‘Fit for the job’ has always been the essence of Chana and the Star range of light commercials – which spearheaded the brand’s arrival in South Africa in 2006 – epitomises that attitude.
With the introduction of the Star II in August this year, those consumers after a hard-working load-lugger that punches above its weight can look forward to more aerodynamic styling, detail refinements to the engine, and improved gearbox performance thanks to upgraded bearings and internals.
There is also an overall improvement in quality thanks to higher manufacturing standards and better attention to detail at all of Changan’s Chinese plants and there’s now better protection against the environment thanks to tighter shutlines, improved welding techniques and improved quality of paintwork.
At first glance you will notice the gently-curved, double-decker headlight clusters which wrap around the corners of the cab giving a smoother countenance.
The simple black grille separates the clusters and provides a serious look to the nose – this is a bakkie made for working ,not for posing, after all. Because work inevitably goes on deep into the night sometimes, powerful headlights abetted by front foglights are standard.
While the look may arguably be considered slightly ‘softer’, what hasn’t changed is the Star’s rugged design which enables it to carry an 800 kilogram payload in single-cab guise, 600 kilograms in Club Cab layout and half-a-tonne as a four-door Double Cab.
You also get a toughened, ‘bak’, (with dropsides available as a no-cost option on all models for ease of loading), recessed tail lights to prevent damage, strengthened latches and hinges, and protective metal bars on the rear window.
And of course it is rear-wheel-drive, so that the torque is applied directly under the load. With a load bed measuring 2.2 (that’s a match for most conventional single cabs) x 1.4 metres, the Star lives up to its name when it comes to carrying high-volume loads too.
A tiny, nine metre turning circle will get to exactly where the load is needed.
Making it the most user-friendly workhorse this side of the Limpopo is the forward-control layout, with generous glass area and large mirrors aiding all-round visibility. Cloth-covered seats with separate headrests, a soft-touch urethane steering wheel and a three-speed/four-outlet ventilation system make life at the wheel comfortable. There’s plenty of oddment space, too.
At the heart of every Chana Star II is a zesty four-cylinder, 16-valve petrol powerplant with the choice of 1.0- or 1.3-litre capacities. While outputs remain unchanged compared to the previous generation Star (the larger powerplant is rated at 60 kW and 102 Nm, the smaller one at 39 kW/78 Nm), Star II gets a later-generation C-series engine.
A number of changes – mainly to engine management and fuel measurement systems – result in better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Once again, quality of component manufacture and improved assembly has resulted in smoother and quieter mechanical operation.
Underpinnings are pure heavy-duty light commercial vehicle…so the solid back axle is suspended on leaf springs, the brakes combine front discs and rear drums with a load-proportioning valve, and a five-speed box with a beefed-up clutch is designed to work all day.
Keeping costs in check is sensible 165/70 rubber of 13-inch steel wheels. With overall consumption in the region of 7.5 litres per 100 km, a 40 litre fuel tank will be sufficient for 500 km hauls between refuels.
A one year/60 000 km factory warranty is standard across the range. Dealer options on all Star models include alloy wheels, tuner, and air conditioning on 1.3 litre models. Pricing starts at just R59 900 for the base model single cab, even the flagship Star II double cab 1.3 with air conditioning coming in below the R100 000 mark.
Now that’s what we call fit for the job!