Thursday, June 14, 2018
4 Thoughts on the Foton Toplander 4x2 EX A/T
Without a doubt, the Foton Toplander is the mid-sized 7-seater SUV segment’s most pleasant surprise. Together with the TransVan and Traveller MPVs, it’s responsible for elevating Foton from just a workhorse brand to a bonafide family-oriented one. We’ve driven the 4x2 EX A/T extensively once before but given the chance to drive it once more (now within the confines of Metro Manila), we’ve re-discovered 4 things about this peculiar SUV.
#1. It has the best gearbox in its class
The Foton Toplander’s most obvious headline-grabbing feature is its 2.8-liter Cummins ISF engine. As Cummins’s biggest customer for this powerplant, it offers a respectable 161 horsepower while still being up to 20 percent lighter than its main competitors. However, the Toplander EX A/T tops that with a Daimler-sourced 6-speed automatic. Not only is it one smooth gearbox, but it actually complements the engine excellently. It keeps engine revs low, pushing fuel economy up (8.62 km/L at 18 km/h) and the audible ruckus down. Yet, it’s quick to respond, especially on the downshift keeping the entire Toplander driving experience surprisingly lively.
#2. An honest-to-goodness machine
Despite the Toplander’s American-designed engine and German-sourced gearbox, make no mistake: the Toplander is still an honest-to-goodness machine. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s good enough for the daily drive. The engine is noisier-than-average, the ride’s on the choppy side, and the interior made of hard plastics, but it does have solid ergonomics, good visibility, and maintains its maneuverability even during parking. Build quality is also quite decent, though there’s a knob or two that wasn’t working on this particular test drive unit. However, when the going gets tough, it relies on Foton’s commercial vehicle expertise by offering 220 millimeters of ground clearance and 600 millimeters of water wading.
#3. Cargo is flexible, but you have to work hard
The Toplander mostly succeeds in providing for a roomy and practical cabin, but because of its high floor design, knees for occupants across all three rows are slightly bent up. Still, everyone’s comfortable with generous head, shoulder, and leg room. Well, perhaps everyone except those in the third row. Admittedly, with the second row not being able to slide fore and aft, the last row is best reserved as jump seats. Oh, and unlike some other mid-sized SUVs, the Toplander offers a flat cargo hold that stretches two rows. However, you do have to work hard for it. Folding the third row for example isn’t a single button or lever affair. Two levers are required; one to spring the seat cushions up and another to bring the seat backs down.
#4. A genuine surprise from Foton
Priced at P 1,488,000, the Toplander 4x2 EX doesn’t come cheap. But go beyond the price tag and you’ll see that it’s actually well-loaded for the price. Dual airbags? Check. Anti-lock brakes with EBD? Check. Stability control? Check. Rear parking sensors with camera? Check. Leather seats? Check. Its pedigree might still be questionable for now, but for those willing to take the chance, it’s a solid and practical choice. And with 29 dealers across the country, parts and service support is readily available.