Few names send shivers down the spine like ‘Leyland P76’.
Wheels magazine might have named it ‘Car of the Year’ in 1973, and there’s always those who rush to the defence of something widely accepted to be one of the biggest lemons in automotive history, just to be difficult, but there’s nothing ‘just misunderstood’ about wheels that fall off mid-drive.
Or window seals that cause a puddle to form at your feet during rain.
So it’s with some trepidation I pick up the new LDV Mifa van from the John McGrath dealership in Phillip.
We might see the brand as another of those Chinese start-ups, but it actually has a similar origin story to MG. LDV stands for Leyland-DAF Vans, formed in 1987 when Leyland Trucks (owned by the British Rover Group) merged with the Dutch DAF Trucks company.
Like most enterprises ever so lightly touched by the Rover Group, LDV became insolvent in 1993. It spent purgatory with GAZ in Russia for a few years before China’s SAIC Motor lifted it up in 2010, the same company behind MG and the 68th biggest in the world.
The modern LDV is a melting pot, you could say. The trouble is, none of the ingredients are very good.
But they made commercial vans that were cheap and rugged and came with five-year warranties, so tradies and posties everywhere snapped them up. And probably also just snapped them.
Last year, LDV was also first to market with a fully electric ute, and despite the fact the range is about 2 km when fully loaded, progressive governments swooned over it.
But for 2024, they’ve full on done a Lexus. Seriously, search ‘Lexus LM’ on Google Images.
You would think there’s only so much you can do with a box to make it stylish, but the LDV LM … er, Mifa, manages. If mine were, say, black and tinted and not ‘Mica Blue’, I could work for security at Stark Industries. Instead of – as most vans say about their owners – wear New Balance sneakers.
Inside, it gets even better. Plush leatherette trim with wavy stitching. USB charge ports all over the place. A 12.3-inch centre touch screen set into a streamlined, uncluttered dash. It’s a weird feeling to be able to walk through a car as well (an eight-seat version is yet to come).
And mine is the base ‘Mode’ model, starting from $53,990. By the time you’re past the Executive ($63,990) and and into the Luxe ($72,990), you have massaging and reclining seats, 360-degree camera, and up to 64 ambient lighting settings. As it is, I had to open the doors myself and guess how close the front was to obstacles (there are no parking sensors).
Not all of the plastics fill me with confidence. The rear cupholder frame, for instance, is meant to deploy from under the passenger-side captain’s chair but only did it once for me. It took the sales consultant to stow it away again, which she did, in a flash. So maybe that bit was user error.
Much like in an EV, you start the engine by pressing the brake pedal and turn it off via a button on the touch screen. It’s a two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and, although I was the only person on board most of the time, it’s energetic enough to hurry the Mifa along. The steering makes you think you’re smaller than the 5.2 metres you really are too.
Going down hills, I miss a traditional gear lever though. One sticking out the side of the steering wheel column like in a Tesla might seem cool, but there’s no manual mode. And it played havoc with my muscle memory when trying to indicate at corners.
All in all then, petty criticisms. Nothing leaked, and no wheels fell off. Might hold off on giving it ‘Car of the Year’ for a bit longer though.
2024 LDV Mifa Mode
- $53,990 (plus driveaway costs)
- 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, 160 kW / 360 Nm
- 8-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel drive (FWD)
- 9.3 litres per 100 km combined fuel consumption
- 5-star ANCAP safety rating
This car was provided for testing by John McGrath LDV. Region has no commercial arrangement with the John McGrath Auto Group.