Available as: Van, Pick-up, Double Cab Pick-up, 3-Way Tipper Engine options: 1.3P 77hpVolume (m³): 3.0Payload (kg): 530 – 1,000
Whether a florist, an electrician or a carpenter — or a local authority for that matter — who spend most of their time trundling around city centres, then the compact Loadhopper makes a great deal of sense, both payload-wise and financially.
Anybody out there mourning the demise of the microvan? Then mourn no more. It is back courtesy of Chinese manufacturer DFSK and Swindon-based UK importer Vestatec Automotive Distribution; or DFSK UK as it prefers to be known. Loadhopper is a natural successor to vehicles such as Piaggio’s Porter and Suzuki’s Carry, on which it is based, neither of which are now available in Britain.
Powered by a 77hp 1.3-litre Euro 5 petrol engine, driving the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, DFSK’s Loadhopper is up for grabs as a van, pick-up, double-cab pick-up and a three-way tipper. Gross payload capacities are 590kg, 930kg, 1,000kg and 630kg respectively and the van comes with 3.0m3 of load space and twin sliding side doors and a top-hinged tailgate as standard. Pick-ups have dropsides on all three sides of the load bed, as does the tipper.
Loadhopper isn’t exactly groaning with extras or much in the way of technology — there isn’t even power steering — but central locking and electric windows are included in the deal.
We reckon the absence of a diesel engine is not a drawback. Loadhopper’s willing little petrol engine is free-revving and endows the little van or its mini-truck stablemates with more than ample performance; if anything it’s overpowered. If we were DFSK UK we wouldn’t bother with a small-capacity diesel engine, as all it will achieve is raising noise levels and dulling performance. Bear in mind that the driver and passenger sit on top of the engine — literally.
The steering can feel a bit heavy at low, manoeuvring speeds, but is fine once on the move. Speaking of manoeuvrability, there is no other LCV that can touch a microvan for squeezing through small gaps and into tight loading/unloading areas. The turning circle is diminutive at 8.8m, akin to that of a Black Cab.
Ride quality can be a bit lumpy on badly maintained urban streets — cart springs feature at the rear — and although the cab has plenty of headroom, rearward movement of the driver’s seat is restrictive in the single cab pick-up and tipper; no such problem in the double cab, however. If the shoe fits, go for it, but try before buying. Stout-built, long-legged folk may have a problem.
Basic prices (excl VAT) start at £6,999 for the Pick-Up, £7,999 for the Van and £9,999 will secure a double cab Pick-Up or Tipper. DFSK UK is in the process of recruiting an initial 40 dealers, with 29 signed-up at the time of writing. Many of them also represent either Suzuki or Mitsubishi or Suzuki. Loadhopper is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile mechanical warranty.
A longer, more modern version was scheduled to debut under the V Series banner in September 2012 (see News Story), but so far has not materialised.