One of the safest (and most affordable) pickups

Published January 28, 2022, 9:02 AM

by Eric R. Tipan

2020 Maxus T60 4×4 Elite AT

Yes, arguments can be made when compared versus competitors but the fact remains, this is the first pickup truck made in China to get 5-stars in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). That’s obviously a huge feather in its cap and one of the best reasons for Maxus to bring in. But what else does it offer?

Its exterior is probably the most unique in the segment with plenty of geometric figures (octagon, pentagon, rectangle, and a trapezoid) in front and at the back, plus a highly angular bumper. It’s undeniably eye-catching, especially that shiny grille with thick slats. As it goes against the usual style of using a single shape for uniformity, it comes off having a rebellious, youthful presence on the road.

The tail’s highlight is those big chrome fog lamp housings that dominate two-thirds of the rear bumper. It’s a little opulent but the bling-bling does add some panache to this commercial vehicle; I just wish they also put some on the front fog lamps. Other fancy stuff are LED automatic headlamps, daytime running lamps, rear window defogger, and even rain-sensing wipers.

Its body design isn’t as stout or hefty compared to others in the segment but it claims a water wading depth of 800 mm, towing capacity of 2,500 kilos, and comes with a pair of functional roof rails for more cargo space. It certainly has a look that’s all its own and can establish its presence even in our very crowded pickup truck space.

Keyless entry and a push-start system are exclusive to this trim, along with automatic climate control, leather seats (with red stitching) and its six-way power-adjustable system, and the 10-inch touchscreen display with six-speakers.

The dashboard comes with hard plastic but is contoured just enough to make it look modern. It has silver garnishes on either side and a black glossy frame in the middle.

Just like the exterior, the surface of the center stack is multifaceted with three flat sides housing controls for the aircon, drive modes, and a couple of other functions.

It comes with a multifunction steering wheel and a rather thickset gear shift knob that’s right beside the drive layout selector.

The fit and finish needs a bit of improvement. There are some gaps in a few panels. Covers, like on the driver’s vanity mirror, come loose, which could cause some noise during serious off-roading. The infotainment screen looks great although response to input is maybe just a split second delayed and the graphic user interface could use an update.

I do like the spaciousness, the appointments, and the sleek layout of the cockpit — it feels a lot pricier than it is. Comfort is high as the seats comes highly cushioned and air vents in the second row keep an even interior temp. Also, the USB ports have fast charging capacity, which is surprisingly not standard yet on most vehicles.

Its 2.8L turbodiesel engine is made by its mother company, SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) Motor, and puts out 150-PS and 260-Nm of torque. This engine is impressive. Even in Eco mode, four passengers, and a semi-loaded bed, power delivery felt pretty good. There was hardly any throttle suppression and getting to the expressway top speed was effortless. I stayed in ‘Normal’ mode most of the drive and picked up 9.5-km/l in seven days of mixed conditions.

The six-speed automatic transmission tends to keep it in the low gears so it either downshifts much earlier or lingers a little bit before upshifting. It’s not quite a bother and the upside is, you’ll save your brake pads because of all the engine braking.

With a leaf spring rear suspension, it’s expected that going over humps won’t be subtle, but it isn’t any different from other pickup trucks. Noise, vibration, and harshness levels are surprisingly low considering some of my cabin comments.

Steering feel from the hydraulic rack and pinion is true and honest. It’s not as tight as I want it to be, but remember that this is a first-gen model and the T70 could be just around the corner.

Its strongest feature though is safety. It scored a 35.4/37 and received very high marks for frontal, side, and pole tests. And to think it doesn’t even have the more advanced driver assist features found in other pickup trucks. It does come with airbags (driver and passenger), Electronic Stabilization Program, a reverse sensor and camera, and even a tire pressure monitoring system.

Here comes the best part: for P1.328 million, you get all this. It’s a safe, powerful, and affordable 4×4 that can go do the dirty work trucks were meant to do. If you don’t like your pickups fancy or expensive, then look at the 2020 Maxus T60 4×4 Elite AT.