BAKKIE SHOOTOUT – The contenders part 2

JAC T8 2,0 CTI 4WD Lux MT

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

 Price: R462 400
Power: 102 kW @ 3 600 r/min
Torque: 320 N.m @ 2 000 r/min 

What Gerhard says:

“A collection of parts of unknown origin, a bit old school and not too comfortable, but the engine is strong and it does everything the others can do for less.”

Every contest has to have its dark horse and in this year’s Shootout, that mantle has to go to the JAC T8. You’ve no doubt seen a few double cabs with those initials picked out in red across a bold-looking chrome grille plying our roads. It’s likely that beyond being of Chinese provenance, little else is known about products from the JAC (Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Company) stable.

So, in condensed-history form … JAC is a Chinese, state-owned vehicle manufacturer that started as a producer of heavy commercial vehicles in the ’60s, before branching out into the passenger market at the turn of the century. While the origins of the T8’s underpinnings are difficult to discern, previous products such as the JAC Stallion were heavily reliant upon Isuzu-sourced mechanicals. The company’s eighth-generation international platform draws some dimensional and historical parallels with that of the D-Max.

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

There’s no Isuzu flavouring to the engine, though. The D19 2,0-litre inline-four turbodiesel was co-developed with German powertrain design giant FEV – which counts Ford, VW and Toyota among the beneficiaries of its OEM services – and is tied to a Borg-Warner-sourced ESOF electrically controlled AWD system. On-road, the performance is stronger than the figures suggest and it’s also packaged with ease of maintenance in mind. According to JAC Motors in China, this unit is European B10 Life compliant, meaning only 10% of these units will require replacement or major overhauls over a 700 000 km operating span! Brilliant.

However, there’s more to the T8 than mere robust mechanicals. The cabin, although hewn from materials sitting a rung beneath most pricier competitors, plays host to a slick-looking and easy-to-use infotainment system. It features most climate and electrically assisted ancillaries you’d hope for in a well-specified bakkie. On paper, it looks a little out of its depth in this company but testing should see this keenly priced newcomer provide a good account of itself.

Mazda BT-50 3,0 TD Double Cab 4×4 Individual AT

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

Price: R794 400
Power: 140 kW @ 3 600 r/min
Torque: 450 N.m @ 1 600 r/min 

What Gerhard says:

“Perhaps I expected more refinement for the price but I still love it – especially its performance on-road – and would like to spend more time with it.”

Long underpinned by Ford Ranger mechanicals, the new BT-50 breaks with tradition by adopting much of its foundations from the upcoming third-generation Isuzu D-Max, a model that will soon be rolling off the Port Elizabeth assembly line.

It’s a move that could prove a mixed blessing for what’s perhaps been something of an undeserved sideliner in the local double-cab landscape. One of the major positives has to be the shedding of the previous model’s decidedly gawky styling – the result of trying to smooth the characteristically sleek Mazda design over a bulky Ford frame – in favour of an altogether more appealing Kodo-inspired nose and functional flanks akin to those of the D-Max.

The wheelbase of the new Isuzu Dynamic Drive platform upon which the BT-50 is based is around 100 mm shorter than the outgoing model and this translates into a fairly compact rear passenger cell. Thankfully, Mazda has injected some of the brand’s sportiness – evident in the moulded steering wheel, clean instrument binnacle and stitched roll panels on the facia – into the D-Max’s bolt-upright architecture.

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

As with previous D-Max/KB models, the underpinnings major in durability and rigidity, and this is reflected in more than a hint of D-Max-esque bounciness to the Mazda’s ride over pockmarked road surfaces. It also, however, positions the centre point of the Mazda’s engine just behind the front axle in a “semi-midship” arrangement that conspires with direct steering to make the new bakkie feel pleasingly nimble and car-like on the road.

Power is provided by an Isuzu-sourced 4JJC-TCX inline-four turbodiesel mated with a six-speed Aisin torque-converter ‘box. While it’s no doubt a tried-and-tested unit, it feels typically durable and doesn’t lack punch, proving second-most potent in the performance stakes behind the VW Amarok.

This range-topping Individual model is well equipped but at R794 400 it’s the second most expensive bakkie after the VW, too, setting it squarely against the most accomplished rivals in this Shootout.

Mahindra Pik Up 2,2 CRDe 4×4 S11 Karoo AT

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

Price: R451 999
Power: 103 kW @ 3 750 r/min
Torque: 320 N.m @ 1 500 r/min

What Gerhard says:

“Improves with every model. Feels a bit like a Cruiser bakkie but is underpowered in this company and from the old school.”

A seasoned campaigner that’s been in production for close to 20 years, the Pik Up, with its boxy frame and rugged mechanicals has carved out a neat little niche for itself in SA’s double-cab ecosystem. Not to mention very palatable sticker prices across a range that encompasses bare-bones workhorses and more generously appointed lifestyle spinoffs such as the Karoo model we have here.

The firm’s 2,2-litre mHawk turbodiesel is a steady rather than stellar performer in most applications, so its coupling with a six-speed auto ‘box means it’s definitely not the fleetest of foot here. Although that’s unlikely to trouble an audience that will appreciate its practicality and, in the S11’s case, specifications that include a touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, reversing camera, air-con and electrical adjustment for windows and mirrors, to name a few. Some may scoff at the concept of this model’s “Karoo” label. It has to be said Mahindra has been quite clever; you’d never tack anything sports or performance-related to a truck this slab-sided and rugged, so embracing the Pik Up’s agrarian appeal and adding a local angle is to be applauded.

BAKKIE SHOOTOUT - The contenders part 2

Derived from its range-topping Pik Up, the Karoo package adds a mixture of cosmetic and utility-aiding extras that include a rubberised load bin with roller shutter, model-specific roll- and nudge-bars and some updated Karoo decals. Some of these additions are more effective than others, though. The Karoo’s two-tone rims look neat but full-lock manoeuvring sometimes has the tyres scuffing the wheelarches.

At R451 999, the Pik Up is the most affordable double cab, even undercutting the JAC T8. Its combination of proven mechanicals and local flavouring ensures neither its owners nor the CAR test team will be treating it with kid gloves in this challenging comparison.

Test Summary

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