There is always room for another Chinese contender in the Australian truck market – the latest is JMC. We already have close to twenty different truck brands competing in the Australian market, so why not add one more? Diesel News reported on the launch of the new brand from China, JMC, late last year. Now the company has trucks on the streets and is ready to start selling product.
The company behind the brand is the Jiangling Motors Group, an operation that built its first vehicles back in 1968. Over the years it has branched out from cars into commercial vehicles. A joint venture with Ford saw the company building Transit vans in China and a deal with Isuzu led to the production of N Series cabs and some truck assembly work. Now, the company is building its own brand truck and opening up markets around the world.
The JMC Conquer is a familiar-enough-looking truck. It appears to be based on the Isuzu N Series, not surprising after JMC’s previous cooperation with the Japanese truck maker. The cab is clearly closely related to the current generation of the Isuzu cab.
The three-litre Topanther TDCi engine is also either an Isuzu or very closely related to the one fitted to the lightest end of the N Series range, the 4HK1-TCN. Sitting in the engine compartment, the engines look very similar plus the power and torque ratings, and rpm levels, are exactly the same. There is one major difference, however, it uses SCR to clean up the exhaust emissions and meet ADR 80/03.
The truck tested by Diesel is the JMC Conquer 3360. The numbers refer to the wheelbase length, at 3,360mm. Dimensions and specifications are comparable to a truck like the Isuzu NLR medium wheelbase.
Walking over to the truck, it looks like just another Japanese truck off the production line. Most passers by would think it was an Isuzu or just a generic white small truck. For those with a bit more knowledge of the sector, the mirrors are the giveaway, apart from the badge on the front, of course! These mirrors are fitted on the front corner of the truck and not on the door. The driver has to look through the windscreen to see down the nearside of the truck, this is a typical domestic configuration in much of Asia.
Climbing into the truck the other signs to tell us this is a Chinese truck, to look for are the fit and finish inside the cab. Here the JMC does pretty well, the floor covering seems to fit about right, door handles and step are in the right position and stable, plus the dash seems to be fitted securely.
In fact, the first impressions are good. The truck is well finished and surprisingly sound. The door closed with the right noise. The key goes into the ignition and the engine starts with a familiar sound and runs evenly. Setting off is as one would expect in any small truck, and the feel is quite positive.
Chinese trucks of the past have suffered with badly set up steering, braking and clutches, there is none of that here. The steering is direct, positive and easy, just as it should be when running around town and the turning circle is excellent. Braking is effective and well adjusted to feel safe for the driver and not snatch when activated. Similarly, the clutch has the right feel and bites at the right moment. All good so far.
In fact, this truck does not take any getting used to. If the driver has had a go with a small Isuzu, Hino or Fuso, they will know exactly where they are, driving this truck. Controls are in the right place and things like pulling on the exhaust brake have the same effect as they do on other trucks, largely ineffective.
If there is one difference it is in the sound of the braking system. Most trucks this size use some form of hydraulic/vacuum arrangement to control braking. This particular JMC model uses air brakes and driving with the window down, the driver hears a nostalgic sighing sound from the brake booster, reminiscent of the eighties.
Changing gear is simple enough. The six speed box has a low first ratio, so setting off in second is the norm. The default position for the gear stick is quite central, to engage second, when starting off, the driver has to push the stick to the left and forward. The driver gets used to this in no time. If anything the action on the gear stick is just a little notchy, but this truck has only done a few hundred kilometres and can be expected to improve after a while.