The Wuling Fighting May Be The Compact Truck You've Been Dreaming Of
Issuing time:2022-03-28 11:48
What is it?
It feels like one of the greatest pastimes of modern car enthusiasts, particularly American car enthusiasts, is lamenting the death of the small, affordable pickup truck. If you listen to people online, modern pickup trucks are huge, grotesquely expensive abominations. All they really want is a compact, cheap, preferably manual, pickup truck that they can use to haul stuff on the weekends, while still getting decent fuel economy during the commute. The new Ford Maverick seems like a pretty decent solution to this problem, but we might have an even better one, and it costs less half as much as the Maverick. Meet the Wuling Fighting.
The name Wuling might sound familiar to Wheelsboy fans, because this is actually the third Wuling model we’ve reviewed, the other two being the Wuling MINI EV, China’s bestselling electric car, and the Wuling Hongguang, China’s bestselling car period. Wuling, a result of the joint venture between SAIC and General Motors, is known for producing extremely affordable vehicles, and the Fighting is no different, with prices ranging from just 9,000-10,000 USD.
Practical, not pretty
The front-end styling of the Fighting may not have the same charm as the MINI EV, but nothing really does. What you get instead is a very simple, handsome design with almost no frills other than optional lower fog lamps. There are no LED headlights, no cameras, and no radar units, because those things are expensive, and you don’t need them to carry things in your truck.
The Fighting is about 5.1 meters (200.5 inches) in length, ever so slightly longer than a Ford Maverick. But at 2.45 meters (96.3 inches), the Fighting’s bed is nearly double the length of the Maverick’s. The side profile clearly reveals the MPV roots of the Fighting, because it ended up looking like they just put a pickup truck bed on an MPV. The dark grey 14-inch wheels, while very small, are far more interesting than they need to be.
A quick note on the provenance and color-choice on this particular vehicle. You see, the Wheelsboy team borrowed this car from a couple here in Shanghai that are what you might call “social media influencers”. They received this as a gift from Wuling, and then immediately wrapped it in this pink color and used it in their wedding ceremony. You know, for the “clout”.
The name of the Fighting is not a direct translation of the Chinese name, 征途 (zhengtu), which means something closer to “journey” or “trek”. It actually comes from the fact that the English word “fighting” has become a commonly used term of encouragement here in China.
For example, one’s friend might shout “fighting” at them as they struggle underneath a heavy weight at the gym. It’s the same thing as saying, “you can do it!” The only problem is that it sounds really weird when you pluralize it. As in, “I saw no less than three Fightings on my way to work today.”
The Fighting is more of a flatbed than it is a traditional pickup truck, because all three sides can be folded down. In order to do that, you need to remove the black frame behind the passenger compartment. We were left wondering whether that black frame is an integral part of the Fighting’s structure, or just something that keep the sides from falling down…
Hard and cheap, but it has bluetooth!
The interior plastics of the Fighting are just as hard and cheap as you would expect in a $10,000 car, but they were nice enough to give you a variety of colors and materials, including brushed metal and carbon fiber. Buttons are kept to a minimum, just the AC knobs on the center console, as well as few on and around the steering wheel. The steering wheel itself is made of a material that is somewhere on the level of a dog toy, but hopefully that will make it very durable.
The center screen is amazing…in that it actually exists in a truck this cheap. It also has Bluetooth audio with hands-free calling, not to mention a backup camera. The seats themselves are very, very thin and not very supportive, but the faux leather feels pretty soft.
Rear seat space is adequate, but the seating position can best be described as “turgid”, with zero adjustment whatsoever. The seats are even thinner and even less supportive than the ones up front. In summation, you wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes in the back seat of a Wuling Fighting.
Good enough to get the job done
Underneath the hood of the Wuling Fighting is a naturally aspirated 1.5L four cylinder making 74kW and 140Nm of torque (100 hp and 111 lb.-ft). That’s backed by a 5-speed manual transmission that puts power down through the rear wheels only.
While the Fighting isn’t built for off-roading, it is built to handle hours and hours on poorly maintained rural roads. Problem is, that type of imperfect road surface does illustrate one of the major flaws of this design, and that’s all the squeaks. Every time you hit a bump, there is a very loud squeak that almost certainly comes from the frame behind the passenger compartment. Maybe we’d take that roll hoop off after all.
The Wuling Fighting, much like the Wuling Hongguang MPV on which it is based, is an exceedingly easy car to drive. A manual transmission isn’t some magic spell that turns a boring car into a performance vehicle, but the 5-speed manual in the Fighting certainly makes it a more engaging vehicle to drive. It’s also nearly impossible to stall, because most of the torque comes in very low in the rev range.
Not only that, but it helps you wring every last bit of power out of the little four banger up front, and it needs all the help it can get. This thing weighs less than 1300kg (3000lbs), but with only 74kW, it’s definitely not fast. It’s enough to keep up with traffic, but if you loaded it with cargo and people, it would be monumentally slow.
Cabin NVH is on the agrarian end of the spectrum, with a lot of squeaks. There is a squeak from the air conditioning fan, from the hard plastic interior, and there is that very loud squeak from the rear. It’s worth mentioning that the car we drove had about 1150 kilometers (700 miles), so these were not regular signs of wear.
Suspension is McPherson struts up front and leaf springs in the rear, which, while simple and reliable, doesn’t make for the best ride. Much like a lot of pickup trucks that have leaf springs, every time you go over a big bump, the rear turns into a pogo stick. The steering wheel doesn’t transmit much information beyond how much the engine is vibrating at any given moment (the answer is usually, “a lot”).
Then again, this is a USD 10,000 vehicle, so these are all the things you expect to experience. This thing is only supposed to be good at two things: being cheap and hauling things around. In that respect, it does its job admirably well.
We poked fun at the full-size truck haters at the beginning of this video, but we honestly think they have a point. We too believe that modern full-size trucks are way bigger, way more capable, and hence way more expensive than they really need to be. In that sense, the cheap, simple Wuling is indeed a perfect antidote to those roadgoing behemoths. If only it were sold in markets outside of China.
Article classification: Petrol Cars