Ford put its launch of the new Bantam to good use this week, with journalists driving bakkies loaded with sand and cement to the SOS children’s village in Mamelodi, where Ford employees will build a sandpit for the kids.

Ford put its launch of the new Bantam to good use this week, with journalists driving bakkies loaded with sand and cement to the SOS children’s village in Mamelodi, where Ford employees will build a sandpit for the kids.

That way, journalists were able to experience the various petrol- and diesel-engined Bantam versions under load and on the highway.

Although the official press launch was this week, the new Bantam was first seen by the public at the Auto Africa show in Johannesburg in late October and it has been on sale for several months.

Nigel Harris, Ford SA sales and marketing director, said sales figures were 650-700 a month and Ford aimed to lift capacity to 1 000 a month. “Sales exceeded all our expectations. The success took us by surprise and we increased production capacity 40 per cent during the end-of-year shutdown.”

He stressed that there would be no more badge engineering between Ford and Mazda anymore, with Ford placing emphasis on power.

“The Bantam isn’t a bakkie – it’s a two-door sportscar,” he quipped at the launch. He wasn’t far wrong, either, as the petrol versions feature RoCam engines and the cabin is spacious and comfortable. Ford says leg, shoulder and headroom are “best in class”. Comfortable bucket seats are standard across the range.

The bakkies have 60 per cent local content, and are available in seven derivatives with 1,3 and 1,6-litre petrol engines and a diesel. The load rating is 630kg, so it’s a bit more than a half-tonner, strictly speaking. The large load box area can accommodate a standard 1m² pallet. Load box width is 1 030 mm between wheel arches.

The Bantam comes in three specification levels: XL, XLT and XLE. Petrol versions include the 1,3i, which is fitted with a radio/tape as a standard; 1,3i XL with radio/CD and air conditioner; 1,6i with a radio/tape; XLT with radio/CD and air conditioner; and the XLE with radio/CD, air conditioner and airbags (driver and passenger). Driver and passenger airbags are optional on the 1,3i XL and 1,6i XLT models.

The 1,8i Diesel comes both as standard, with a radio/tape, and in an XL version, with radio/CD, air conditioner and optional driver and passenger airbags.

All models have handy side steps behind each door (easily big enough for your size 12 boot, Koos), tinted glass, tie-hooks inside the load box walls, a radio antenna, mudflaps, adjustable head restraints, door pockets, cup holders behind the seats, inertia-reel seatbelts, rev counter, floor console, digital clock and a high-level brake light.

Also available is a custom-built, colour-matched canopy. Standard models have 13-inch X5J steel wheels with 165/80 TR 13 tyres, with 14-inch X5.5J steel wheels and 175/65 TR 14 tyres on the 1.8i D standard, and 14-inch X5.5J seven-spoke alloy wheels with 175/65 TR 14 tyres on the XL, XLT and 1,6i XLE models.

For those wanting the facts and figures: The 1,3-litre RoCam delivers 55 kW at 5 500 r/min and 110 N.m of torque at 2 500 r/min, while the 1,6-litre RoCam generates 70 kW of power at 5 500 r/min and 137 N.m of torque at 2 500 r/min. The four cylinder 1,8i diesel engine generates 44,2 kW of power at 4 556 r/min and 105,6 N.m of torque at 2 500 r/min.

The petrol engines have a 15 000 km service interval, the diesel motor 10 000 km. All models come with the standard Ford three-year/100 000 km warranty. The company is investigating the possibility of price-inclusive service/wearing parts contracts.

The Bantam uses the same five-speed manual gearbox as that fitted to the current Fiesta and Ikon. Lifespan of the new vehicle is forecast to be eight to 10 years, with updates in-between. Harris said Ford’s export team was busy promoting the Bantam in Asian countries.

Original article from Car