When it comes to China-made products, many of us (this writer included) have these little doubts and concerns about quality and safety. Whether it’s shoes, gadgets or cars, if the product is made in China, I often think that it won’t last long.
I figure, if the product is cheap, so is the quality. It’s just like having a brand new pair of Levi’s 501 jeans and pair of “Class A” imitation jeans from Greenhills. They may have almost the same patented look, but can’t be any more different in terms of quality.
But as the song goes, reputations often outlive their applications. I used to think China-made products won’t last, but I was stunned when I got the chance to get my hands on Foton’s multi-purpose van—the MP-X.
The MPX is a 10-seater multi-purpose van. When I first saw the MP-X, it reminded me of the Hyundai RV Starex. It has the same huge full-size appearance, and suggests superior seating comfort.
Who could guess that this full-size van is a China-brand vehicle? In fact, when I was driving the MPX for a weekend drive, my friends mistakenly identified my ride as a Korean import. Some laughed at me when I told them it was a Chinese make, but others were impressed. Maybe they didn’t believe that a China-made vehicle can go on long drives. Maybe they expected it to break down as soon as it hit a pothole. But let’s not focus on the reputation that China brands have, but rather on what the MPX offers.
As you open the two large sliding doors on either side, you’ll be greeted by a wide step board large enough for every passenger’s foot. The huge luggage cabin behind the third row is accessible from inside for easy access to supplies.
Having large glass windows for passengers in the back offers them unobstructed views during trips, though using clip glass windows was not a good choice. I also noticed that the glove box on the MPX was small considering this van is purely for bigger passengers with loads of baggage.
Inside the cabin, you can hardly tell that it’s a Chinese badge. If “cheap” and “plastic” were the words that came to mind whenever Chinese vehicles are discussed, the MPX changed all that.
All controls are well placed and laid out. From A/C controls, in-dash FM/AM CD player, multi-cluster dashboard, information display center (displaying internal and external temperature and back-up sensor distance), and its luxurious steering wood wheel, everything looked well thought out. Foton engineers seem to have invested into refinement and interior detailing.
The van can comfortably seat seven, in both second and third rows, and when I took it for a drive, there were no complaints from my passengers.
The MPX also makes sure that passengers will no longer have to grope around in the dark looking for a dropped pen or misplaced mobile phone. The van has four interior lights for passengers in the front, two lights in the rear, and one huge halogen light on the ceiling.
The MPX’s airconditioning is quite remarkable. It can keep passengers cool even in Manila heat. On colder nights, the Foton MPX is also equipped with a heater located in between the front seats.
The Foton MPX’s suspension system also ensures a stable and comfortable ride. Foton put in a pair of torsion bar double arm suspension and independent suspension in the rear to go along with its 195/70R15 wheels and tires.
The Foton MPX has a 2.8-liter four-cylinder CRDi turbo-charged diesel engine and is equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission. It has a decent power which can be useful at all times.
I also experienced difficulties in shifting its transmission, a common complaint on early-model China brands. Perhaps because of the light clutch, you need to really stomp on the pedal just to gear good ratios. The handbrake isn’t easy to release, either, and once you’ve driven the MPX for a while, you’ll feel the stiffness of its handling. I guess Foton’s investment on the MPX’s interior meant overlooking other aspects of the driving experience.
Overall, the Foton MPX gives the most comfortable ride in a multi-purpose van, China-made or otherwise. While the transmission and handling still leave much to be desired, the MPX is a sign that China brands are maturing.
Vehicle 2011 Foton MP-X
Type Multi-purpose Van
Engine 2.8-liter SOHC CRDi turbo
Horsepower 92 ps @ 3,600 rpm
Max. Torque 202 Nm @ 2,300 rpm
TRANSMISSION 5-speed MT
Length 4790 mm
Width 1825 mm
Height 1950 mm
WHEELBASE 2985 mm
WHEELS & TIRES 195/70 R15 aluminum alloy
PRICE AS TESTED P1.120 million