NEW condos’ floor spaces are shrinking. Cars get bigger with every new generation. Whether this points to people now spending more time on the move (or in gridlock) than they do inside houses, well, that’s for some pricey research firm to declare. What’s certain is that there are cars that offer the same acreage as some new condos do.
One such car is the View Traveller (price: P1.299 million), a really wide, really long and really tall van built by China carmaker Foton. Essentially a Toyota Grandia rip-off in bulky clothes, it’s a huge, rectangular box sitting on four wheels. So it comes as no surprise that the View Traveller has a cabin that justifies the use of a clichéd car-reviewer term—“cavernous.”
No hyperbole, this. The View Traveller has a wheelbase that stretches 3,110 millimeters. That’s about 800 millimeters shy of some subcompacts’ length. But these are subcompacts that aren’t really compact anymore, let alone “sub.” And consider that a vehicle’s wheelbase is measured from the centerline of the front wheel to the centerline of the rear wheel—not from the outer edges of each wheel, which would add more than a hundred millimeters or so. Like I said, the View Traveller is really long (total length: 5,380 millimeters).
It is really tall, too, at 2,285 millimeters. Too abstract? Let me put it this way then; average-height Filipinos can walk upright inside the car. And it’s really wide also, with possible five-across seating. The van’s slab sides, front and rear do not make for a svelte cut at all.
This means that from the driver’s perch—and a really high perch this is—the View Traveller is intimidating to steer around tight, clogged Metro roads. Especially so for one whose daily driver is a compact car, however “un-compact” this may be. So when this van landed on my driveway a couple of weeks back, the solution was to take it out of the city on an unhurried Saturday morning, then return home on an even more unhurried Sunday noon.
But then intimidating to drive is one thing; being actually difficult is another. And the latter, I found out merely 15 minutes or so into the trip, is not the case here. First, the view in front is excellent. Coupled with a snub nose inherent to vans of this type, plus a big steering wheel that is effortless to turn, the View Traveller is easy to thread through a crowded residential street that’s lined with parked cars on either side, and to slot in (large) gaps in traffic. True, it’s virtually impossible to see anything in the back—the headrests of the numerous seats block the view—but then that’s what the van’s reversing sensors are for. Numb steering? Well, you don’t buy a vehicle this size for agility and handling, right?
In fact, chances are buyers of the View Traveller won’t be doing the driving at all. And so for many it’s the ride quality that matters. And, here, the van delivers.
Admittedly, my last run-ins (many years ago) with China-made cars were not positive ones. I’d call the cars forgettable, if they were, but they were simply horrible. Nor did I come away impressed with an old Foton pickup. This isn’t the case anymore with the View Traveller.
The van rides smoothly whether on broken pavement (Edsa) or on billiard-table-surfaced roads (NLEx, Clark Field). Frankly, this was unexpected, considering I and three other passengers did not even make a third of the van’s seating capacity of 15—for which suspension damping is presumably set up for. The van easily soaks in bad road surfaces. It also does not pitch, thanks in part to its long wheelbase. The windows or parts of the dashboard or other furniture do not rattle. Panels gaps (inside and out) are consistent. Fit and finish are comparable to similar Japanese or Korean models. The road noise coming into the cabin is minimal.
What is noisy is the engine; a four-pot, 2.8-liter common rail, turbo-charged, direct injection diesel mill built by Cummins, a company renowned for its bulletproof truck engines. It makes 130hp and 280Nm, a torque rating that Foton literature says is from 22.5-percent to as much as 60-percent higher than that produced by “similar products.” But when you press the View Traveller’s go pedal grunt does not feel particularly strong, although this must be due to the transmission’s tall gear ratios rather than torque. The upside to this is that the van does not lurch or jerk when it’s creeping in first gear.
But again, these are driver concerns. Passengers (well, of course, the driver as well) would be happy with this huge Foton’s air-conditioning, which is just ref-cold. Also welcome are the audio unit with USB and aux ports, all the power-operated niceties (front windows, side-view mirrors, locks) and keyless entry whose fob looks more upscale than those offered on some upscale cars. While the van’s seats and panels and trim aren’t exactly luxurious, they prove comfy enough on urban slogs and highway cruises.
You definitely want to go to places in the View Traveller.