Gunning for the crown

by Andy Bryenton

When it comes to modern utes, many buyers entering the market feel they have a choice between two top contenders.

There’s the Ford Ranger, riding high on years of awards and sales figures, and the Toyota Hilux, the once-all-powerful monarch of the rural roads, still slugging in a close second place. Now there’s a challenger so far out of left field it’s almost tempting to use a metaphor from recent Kiwi politics.

The new face of LDV has been its range of big, dependable work vans for some time now, and they’ve gained traction with tradies and fleets in a big way. Now the company is bursting into the ute market with a four-wheel drive double cab that both looks the part, and carries a very affordable price tag. It’s called the T60, and it’s shaking up a sector already graced with new low-cost utes by Mahindra, Great Wall and Foton. 

T60 was first unveiled to the public during the National Feildays in June this year. Sales and marketing manager Warren Willmot says: “Feedback from the public display at Mystery Creek was incredible. The interest in this vehicle has been remarkable and now the customers who have signed up and been waiting for their T60s to arrive have the added bonus of the five year, 130,000km warranty.” LDV — manufactured by the immense SAIC autos company, China’s largest — plan to offer the T60 with both diesel and petrol engines, two suspension heights, three gearbox options and even the ability to switch from ‘eco’ fuel saving mode to ‘power’ mode with the push of a button. Stylistically, the T60 looks aggressive and sharp, with the big chromed grille and chunky roll bars we’ve come to recognise as many new utes’ homage to the F150 out of America. That’s no bad thing — the big Ford sells a unit nearly every five seconds, and is going strong after decades.

LDV entered the market with a lot to prove, and their vans, people movers and transporters have shown that they can tango with the best. It’s a bold move to step right into the tough ute market and even tougher to contest the crown held so tenaciously by Ford.