Automotive journalist Steve Banner reviews the new Longton Avia along the highways around Stoke-on-Trent. The brand recently returned to market in the UK. Steve finds that the tipper is a no nonsense but versatile work horse, and now it has an established spare parts provider and a 45-strong dealer network to support the range.
Avia trucks are on sale again in the UK, this time under the Longton Avia banner.
It is all thanks to a deal announced last April between Ashok Leyland of India, the Czech manufacturer's owner, and an independent British importer based in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. Part of the Hinduja Group, Ashok Leyland also holds a controlling stake in British bus maker Optare.
Plans are afoot to assemble the trucks in Stoke-on-Trent, and Longton Avia (UK) Commercial Director Jonathan Dale, is at pains to stress that much of their content is already made in Britain. 'The Cummins engines used for example are built in Darlington,' he points out.
As things stand the range is made up of 4x2 rigids grossing at from 6.0 to 12 tonnes, with the 12-tonner also available as a 4x4: four-wheel-drive versions of the lighter models can be ordered too. A 22-tonne 6x2 rigid fitted with a third axle sourced from Granning is available as well, and could form the basis of a refuse collection vehicle. A 22-tonne tractor unit is being developed in conjunction with Staffordshire University to haul short semi-trailers on urban work. A 15-tonne 4x2 rigid is in the pipeline with an 18-tonner planned for 2014/2015.
A fully-automatic Allison gearbox looks set to be offered as an alternative to the ZF manual box fitted as standard across the range within the next six months.
A variety of cabs are listed: day, sleeper, a day cab with a sleeper pod on top, and a crew cab. Avia also makes the truck as a chassis scuttle which could potentially be of interest to bus and coach builders.
LAPV took to the highways in and around Stoke in a D75 7.5-tonne tipper fitted with an all-steel body built by locally-based Commercial Body Specialists complete with a ladder rack with a mesh infill. The 3.4m-wheelbase test truck ' other wheelbases are available ranging from 2.95 to 5.1m ' was fitted with a Cummins ISB4.5E5160 Euro 5 four-cylinder common rail direct-injection turbocharged and intercooled diesel married to a ZF 6S850 six-speed manual gearbox.
Top power of 160hp kicks in at 2,500rpm while maximum torque of 602Nm makes its presence felt across a 1,200rpm-to-1,700rpm plateau.
D75 can also be specified with 185hp and 207hp versions of the same 4.5-litre engine, which uses selective catalytic reduction technology. A 30-litre AdBlue tank is fitted.
Air-actuated disc brakes are installed all round and ABS is standard. The braking system is sourced from WABCO while the hydraulic power-assisted steering is made by ZF.
Access to the tiltable three-seater cab is easy, with just one step up from the ground and a wide, tall door aperture.
While the A-pillars and exterior mirrors can sometimes create blind spots at junctions and roundabouts, all-round vision from behind the wheel is otherwise good. The downward sweep of the cab windows gives a handy view of the pavement on the nearside and any vulnerable passing cyclists on the offside.
Our demonstrator was fitted with a comfortable, supportive and easy-to-adjust air-suspended driver's seat sourced from Isringhausen. It is a standard feature, but a mechanically-suspended seat can be specified instead if that is what is required.
Good to see that the driver can quickly slide across the cab and emerge safely on the pavement side of the vehicle without having to worry about tumbling over the transmission tunnel or any other obstruction.
Interior stowage facilities for all the bits and pieces drivers carry around with them include a shelf above the windscreen running the full width of the cab, bins in each of the doors and a lidded bin in the centre of the dashboard. Both a 12v and a 24v power point are provided and if you look upwards you will see the radio and a Stoneridge digital tachograph.
On the road D75 is remarkably quiet ' the only noise we noticed was a bit of squeaking from the elderly Scammell test weights ' and handles well, with an extraordinarily-tight turning circle: just what you need for city centre work. It rides well on its 17.5ins steel wheels too, soaking up most bumps and potholes with ease, and comes with an effective engine brake as standard to help you to slow down without having to rely too heavily on the service brakes.
Acceleration through the gears is brisk, with no lack of torque when you need to tackle a hill or two even when fully laden: body and payload allowance is a healthy 4,116kg and the little Longton Avia can pull a trailer grossing at up to 4.49 tonnes. Our test truck's gear change was slightly stiff, something we attributed to the fact that it was virtually brand new.
Our D75 came with a limited-slip rear differential and cruise control. A spare wheel complete with a wheel chock is standard.
All Longton Avia chassis come with a three-year bumper-to-bumper unlimited-mileage warranty. The roadside rescue package lasts for three years too and will even react if the driver has simply run out of diesel.
An eight-year anti-corrosion warranty covers the cab.
Service intervals are set at 1 year/50,000km or 1 year/25,000km if the truck is on particularly arduous work: continually in and out of quarries for example. We were not able to measure fuel consumption alas, but 7.5-tonners typically return between 15mpg and 21mpg. Conscious that inadequate aftermarket spares and service support was one of the criticisms levelled at Avias the last time they appeared in the UK, Longton Avia has appointed 45 dealers. Parts delivery to the network is handled by Omnipart.
List price for the truck as tested is a competitive £28,500. Among the extra-cost options listed are air conditioning and a power take-off. Longton Avia can provide a variety of other pieces of equipment for its trucks including a snowplough and a demountable gritter. Though not designed for arduous winter conditions, the package could be a cost-effective means of keeping city centre roads clear when seasonal chills start to bite.
If you are looking for a basic, inexpensive, no-nonsense 7.5-tonner with a high content of already-familiar components, then look no further because the solidly-built D75 neatly matches that description. Go and check it out.