Gran workhorse

USUALLY when you get a press release on a new vehicle there is page after page of information about its virtues and it takes a while to sift through it to extract what's actually important.

USUALLY when you get a press release on a new vehicle there is page after page of information about its virtues and it takes a while to sift through it to extract what's actually important.

With the new Daihatsu Gran Max, launched last week, it was the complete opposite.

With just one-and-a-half pages it was concise, informative and, most importantly, to the point. A bit like the vehicle, really.

In the 12 years that Daihatsu has been in South Africa, it has earned a reputation for producing vehicles of high quality for the "small car" segment at competitive prices.

But realising that new car sales will probably remain fairly static for the next year or two, Daihatsu have for the first time ventured into the commercial side of motoring - with the introduction of the Gran Max.

Taking on the one-ton brigade, the Gran Max is an out-and-out workhorse. There is no identity crisis of being a cross over vehicle: used for lugging goods around and at the weekend doubling up as a family car. No, the Gran Max knows what it's made for.

The one-tonner was meant to have been released a year ago but when the head honchos at the Japanese plant expressed their dissatisfaction with the final product it was back to the drawing board to iron out the complaints.

The result is that they may have lost a year in sales. But the finished product is one that will shake up what is a very competitive segment.

The Gran Max's drop-down sides make it easy for loading goods and the load bed itself is 2,4m long and 1,6m wide.

It's described as a three-seater but in reality more than two people would be a crush. In fact, my one complaint about the vehicle is that for a tall person there is not much leg room.

The dashboard is plain and simple. A fan/heater is the only standard feature, while the instrument panel consists of a speedometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge. That's it!

On the safety front it comes standard with ABS, collapsible steering column, dual side impact bars in the doors and crumple zones in front.

The engine, which is positioned beneath the seats, is a four-cylinder 1,5-litre pushing out 77kW.

How does it feel? Actually pretty good.

Without a load it quickly gets up to 120km/h, but will go a lot slower with a full payload.

I've kept the best for last and that's the price - R119995. Compare this to its competitors and the Gran Max comes out on top.

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