BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Most pick-ups are bought by companies as a taxable expense, driven into the ground and rarely sold on for anything but scrap. There are exceptions though. 'Lifestyle' pick-ups are becoming increasingly popular as used buys, the growth fuelled by a tax loophole. The Proton Jumbuck doesn't really fall into either category. It's got enough load space for light commercial duties but lacks the rear seats required of a proper leisure pick-up. As a result, it's possible to pick up a nearly new Jumbuck for far less than you thought. If you've considered what you need your vehicle for and decided that a small pick-up fits the bill, a used Jumbuck is well worth a look.
Models Covered: 2003-to date: Jumbuck 2 door pick up/ 1.5-litre petrol [GL, GS, GLS, GSX]
Although it was launched in 2003, it's possible to trace the Jumbuck's underpinnings right back to the launch of the original Persona in 1993. It shares the car's 1.5-litre powerplant and although the Persona morphed into the Wira in 2000, it's unlikely you'll mistake the Jumbuck's chassis for something state of the art. That's not such a bad thing though, as if you want a rugged vehicle of this type, tried and tested mechanicals are often your best friend. The handling package for the Jumbuck was conducted by Lotus and as a result, the Jumbuck is one of the few light commercial vehicles that don't turn to blancmange at the sight of a corner.
What You Get
Jumbuck customers are invited to select from three trim levels. The GL option forms the base of the range by taking a less-is-more approach to equipment and price. Your outlay will secure remote central locking, power steering and a protective grille for the rear window along with height adjustment capabilities for your steering column, driver's seat and headlights. Next comes the GS and the up-spec GLS costs more again but it gives more in return by including fabric seat upholstery, 14" alloys, a Clarion CD player and electric controls for the windows and door mirrors. A Jumbuck GLS will be instantly distinguishable from a more workmanlike GL or GS model by its two-tone paintwork, wheel-arch extensions and side mouldings. At the top of the line-up is the GSX, a model that adds stainless steel sill rails and styling bars, "15 alloys, roof-mounted work lights and silver tiger graphics down the vehicle's sides. The payload capacity in the Proton Jumbuck GL is 645kg, with the weight of equipment in the GLS lowering the maximum to 635kg. This is roughly equivalent to the load-carrying capacity of a small hi-cube van, though the mainstream UK pick-ups are usually able to haul around 1,000kg. The load is accessed via a drop-down tailgate that's simply released by a centrally-located handle. In standard form, the load space is unlined and uncovered but a swift foray into the options list can soon put that right. There are Truckman add-on covers available for just under £1,000 as well as a load liner, roll-over bars, specially designed roof attachments and even purpose-built carriers for bikes and sail boards - all are reasonably priced. Inside, the Jumbuck has inherited an interior of some quality from its Wira parentage. There's nothing in there that's going to send designers at Audi or BMW scurrying back to their drawing boards but in terms of quality and functionality, buyers should have little cause for concern. The seats are covered with vinyl in the entry-level model - something which might develop into a sticky issue on hot summer days - but the air-blowers seemed to perform powerfully and they should help take the edge off things. Cabin storage space for large items is limited, with the door pockets a little tight for anything bulkier that pens or paperwork and a confined glovebox but there's room for your smaller odds and ends in a covered pot between the seats or a useful recess in the dash. It might be worth taking a road test in the rain because the windscreen wipers tend to leave a lot of water on the screen and, consequentially, a lot to be desired.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Jumbuck is a sturdy campaigner although rear suspension squeaks can drive you crazy after a few miles. Check that the vehicle drives quietly or be prepared to replace rear bushings. The satin-coloured bars in the back aren't the most hardwearing parts of the car's make-up and soon become rather tatty looking if the Jumbuck has been used in earnest. The interior is largely workmanlike but seat fabrics can wear easily. Look out for evidence that the car has been overloaded or abused by checking the suspension and exhaust. Wipers can be very weedy and steer clear of garish colour schemes that may be difficult to shift.
(Based on a 2004 Jumbuck GLS - approx) A new clutch will be in the region of £160 and a full exhaust about £335. Front brake pads will set you back about £45 for the front set and £38 for the rear, while an alternator will be around £165 and a replacement starter motor about £125.
On the Road
So, who is going to want to buy a Proton Jumbuck, especially given that it only comes in 2-wheel drive? After all, businesses often look to a pick-up for its ability to move cargo around muddy building sites or to other locations that would be inaccessible to a van or flat-bed truck. Can the Jumbuck really cope with this kind of use? Well, the vehicle rides on a ladder frame chassis with coil-sprung suspension at the front and a rigid leaf-sprung axle at the rear. It's front-driven but Proton have upped the Jumbuck's ground clearance by 20mm over that of the Wira parent vehicle. Still, without 4x4 transmission or any of the off-road trickery found in larger pick-ups, it probably wouldn't take long for the Jumbuck to get gummed-up if it was faced with really treacherous terrain. Perversely, this inability to act as a genuine off-roader transpires to be one of the Jumbuck's key strengths. By choosing not to go down the road of beefing-up the suspension, elevating the ride height, installing all-wheel-drive transmission and adding a torquey diesel engine, Proton have ensured that this pick-up retains car-like performance, refinement and handling for driving on the road - the place where the vast majority of pick-up mileage is done anyway. The 86bhp 1.5-litre 12-valve engine revs freely and, while the performance might not set pluses racing, it's quiet on the motorway and punchy enough for getting around town. The Jumbuck should manage a 14.6-second 0-60mph time and a 96mph top speed with fuel economy averaging just under 40mpg in everyday driving. Whether laden or unladen, the steering feels responsive and there's minimal body roll through the bends - these are rare traits amongst larger pick-ups, which tend to suffer from distant steering and canal barge cornering. If fuel economy is your thing, an LPG version is also available.
Although it would have been welcome to see a Jumbuck with a torquey diesel engine, Proton never saw fit to install one. Therefore the choices facing the potential buyer are rather simple. If you want an inexpensive light-duty pick up, there's not a lot better. Don't get carried away with the lifestyle aspect or pay over the top for a model laden down with accessories.