When the Amarok double cab arrived in South Africa in September 2010 it had it’s work cut out, taking on a segment traditionally dominated by Toyota and to a lesser extent Nissan. However against the odds the Amarok managed to steal a sizable chunk of the market.
On the back of that success, VW has recently launched the single cab “workhorse” range in South Africa. Six diesel models were available on launch, with the recent addition of two ‘advanced technology’ petrol variants. To test their offering I managed to get my hands on the most workman like of the bunch – the entry level 2.0 litre TDI in Basic trim.
This ‘smallest’ of the Amarok power plants boasts a healthy 90 kW with 340 Nm of torque. Drive, as in all models, is via a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive top ratio for added cruising economy. An upshift/downshift indicator in the instrument display aids economical driving by displaying optimal gearshift points.
While the engine technology does seem very clever in theory, the practical use thereof is less convincing. Considering this vehicle is aimed at fleet users in the courier/delivery, construction and mining, rental, small business and government sectors you have to imagine they will be asked to endure vast mileages in less than ideal conditions. With all the abuse of being a workhorse, the use of small capacity engines with fancy turbo chargers might just put too much strain on the gearbox and clutch.
All diesel models come with the option of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. It is typical of this type of application in light commercial vehicles with a two-speed transfer case (high and low ratios) driving through a rigid 4X4 system (no centre differential). Engagement of 4Motion is possible on the fly at the simple press of a button. A rear differential lock provides for an even higher level of traction in really tough conditions.
The unladen ride is obviously firm but was reasonably comfortable, even on rough roads and at high speeds it showed a good level of stability. Throw a few hefty items in what is said to be a class leading load bay and the ride maintains its calm and composed nature. The ladder-frame chassis is not void of some shaking across more uneven road surfaces, however it is minimal and indicates a rather strong build.
A steering column that is adjustable for both height and reach, and seat height adjustment provide decent driver comfort. A large space behind the seats tops off the interior accommodation that is best in class. Otherwise creature comforts are few and far between, to the extent that the side mirrors don’t have adjusting stalks and there’s no central locking – which some would argue is exactly how it should be in a workhorse. If you want any of these things, as is traditional with VW, the options list comes at a price.
What one might not expect from a workhorse is a relatively good Euro NCAP safety rating. The Amarok double cab received four stars in tests conducted in 2010. The safety features inherent in the Amarok design have ensured that the benefits of this result are carried over to the single cab model.
If there is such a thing as a trendy workman who is looking for innovative engine technology, smooth lines and something that defies traditional allegiances, the Amarok delivers the goods. Personally though I’d wait a few years until they’ve proven their mettle in what is an uncompromising market.
Engine: 2.0 litre TDI
Power: 90 kW
Torque: 340 Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.6l/100km (claimed)
* First published in Autodealer KZN on 16 March 2012