BAIC Philippines launched their Freedom mini-truck during the inauguration of their flagship showroom in Makati City just last Friday. Offered cargo flatbed configurations, the BAIC Freedom is available in single- and double-cab variants, and priced at P458k and P488k, respectively … and rather surprisingly. That mini-truck tag and those prices that put it squarely against the Suzuki Super Carry and Tata Ace (vehicles commonly known here and abroad as miniature trucks), all these have the effect of reinforcing the image of the Freedom as being a bare-bones scaled-down something. But, get to see the Freedom in the flesh, even try her on for size, and it’s clear that she exceeds the boundaries of the mini-truck category.
The Freedom measures around 4.5m in length (the single-cab at 4.400m, the double at 4.565m), much longer than the 3.8m of the Suzuki and Tata models. This up-sizing translates into greater capacity with the Freedom having payloads of 990kg on the single-cab variant and 905kg on the double. At close to one ton of payload, the Freedom brandishes a significant margin over the 735kg of the Super Carry and the 800kg of the Ace. The Freedom’s cargo bay is much longer, to the tune of more than 0.3m when comparing single-cab variants. On the double-cab variant, the cargo bay is similarly longer than those on sporty mid-size double-cab pickups.
A surprising plus: the Freedom mounts a Euro 4 compliant 94hp 1.4L Suzuki K14B-A engine (from the same, well-proven series that powers the Suzuki Ertiga MPV and Ciaz sedan). That Suzuki mill hasn’t been outsourced but manufactured in-house instead, and legitimately, by the Freedom’s original manufacturer. Coming to this market by way of the global BAIC Group of China, the Freedom is manufactured by Jiangxi Changhe Suzuki Automobile Co. (Changhe), the light commercial vehicle manufacturer that’s in a joint venture with Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan. Changhe became a subsidiary of the BAIC Group in 2013 when the big conglomerate acquired 70% controlling stake. (In the China domestic market, the model is differently branded but similarly badged as the Changhe Freedom Mini-Truck.)
And, finally, that double-cab option on the Freedom is a game-changing rarity in its category (not counting those on small, surplus multi-cabs). With the option for sedan-like seating for five passengers combined with her close to mainstream dimensions and full-grown engine (an engine that’s aircon-ready, no less), the Freedom stands an excellent chance of becoming widely accepted as a common family pickup truck. Not like the high-riding and sleeked-up pickups from the big brands that figured in the truck wars last year, but something that’s less sport and more utility, something that’s more of a truck. Sure, the Freedom is less pretty, more of your money invested in function, damned little of it in form, but that also speaks to character, makes a fair statement about the owner, doesn’t it?