Foton Auto South Africa is currently evaluating a medium/large size SUV based on its Tunland premium one-ton pick-up for possible introduction to the local market. The SUV, which has been named Sauvana, was shown for the first time at the Guangzhou Auto Show last year.

Sauvana front

The Sauvana, which is Foton Auto’s first foray into the increasingly popular SUV market, is due to go on sale in China early this year and will then be rolled out to international markets.

Designed and developed under the code name U201, the Sauvana is a body-on-frame design which offers rear-wheel or all-wheel drive options. It has a wheelbase of 2 790mm and is 4 830mm long, 1 910mm wide and 1 840mm high. The Sauvana will seat five or seven occupants depending on the model.

There is a choice of two turbocharged engines, a Cummins ISF diesel 2.8-litre and a Euro V compliant, direct injection, petrol 2-litre, with the availability of five- and six-speed manual gearboxes or a six-speed automatic transmission. No final decision has been made on a power train if the Sauvana is launched in SA.

The diesel engine developed in a joint venture by Foton and Cummins which is fitted to the Tunland range of vehicles has proved to be strong and reliable and is performing exceptionally well in terms of its durability.

The Foton Sauvana SUV uses a twin wishbone independent front suspension and a five-link control system for the solid rear axle for a comfortable and stable ride.

Foton is clear with its intent of producing a luxury SUV. The interior is well-equipped and has a high quality appearance. Features include an infotainment touchscreen and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Luxury features include   keyless entry and pushbutton starting, sunroof, automatic climate and cruise control.

A decision is expected soon as to whether or not the Foton Sauvana will be introduced to the SA market.

Sauvana Rear

Foton Auto, which was established in 1996 with headquarters in Beijing, China, is part of the booming Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings (BAIC) Group. Its main area of concentration until now has been building a range of commercial vehicles from pick-ups and vans to large trucks and buses.

Foton is, in fact the Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer with the widest range and highest production volume and is one of the largest commercial vehicle manufacturers in the world. Besides its established joint venture with Cummins of the US to develop and build engines Foton signed a 50:50 joint venture with Daimler in 2012 which involves the manufacturing of both vehicles and engines.

It has 20 engine and assembly plants in China and 13 KD facilities worldwide, providing a current production capacity of one million units per year. The company strategy going forward is to increase output to three million units a year by 2020.

Foton vehicles are distributed in South Africa through 36 sales and service outlets and is backed by Imperial and Bidvest.