If as a prospective bakkie owner new car prices are getting way too scary, there is a new kid on the block to consider, JMC.

It’s back to basics for JMC, a partnership between China's huge Jiangling Motor Corporation and Isuzu. Apart from light trucks the main emphasis at present is the popular double-cab bakkie market and we recently received a short-term 4x2 for testing, as well as a long-term 4x4 version.

The vehicle is visually and mechanically a close copy of a previous (as in fourth) generation Isuzu KB280. As such, the engine is a 2,8-litre turbodiesel (sans intercooler) producing 84 kW at a low 3 600 r/min with 235 N.m of torque at 2 300 r/min. Direct injection using a distributor type pump is used. A positive action five-speed gearbox is mated with a low-range transfer 'box while the front hubs can be disconnected via manual wheel mounted locking tabs.

To manage costs there is no ABS, nor airbags, but luxuries such as air-con, electric windows and mirrors, attractive alloy wheels, plus front fog lamps, rear parking sensors and load bay rubberising are all standard fitment. Replacing the usual chromed tubular steel roll bars is a very neat, black squared-off unit.

The 4x4 model has more off-road oriented 15-inch Maxxis 750 Bravo H/T tyre fitted.

The price of the 4x4 is R209 880 (R182 880 for the 4x2) and a three year/100 000 km warranty is supplied.

We plan to fit a tow bar and canopy to our test unit but have already given it a full off-road trial by taking it along with a new Range Rover and Isuzu KB240 DC to the Helderberg farm, outside Cape Town, to tackle a pretty serious 4x4 route. After initially forgetting to manually lock the front hubs our next concern was a potential problem with ground clearance. Happily we didn’t scrape anything, not even the side steps (optional extra) that are commonly graunched in tough terrain.

The only problem thereafter was the lack of diff locks. This caught us out on only one very steep slope with dips and piles of loose stones. After a number of attempts we managed to find sufficient grip and we completed the course in tandem with the other much more expensive vehicles.

The only other small negatives are an audio system that has no USB port or MP3 capability (this is bound to be offered soon) and those who remember the KB280 engine will know that it is extremely noisy. Without multiple injections per cycle to smooth out the combustion process, one soon realises how far modern technology has progressed. But there is a price to pay for modern technologies and, for a workhorse, the JMC Boarding certainly gets the job done.

Being content with older, simpler technology, I quite enjoy the tractor-like noises - though I am in the minority amongst the CAR team. The low-down torque gets you going, slowly but surely, around town and should you require any form of hasty acceleration the rev needle needs to reach 2 000 r/min before the turbo wakes up.

Seating comfort is fair and rear legroom looks fine, even if the cushions are rather short. Rubber flooring is easy to clean, as is the leatherette upholstery. Two map pockets and a centre armrest are appreciated.

No fuel consumption computer is fitted but our consumption after a tank to tank check is about 9,0 litres/100 km, which is excellent.

See more information at JMC's website:  jmcsa.co.za