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DFSK lands in SA with
new workhorses

The Chinese automotive manufacturer has entered the market with two bakkies that aim to fill a major gap, writes RUBEN VON STEEN.

When do you really know a car manufacturer wants to root itself in your country?

Well, it’s when the first two vehicles they launch are workhorses aimed at one of the biggest car markets in South Africa, namely the aspiring entrepreneur. It is a market that was left cold by the discontinuation of the Nissan NP200.

First, the Quick Big Facts:

The K1oS bakkie offers 900kg of carrying capacity with a 2.7m long loading bay and drop-downside panels right round. It’s a rear wheel driven, 1.24L SOHC (single overhead camshaft) drivetrain, mid-mounted like your uncle’s Ferrari. DFSK promises torquey power delivery at 61kw and 112Nm of torque instantly available under your right toe, thanks to its naturally aspirated engine. 

The C35 panel van’s specifications makes for some interesting reading. Again, a mid-mounted, SOHC naturally aspirated 1.5l engine hides underneath the seats, delivering 85kw at 148Nm of torque. But the big selling point will be the 1.9 ton carrying capacity of a vehicle that weighs just 1.29 tons!

We got to see these two work horses in person at the DFSK launch in Johannesburg last week, when we were allowed to snoop around and look with our eyes. Despite the fact they didn’t give us a little go in the vehicles, I can say for sure that the word of the day was “Surprised”.

Build quality is the first thing you notice after an initial glance at the styling, which can only be described as standard. The build quality within this segment usually isn’t top of the priority list, but it doesn’t seem to be the case with these two: doors closing solidly, dashboard nice and sturdy, and the plastic – which there is a lot of – feels very…acceptable. 

Being 1.87cm tall, I found myself fitting easily into both cabins. I half expected it all to feel and sound a bit like a tin can but – surprisingly – it feels like a car should feel: not hollow, and a little bit more trustworthy than most.

On that note, both vehicles lack basic safety features. They have no ABS or airbags, and nothing has yet been confirmed from an optional extra point of view. This is a little disappointing and I think will be the make-or-break factor for a lot of people and enterprises looking to buy a fleet for their business.

On the other hand, the K1oS and C35 will step into a market not really dominated by anyone since the discontinuation of the NP200 in 2021. With DFSK delivering products like this, coming with a 1-year warranty, claiming that oil services will not cost us more than R1,000, and backed by the Automobile Association of South Africa, a lot of eyebrows are certainly raised, in very good ways.

More good news for the South African Entrepreneur is the initial price tags. The KSo1 will cost around R180,000 and the C35 Panel van closer to R210,000, although these prices aren’t confirmed, due to the ups and downs of the exchange rate.

DFSK is looking to hit the South African market with a bang. It will start with 18 multi-franchise dealerships as quickly as possible and, by the time the bakkies go on sale, they want that number to be closer to 30.

DFSK might have an expanded product range coming in the future, but we haven’t heard much more on that. All we can say is that South Africa, you are looking at SA’s cheapest bakkie!

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