The new JAC T9: an affordable, luxurious workhorse

The new JAC T9 is certainly great value for money by offering features and driver comforts that compare with brands twice its retail price.

The new JAC T9: an affordable, luxurious workhorse
The JAC T9 was tested on the open road, in heavy traffic and in rural farmland.
Photo: Gary Wium
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Gone are the days that a farm bakkie is a simple, feature-free, uncomfortable set of wheels.

Considering the affordable solutions offered by the Chinese automotive market to date, it is virtually impossible to overlook a range of bakkies that serve as affordable workhorses while doubling as luxury vehicles.

The JAC T9 is a luxurious, large and powerful double-cab bakkie, filled with an impressive range of safety and comfort features.

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Most of these features are not available in bakkie brands nearly double the retail value, which makes me ask the question: why, in an economic downturn, are we not pursuing brands that offer the best value for money?

At some point in the not-so-distant future, I hope that someone remembers this review and the warning that it gives to the upmarket million-rand bakkie market: there is a new generation of affordable bakkies that offer the same and more at half the price.

I was provided with the JAC T9 by Mekor Motors in Century City. The request from Mekor was to put the JAC T9 to the farm test, to determine if this vehicle can survive the rough and tough terrain that most farmers must navigate on a daily basis.

After driving this bakkie for a week on a range of different terrains, I can confidently give it the Farmer’s Weekly stamp of approval. I tested the bakkie on the open road, in heavy traffic and in rural farmland. This is my experience.

Monday madness test

I drove the JAC T9 bakkie in what can only be described as bumper-to-bumper central, also known as Sandton.

If you read this review and find yourself in a peaceful open space surrounded by beautiful South African nature, then I ask you to pity those of us who rush from skyscraper to skyscraper.

And in all honesty, although traffic is hated by all, it is easier when you are seated in a comfortable, luxurious bakkie. This vehicle offers blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, climate control and eight-speed automatic transmission.

The test driver found the fuel efficiency of this vehicle to be exceptional. Photos: Gary Wium

However, notably one of the best features, while trapped in traffic, is the 10,4-inch touch screen infotainment system.

This system is possibly one of the easiest to operate and although it could arguably be considered oversized, bigger is always better when it comes to touch screens (my fat fingers have never been great friends with tiny little buttons).

At some point during my Monday madness experience, I may or may not have been so distracted by the infotainment system that I inadvertently tested the safety features. They work!

Manoeuvring a 5,3m-long by 1,96m-wide bakkie in inner city parking was not an easy task, and although the team at Mekor pride themselves on offering one of the largest bakkies available to the South African market.

But the wider the bakkie, the harder it is to get into a tiny parking bay, which is why I assume so much effort went into the 360° view camera, parking sensors and reverse camera.

The open road test

Driving the bakkie on the open road highlighted something that I believe the JAC team at Mekor was also pleased to hear: the fuel efficiency of this vehicle was exceptional. I have always driven with a heavy foot and rapid acceleration from any stopping point.

My philosophy is to get to my destination as quickly as possible. This driving behaviour tends to make vehicles a lot heavier on fuel than the marketing pamphlets would have us believe.

But to my surprise, the JAC T9 offered 10,4ℓ/100km for city driving and dropped to 8,8ℓ/100km on the open road, which is very impressive for such a large vehicle.

The farm test

The farm test is always the fun part of my review process. The JAC T9, with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, offers 125kW power and 410 Nm torque, meaning there was little testing needed.

The bakkie was so capable that it took the fun out of struggling. At no point did I break a sweat or feel that the vehicle was not up to the task.

With the 4×4 part-time system including a low-range transfer case and rear diff lock, the bakkie is more than capable.

I would say that in the standard 2×4 high-range selection, the bakkie was a little unstable on a dirt road, but when I switched it over to the 4×4 high-range selection to even out the power distribution, it was smooth sailing.

The bakkie has a loading capacity of 1t and a towing capacity of 3,5t.

With a loading capacity of 1t and a towing capacity of 3,5t, there is very little that you cannot do.

Towing a trailer with a couple of sheep on it was more fun for us than it was for the sheep.

In summary, the JAC T9 passed the three basic tests. It is fuel efficient, which is essential with escalating fuel prices; and it offers sufficient power and performance capabilities to be a workhorse.

But above all else, the JAC T9 is great value for money.

At the Mekor Motors price point of R659 900 for the JAC T9 Double Cab 2.0 CTi 4×4 Super Lux, there are not very many range toppers in bakkies at that price that offer diamond-stitched leather seats, a sunroof, electric-adjusted and heated side mirrors, tyre pressure monitoring and keyless entry.

Overall, this bakkie and its rugged exterior and luxurious interior impressed me most with its affordable capabilities, and for that I rate this JAC T9 four out of five sheep.