Allow me to explain the ‘real bakkie’ statement.  The first bakkies were built to be nothing more than workhorses for lugging stuff around, but over the years they’ve grown into symbols of wealth and prosperity. I come from a mining community and over there you were nobody if you didn’t have a double cab. It’s more or less the same thing in Jozi, where bakkies are now used to transport children rather than manure. There’s nothing wrong with this. The modern bakkie is more than capable of leading an inner-city life with its leather seats, air conditioning and squishy suspension.

This natural progression has left a gap in the market. A decent derivative from one of the leading mainstream manufacturers will cost you far over R400 000 these days. It’s definitely worth it, but it’s still not exactly cheap, is it? That’s where the GWM Steed, Foton Tunland and the subject of this week’s missive - the Tata Xenon XT - come in.

The upgrades to the Xenon you see here come courtesy of Tata’s customers. The owners spoke and Tata listened. It’s a great way of doing business, I think.

The biggest change by far is the powertrain. The XT is powered by a new 2.2-litre VVT Dicor engine with 110kW and 320Nm on tap. These figures, however, tell only half the story. Driving it, you can feel that it’s a modern engine that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the mainstream bakkies. The torque curve is quite flat, which makes the XT a nice companion on all road surfaces.

On the subject of driving, it’s here where you notice the main difference between the Tata and its more established rivals. The Tata is still very much a bouncy bakkie. It feels agricultural, which I don’t think is a bad thing. It may not be the most comfortable bakkie ever made, but it has a robust quality that I think all bakkies should have. It certainly felt strong enough to cope with even the most difficult farmer or miner or builder’s demands.

On the inside, it’s all very plastic fantastic, but once again it’s built to cope with a rough life. You do get a lot of equipment as standard though. On the safety front, you get dual front airbags, ABS, a collapsible steering column and remote central locking with an engine immobiliser.

On the luxury front, things get very interesting. On the single- and double-cab 4x4 models you get electric windows, power steering, Bluetooth connectivity, a radio/CD/MP3 player with a USB port and, wait for it, navigation. You can see it’s an aftermarket system, but it works very well and has all the functionality one could possibly hope for.

Tata has a lot of faith in this product. That much is clear from its estimated sales for the XT and the warranty and service plan you get as standard. Every model in the line-up comes standard with a 5-year/90 000km service plan and 4-year/120 000km warranty. In this instance, it easily matches its more expensive competitors.

But what about the price? With such significant upgrades you’d expect a significant increase in price, but, fortunately, that’s not the case here. The price of the double-cab 4x2 (the big seller) has only increased to R239 995. That’s more than R100 000 cheaper than some of the big boys.

To compare it to those competitors is daft, though. Yes, it’s not as good as them, but for R100 000 off, should you really care? Whichever way you look at it, the Tata Xenon XT is a good bakkie, but at this price, it’s great.

               

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