Foton PH introduces automatic Toplander
The mid-size SUV market is one of the most competitive and strongest segments in the ever-growing automotive industry.
The mid-size 7-seater SUV is a practical and essential daily driver, as owners use it for commuting to work and for driving the family around on weekends.
With a higher ground clearance and robust suspension, these SUVs are a better choice on the flood-prone streets and against patches of bad roads in Metro Manila.
Foton Philippines introduced the Foton Toplander mid-size SUV last year. It is the brand’s first SUV, complementing its Thunder pickup truck in the lineup.
The Toplander comes with both 4×4 and 4×2 variants, both in manual transmission.
Ride and drive
Last week, Foton Philippines announced the introduction of its automatic transmission 4×2 variants. It also took some motoring journalists on a ride-and-drive up north all the way to Baguio to test the new automatic variants.
The new automatic Toplander comes in two trims: the EL and the EX variants. Aside from bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, the higher trim EX variant comes with a 2-DIN touchscreen infotainment system with reverse camera and Bluetooth interface, leather seats (as opposed to the EL’s fabric seats), cruise control, adjustable lumbar support on the driver seats, and mobile phone control on the steering wheel.
Standard features for both trims include a dual air-conditioning system, keyless entry, automatic headlamps with daytime running lights, automatic wipers with speed sensor, ESP (electronic stability program), ABS brakes, hill descent and hill hold control, traction control system, dual front airbags, 4-point back up sensor, and a limited slip differential.
Both trims are powered by a Euro 5 2.8-liter Cummins ISF turbocharged intercooled diesel engine that uses an electronic high-pressure Bosch common rail direct fuel injection (CRDi) system and an electronic gas recirculation exhaust system with a diesel oxidation catalyst for better emissions.
The Euro 5-compliant engine is rated at 161 horsepower with 260 Nm of torque that is mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Toplander uses a double wishbone independent front suspension and a five-link rigid axle rear suspension that ably soaks up rough patches of road that this writer encountered during the Baguio ride-and-drive, and it seems to be comparable if not better to other brands in the mid-size SUV segment.
Steering feedback was very good with its hydraulic-powered rack and pinion steering.
Power and torque was more than adequate in pushing the Toplander, which slightly tipped the scales with a little over two tons.
Overtaking on the highway or going up Kennon Road wasn’t a problem either, thanks to a smart 6-speed automatic transmission that kicks in at the right moment.
Power and torque was very good even on Eco mode for the EX variant, and the Sport mode gave a very good extra kick for a more aggressive driving.
The 4×2 AT EX trim is priced at P1.4 million while the 4×2 AT EL trim is priced at P1.28 million.
With the manual and automatic versions of the Toplander, Foton Philippines is entering more and more into the mainstream automotive market. It first established its name in the commercial vehicle sector, and has slowly worked its way in establishing itself as the biggest Chinese brand in the market.
Aside from the ride-and -drive experience, executives from Foton Philippines shared their expansion plans. Established in 2006, it has become the fastest growing Chinese automotive brand in the country.
Foton has a big assembly plant in Clarkfield, Pampanga that was put up in 2013, and with the exception of its large-sized van, the Toano, and specialty heavy machineries, all the Foton passenger and commercial vehicles are already locally assembled.
According the Foton Philippines’ executive vice president Anna Parado, the company started with 21 dealerships last year and added three more this year, including a dealership that formally opened last week in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
This excludes the six Gratour dealerships owned and operated by full-sized Foton dealers.
The growing network of Foton dealers is largely being fueled by existing dealers who are expanding into operating multiple Foton dealerships, Parado added.
The Gratour model is a mini van that comes in either a 7-seater dual sliding door mini-van, or a mini-truck platform that comes in several platforms including a dropside, F-van (full body), wing van, jeepney and patrol jeepney that is ideal for businesses or public service that needs nimble and flexible transport on small provincial roads.