On Monday, Malaysia welcomed a new car brand in the form of Jiangling Motors Corporation (JMC), which will be distributed by the Tan Chong family’s Angka-Tan Motor (ATM). The first model to be sold here is the Vigus Pro pick-up truck, due to be launched sometime later this month.
Now, JMC may not be a household Chinese brand like Geely or SAIC, but it’s still a big player in the Middle Kingdom’s automotive industry. Some Wikipedia sleuthing shows that the company is a subsidiary of Jiangling Investment, a 50:50 joint venture between Jiangling Motors Corporation Group (JMCG) and Changan, which previously also owned the infamous Landwind.
On its own, JMC has a joint venture with Ford, building the latter’s Transit van for the Chinese market and also supplying its Yusheng S330 to the Blue Oval to be rebadged as the Ford Territory. The latter is sold not just in China but also in countries such as the Philippines, Argentina and Brazil.
The Ford connection is the reason why the Vigus Pro, called the Yuhu 9 in China, is motivated by Ford power – in this case, a 2.0 litre diesel four-cylinder with a variable geometry turbocharger. Unfortunately for those looking for the latest Ranger‘s EcoBlue Si-Turbo engine on the cheap, this isn’t it, as the JMC’s mill is closer in design to the 2.2 litre Puma mill used in the lower variants.
In fact, the 2.0 litre version of the Puma first made its debut in the second-generation Mondeo way back in 2000, so this is a pretty ancient oil burner. Still, it has been breathed on to make an acceptable 141 PS at 3,600 rpm and 340 Nm of torque from 1,500 to 2,600 rpm, not too far away from the Toyota Hilux 2.4L and Isuzu D-Max 1.9L’s figures. The gearbox, however, is ZF’s thoroughly modern eight-speed automatic – yes, the same one found in almost every modern BMW.
There are other big names found elsewhere, such as a part-time four-wheel-drive system (with a low-range transfer box) from BorgWarner as well as an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) module from Bosch. The latter adds a range of safety features you might be familiar with, such as ABS, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and hill descent control.
The Vigus Pro is comparable in size to other one-tonne pick-ups sold here, measuring 5,305 mm long (the same as a Mitsubishi Triton) and 1,835 mm tall, with a 3,085 mm wheelbase that is identical to that of the Hilux. Where the JMC trumps the others is in its width – at 1,905 mm, it is 35 mm wider than its next closest rival, the latest D-Max. Its bed is on the smaller side, however, at 1,475 mm long and wide.
Styling-wise, the Vigus Pro looks fairly modern, sporting a massive grille that is all the rage these days, flanked by slim headlights (LED units are available in China) and C-shaped LED daytime running lights around the fog lights. You also get chunky squared-off wheel arches, handsome rectangular taillights, a fibreglass sports bar and external bed tie-downs that seem to be popular among Chinese pick-ups.
The interior is somewhat of a let down, however. At least from the photos provided by ATM, we won’t be getting the Chinese market’s new Porsche-esque dashboard that features soft-touch materials, real stitching, faux wood trim, a 12-inch digital instrument display and a ten-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Instead, our pick-up looks to be fitted with an older cockpit design reminiscent of 2010s Opels, sporting a conventional silver centre console flanked by vertical air vents. One possible reason for this is that the dashboard has already been engineered for right-hand-drive markets, given that it was fitted on the (since-discontinued) Vigus in Australia, which features different front and rear ends.
Still, we do at least know we will get the new-style two-spoke steering wheel (with paddle shifters, nice), an eight-inch centre touchscreen and an electronic gearlever that appears to be a prerequisite for the ZF ‘box. Automatic headlights and a reverse camera are also fitted.
In China, the Yuhu 9 is available with a wide range of safety features, including up to six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beam. Although the promotional images for our Vigus Pro shows a windscreen camera and a front radar, we’re probably not getting the driver assistance systems, given that the interior images do not show any distance regulation buttons for the adaptive cruise control (there’s a passive system instead).
That’s a bit of a shame, given that virtually all pick-up trucks currently sold in Malaysia offer at least AEB on top trim levels. However, those fully-loaded versions are getting quite expensive these days (we’re talking circa-RM140,000 here), so if the JMC can be competitively priced it will still be on par with the more affordable variants of the segment stalwarts.
Of course, the big question is the price. No details have been announced just yet, but expect the double-cab Vigus Pro to retail slightly above the RM100,000 mark. That’s around the same price as the Maxus T60, another Chinese pick-up, which costs RM105,888. If ATM plays its cards right, the JMC could be a good value-priced alternative to the established players.
GALLERY: JMC Yuhu 9 in China
GALLERY: JMC Vigus Pro local promotional images