90: metallic paint for $500. Otherwise, it’s all bundled in. That means you’ve got electric leather-trimmed seats, eight-speaker sound system, electric tailgate, leather steering wheel, three-zone climate control and interior ambient lighting. Executive specification also gets a sunroof and puddle lamps.
But wait, there’s more: smart key, keyless start, LED daytime running lights, electric park brake, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, reversing cameras, electric folding mirrors, 12.0-inch infotainment display and 220V power outlet are all standard.
For all of that in a seven-seat 4WD SUV for 43-large, drive-away? That’s undeniably sharp pricing.
For what it’s worth, the sound system isn’t too crash hot – happier plying a trade of talkback rather than thrashing out anything with a lot of dynamic range. And we also had some trouble getting the 220V (150W) outlet to work when testing it out.
The D90’s ride is unbalanced: firm and tending towards unforgiving over bumps, but can also feel underdamped at the same time as it tries to settle down after big whoops. It’s fair overall and liveable, but off the pace of rivals and ultimately falls short of really impressing.
In better news, and something buyers will find important, is that 2017 ANCAP testing yielded the D90 with a five-star result, scoring well across the testing criteria. There’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and six in-cabin airbags across the board.
Similar to the LDV T60, the D90 has an infotainment display that dwarfs other units in terms of size. When it comes to functionality, however, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. Apple CarPlay is there, but Android Auto isn’t, nor are native maps or digital radio.
It’s a little bit tiresome to work through, as well, choosing different menus and changing radio stations. Somehow, the only volume control I could find is the one on the steering wheel, and the screen-saver function seems pointless. But after some time, you get used to it.
On a more broad look, the D90’s interior looks impressive. Even eyebrow-raising, when you consider the low pricepoint we’re talking about here. The dashboard is dominated by a glossy, wood-patterned panel and angular, trapezoidal shapes.
The seats are a comfortable leather that’s soft and with good adjustment, although I found the under-thigh cushion to be a little short. That’s hardly a scathing critique, as it’s ergonomically hard to fault.
Helped by a sliding base and tilting backrests, the second row of the D90 is spacious and plenty comfortable. There are air vents in the roof, and your power needs are met by a little flip-down panel: USB, 12V and the problematic 220V plug.
The third row is good for space, as well. Provided the second row cinches up a bit, there’s good leg room on offer, and just enough head room to fit an adult in. If you had big folk in both rows, you might have some trouble, but for most scenarios (and kids especially) the D90 gives enough room for seven aboard.
Its 343L of boot space grows to 1350L with the third row folded down, and 2382L in van mode. Both rows can be dropped from the back, and the cargo blind and vehicle jack are tucked away with easy access.
The 12m turning circle gives decent agility for parking and manoeuvring, but the reversing camera isn’t of the highest quality. But hey, it’s there, along with front and rear parking sensors.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 165kW at 5300rpm and 350Nm at 2500–3500rpm. It’s a gruff and responsive unit. With precious little torque at low revs in a segment filled with torquey diesel alternatives, the tacho needs to climb a couple of grand past idle to start boogieing.
The laggy flat spot is made worse by the lethargic, sometimes sloth-like six-speed automatic gearbox, which often needs to change down more than one ratio to find the urgency your right foot is asking for.
Off the mark, and once the gearbox has got its act together, there's enough punch-along available for a big SUV. Although, it gets a bit buzzy when working hard. Selecting Sport mode, when you can predict your requirement for urgency, does help speed up the response time by forcing the gearbox to hold a lower ratio.
The listed fuel economy is 10.9 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle. After our time, which was heavily skewed to highway driving, our average fell on 10.8L/100km. No doubt that number would rise on a more urban-heavy cycle.
I found the D90 to be a little low on ground clearance for off-roading, especially around the front. The traction-control system works well when cross-axled, and the coil-sprung five-link rear end gives a bit of articulation.
Unfortunately, the Continental tyres aren’t cut out for off-road work: we noticed that the sidewalls were extremely soft for 4WDing, flexing and deforming like they had been heavily aired down. They weren’t. We suffered some rock damage to the inside shoulder of one tyre after only a few kilometres of 4WDing. Not much, but enough to start a slow leak and need replacement.
It’s also worth noting that some cost-cutting is done on the full-size spare: a cheaper steel wheel with Wanli tyre is used, which is speed-limited to 120km/h. Also worth noting, I suppose, is that the spare is easily dropped down from its underslung position, and the scissor jack works as it should.
Low-range is accessed by twisting the rotary dial around to Rock mode (there are also Sand and Snow modes) giving a 2.48:1 reduction that’s good enough for most basic 4WDing.
Add in the locking rear differential (which is a Dana M220 by the way, the same-size rear differential as a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon), and the D90 is a reasonably capable jigger off-road. Throttle response is a little tricky to master, thanks mostly to the non-linear power delivery of the turbocharged motor.
It’s flawed off-road, and behind the pace of others in the segment. The others are more expensive propositions, however, and this D90 will likely be more than capable for what most owners will be planning to tackle.
The warranty is solid: five years and 130,000km, with a mirrored offering of roadside assistance for that time and 10 years' worth of ‘anti-perforation’ warranty.
It all stacks up into a package that can’t be beaten on price, which is boosted by the solid warranty. The closest competitors are Ssangyong’s Rexton and Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport, although they are both diesel. And, of course, the Mitsubishi Outlander is a good-value family wagon without the off-road credentials.
While it’s not as polished or enjoyable to drive as other seven-seat SUVs, the D90 holds the caveat of value strongly. Buyers aren’t being skimped on safety or warranty, which is important. It all boils down to whether potential buyers will find the drive and ride either liveable or intolerable.