The Foton Aumark S fares quite well in the light duty looks department with a design which is clearly in line with the latest truck aesthetic. The grille at the front gives away the strong relationship that Foton has with the Daimler Truck organisation with its close resemblance to the style used on the front of the latest heavy duty Mercedes-Benz in Australia. By the way, this cabin is fully ECE R29 crash test complaint.
Underneath is the Cummins 3.8 L ISF engine which is rated at 152hp (112kW) at 2600rpm and puts out 500Nm of torque between 1200 and 2000rpm. The transmission is a six speed ZF manual gearbox.
The truck is fitted with electronic stability control, ABS, ASR it also has hill start assist and uses disc brakes all-round. There is also a reversing camera, cruise control, electric mirrors and a (not very effective) lane departure your warning system in the basic specification.
Foton is now pushing its product in to the Australian truck market in its third attempt. The brand first appeared here over 10 years ago, imported by the company which was then also importing Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle. The brand reappeared a few years later under the Ateco umbrella, bringing in both small trucks and utes, but again, this was relatively short lived.
This latest entry to the market also has the advantage of being an up-to-date truck and not something which looks like it might have been available from a Japanese manufacturer 15 or 20 years ago. The latest models have been specified to get a lot closer to their more established Japanese competitors.
The Light Duty Driving Department
When an all new truck appears on the market with little pedigree and is largely unknown to Australians, there can be some trepidation over whether this truck is up to the mark. For any brand, first impressions are always important and this does have the light the right look and feel as you approach it, open the door, climb in, put the key in ignition and start it up.
There are none of the looseness or rattles which can often affect poorly finished Chinese product when it arrives here. This truck sounds good and feels tight, there is no play in the steering and the gearbox linkage appears precise. There is also unimpressive turning circle enabling the truck to U-turn in many road situations. This is a good start for any truck wanting to make an impression here in Australia.
All round visibility in the truck is excellent with the driver position giving them good views all around. The mirrors are also well placed and effective. Their fitting to the outside of the doors is also substantial with a long bar running along the top of the door to hold the mirrors in place. The mirrors can be controlled from inside the cabin and this proves to work quite well.
A key factor in reassuring the skeptical driver of a new brand is how well the truck brakes. There is no doubting the effectiveness of the braking system in bringing the truck to a halt. However, this is a fully air brake system, something which is unusual in a light duty truck. We are used to hydraulic brake control in this kind of truck.
Using air brakes means it is more difficult to apply the brakes gradually and it does need a little bit of practice for the driver to get used to applying the brakes gently in a stop and go situation.
Because this is an air brake system the handbrake control is similar to that found in heavy duty trucks. This is not a problem to those used to bigger trucks but it does work in a very different way to the typical handbrake in this size of truck.
The engine power from the 3.76 litre Cummins is reliable torquey and smooth. The six speed ZF gearbox goes up and down through the years with ease. First gear is quite low and in many situations, it is possible to take off in second gear. The ratios appear to be well based spaced so that in top gear at 100km/h, the engine is running at around 2250 rpm.
This is a 6-speed gearbox with the default position being dead centre between three and four. The driver have to push the lever it to the left to get first and second then to the right to get fifth and sixth. This might take a little bit of time to get used to, but is not too complicated. Reverse is right over to the left and push backwards.
After driving for a while, it becomes clear that it is a good idea, with a loaded truck on a climb to keep the engine revs above 1500rpm. Below that the engine does not lug very well, even though, officially, maximum torque is available from 1200 to 2200rpm. Having said that, the torque which is available from 1500 up past 2000rpm, is very effective torque and the truck pulls well on a grade.
On a downward grade the engine brake is very effective. Choosing third gear on a very steep downhill section and selecting the engine brake, saw this driver only have to apply a small amount of braking on the steeper sections.