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Ford Bantam XLE 1.6

Broadcast date : 1st October 2006

The addition of leather upholstery on the new Ford Bantam XLE probably goes a long way in giving this wholly-South African designed and built little pick-up its air of up-market appeal.

The leather option costs an extra R3 000 over the list price of R129 000, and along with other changes recently announced with the Bantam facelift, makes this an extremely appealing "work space".

A good quality sound system is standard on the XLE model, as are dual airbags, an immobiliser and special easy-to clean removable carpets.

No surprises in the go department for the re-vamped Bantam. Yet a sub-twelve-second 0-100 is not bad for a little half-ton pick-up, and nor is a top speed of 176 km/h.

The XLE still employs the seventy kiloWatt Rocam motor, a rather basic device that’s produced in great numbers for export by Ford South Africa.

In fact, in its Bantam lodgings the Rocam motor sounds rather sporty, with a vocal induction noise and crisp exhaust note, thanks to a rather racy four-branch exhaust manifold.

Push it hard and it does seem a little unrefined with lots of resonance. But the basic underpinnings are solid, and with a traditional torsion beam rear axle, these little bakkies actually have plenty of road grip.

They’re designed for the construction worker or owner of a small business who needs a fair degree of loadability, but still wants a ride approaching car levels of refinement.

Once on the move, the little front-wheel-drive Bantam is nippy enough for swift and easy manoeuvring, and the power spread from that Rocam engine makes for an easy-driving commute.

The front-wheel-drive layout for light pick-ups seems to have really put the traditional rear-drive workhorse, the Nissan 1400, under pressure in the sales race.

That gearchange is unusual in that it seems to change character depending on the torque exerted on the gearbox – a legacy of earlier front-wheel-drive designs that we’d almost forgotten about.

Still, the Bantam feels solid, and what really appeals is it’s large load-bay that actually takes a pay-load of 630 kilograms – well beyond its half-tonner designation.

You only truly realise how much you need a bakkie once you own one. And for those people who drive them, rather than buying them for employees, an up-market version like the XLE makes good sense.

There’s a lot of pride of ownership in these little toughies, and the new alloy wheels, wide rubbing strips and the plastic covered step-up portal in the load bay area, all make life easier.

As for the face-lift elements, the XLE now has fog-lights in the lower valance, redesigned colour-coded bumpers, a new deeper mesh grille, and new transparent- lens headlights with multi-reflector elements. Much appreciated by Ford Fans.

The Bantam reinvented the half-ton bakkie segment a few years ago and it’s still selling like hot cakes. Three years after its launch it remains fresh and vital.

Ford Bantam XLE 1,6

  • Engine: Four-cylinder petrol, 1 597 cc
  • Power: 70 kW @ 5 500 rpm
  • Torque: 137 Nm @ 2 500 rpm
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 11,46 seconds (Car Magazine)
  • Top speed: 176 km/h (Car Magazine)
  • Fuel consumption: 9,31 litres/100 km (Car Magazine)
  • Price: R129 015

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