Road tests 12.7.2018 10:23 am

DRIVEN: Changan Star minivan is a little workhorse with big appeal

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Economical, well priced and refreshingly simple – all in all a joy to drive.

Never underestimate the male ego.

It has started wars, demolished countries and caused more devastation than all of the plagues put together.

Studies have shown that the male ego suffers the most when others criticize said male’s prowess in either bed or behind the wheel of a car.

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At this writer’s age, great feats between the sheets are but a vague memory.

Don’t misunderstand – I still get hugely excited when I see a beautiful woman.

One of these days I am going to remember why, and there will probably be a regrettable incident.
I also no longer drive as well as I used to think I did.

Again, do not misunderstand – the Zwartkops Raceway allows me to drive one of their historic cars in competitive events.

But, they do so because I am so slow that I never hit things when I go off the track.

Because of my limitations, this publication’s really rapid test cars go to Mark Jones, who is a professional driver and a real racer.

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He gets the Lamborghinis and suchlike, driving them at mind-warping velocities around the Gerotek test facility.

When asked what defines a Supercar, Mark starts off by saying it should have a mid-mounted engine, and no rear window.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never get such a car to test.

Last week it happened. I was given a test vehicle and it had a mid-mounted engine, plus a total lack of rear window. I present you with the Changan Star minivan.

I am not kidding about its Supercar layout.

The four-cylinder 1 243cc petrol engine resides under the front seats – absolutely in the middle of the vehicle. And it does not have a rear window.

Changan calls the minivan “a real hard worker” and it may well be just that.

Designed for small inter-city deliveries, it will also seat four adults, separated from the cargo by a sturdy metal grid.

It is compact – being 3 980 metres long, 1 620 metres wide and 1 890 metres high.

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And, at the business end, the rear load box is 1 050 metres long, 1,3 metres wide and 1 250 metres high.

All in – occupants plus goods – it boasts a payload of one ton.

All of which should translate into a useful load of flowers, books, groceries or whatever people would want to deliver door to door around the city.

The minivan looks cute, square with black front bumper and grill, huge headlights and high tail lights. It sits on 14-inch steel wheels in 165/70R14LT rubber, with a fullsize spare wheel in the rear.

Stopping power comes via disc brakes front and vacuum-assisted drums rear.

The driver and front passenger have large doors and the rear passengers sliding doors.

The load bay can be reached via a huge door, which opens high, while there is no sill to impede the loading of goods.

The Changan is refreshingly simple, going back to basics in our current era where electronics get to do what motorists used to do for themselves in the good old days.

You unlock it with a key. You turn the same key in the ignition switch to start it.

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It has a manual handbrake lever and window winders, plus a lever at ground level with which to adjust the seats.

The test vehicle, being labelled “luxury”, boasted a heater, an air-conditioner, an interior light, a radio with two speakers and a digital clock.

I enjoyed driving the little bus.

With 72 kW of power and 119 Nm of torque, it was by no means a fireball, but the grunt and twist was enough to keep the minivan up with other traffic in the city.

On the highway it would strain at over 100 km/h, but this is not a vehicle that would see many long journeys, and it would seem adequate for its intended use.

It has a turning circle of just six metres, which made it a joy to park or manoeuvre in traffic, with the steering direct and the fivespeed gearbox clicking from cog to cog without fuss.

The suspension was hard, but this is, after all, a working vehicle. I only drove the Changan in traffic and made no efforts to conserve petrol.

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Thus, a fuel consumption figure of 6.7l/100 km seemed impressive.

At a price of R164 880, the Changan Minivan comes with a three year/100 000 kilometre warranty


The Citizen Trail Run 2018

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