When it comes to buying a vehicle to carry your business, there's no other name that comes to mind like the Mitsubishi L300. Sure, there's the Hyundai H-100, Kia K2500, and even the Isuzu Traviz, but thanks to the L300's enduring presence, it has essentially become a household name.

But that doesn't mean other manufacturers have commercial vehicles that can haul goods or transport people from point A to B. Foton Philippines wants in on that particular segment, and they believe that they have what it takes to challenge the stalwarts.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Enter the 2021 TM300 Harabas, Foton's take on a vehicle designed for business and transport purposes. Readers of a certain age might have already noticed that Foton used a pretty familiar name to describe their light commercial vehicle (LCV). First used by General Motors for an AUV (Asian Utility Vehicle) back in the day, Foton revived the Harabas name not only as a throwback but as a way to describe just how strong this vehicle is.

But can this commercial vehicle truly live up to the Harabas name? What does this vehicle have over the competition? And does it offer bang-for-buck value?

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Let's face it, vehicles like the Harabas are the very definition of function over form; an emphasis on maximizing cargo space means these are literally big boxes with wheels. Still, Foton made sure the Harabas has some character to it. Borrowing inspiration from their Gratour line of vans, the Harabas gets a nice pair of headlights, a distinct two-bar front grille, and the Foton badge placed proudly at the front.

However, the Harabas has some rather unique extras on the exterior. Not only does it have foglights, but it also has LED daytime running lights. No other LCV in the segment comes with these extra features. Sure, Foton could have just gone away with either, but they threw in those extra bits for better nighttime (and daytime) visibility.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Hop aboard the Harabas, and one will expect to find a simple cabin. It gets a three-spoke steering wheel, adjustable seats, a 1-DIN head unit with AM/FM radio with USB/Aux, and manual air-conditioning. All well and good, but Foton decided to give the Harabas some extra features we take for granted.

Despite being a commercial workhorse, Foton equipped the Harabas with power windows, power door locks, plus a keyless entry system with an alarm. Sure, these features might be readily available on every vehicle today. But compared to its closest rivals, the Foton Harabas is the only LCV to come with these niceties as standard in its segment. Perhaps what it only needs now are power-adjustable side mirrors and an adjustable steering column.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Since this has the MPV body, it has bench seats at the back that can sit multiple individuals with ease. But if you need to carry more cargo than people, the bench seats can be folded up which allows for more loading space at the back. As far as the dimensions of the back are concerned, it measures 2735mm long, 1575mm wide, and 1400mm tall. Talk about real estate.

But while the front cabin comes with air-conditioning, the rear doesn't come with any A/C. If you happen to have any passengers along for the ride at the back, they'd have to open the windows to vent the heat out. Maybe Foton can offer a deal to put a rear A/C on the MPV version of the Harabas.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Powering this workhorse is a 2.2-liter turbo-diesel inline-four. It makes 87 PS at 3200 rpm, along with 220 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. The power is then sent to a five-speed manual gearbox that drives the rear wheels. The output figures may not be that impressive, but this is still a cargo hauler through and through.

With a twist of the key, the turbo-diesel rumbles into life and lets you know its presence immediately. Setting the Harabas to 1st gear, I immediately noticed that it has a very short starting gear. It's so short that even when I slowly release the clutch, the vehicle jerks forward. That's something the driver has to keep in mind when setting off in the Harabas. 

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

After experiencing it several times, I decided to start at 2nd gear every time I come from a complete stop. Not only was it smoother, but I was able to avoid experiencing the sudden jerky movements from the 1st gear. My best guess is that the first gear on the Harabas acts more like a crawler gear – good for when you're hauling heavy cargo while climbing a steep hill and need that low-end power immediately.

Out on the road, the Harabas delivered sufficient torque through the gears. The clutch pedal was relatively light, while the gear selector went through each cog neatly. Sure, 220 Nm may not sound like much, but it was how it delivered the pulling power that impressed me. While it will not exactly set any world record speeds, the Harabas' generous amount of torque means it won't have any problems lugging heavy loads. Besides, this load-lugger is meant to carry cargo, not set record lap times in Clark Speedway.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

The brakes are actually good which allowed me to slow down in confidence even when at highway speeds. But what I really liked about the Harabas is its steering. The hydraulic-powered steering is light which meant I was able to maneuver the vehicle with ease on narrow streets. The steering column is not adjustable, but that's to be expected on a vehicle like the Harabas.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

In terms of payload capacity, the Harabas can carry 1,130 kg worth of cargo. Not bad, but when it comes to sheer heavy-lifting, the Isuzu Traviz does lead the competition with its 1,660 kg cargo carrying capacity. Coming in at second is the Hyundai H-100 which has been rated to lug 1,335 kg worth of payload. Sitting in third is the Kia K2500 Karga which can haul 1,235 kg worth of cargo. Last but not least is the Mitsubishi L300 which has a payload capacity of 1,215 kg. This puts the Foton Harabas in fifth place against the rest of the LCVs.

Over to its ride quality, however, the Harabas certainly lives up to its name. With both the front and rear suspension having leaf springs, this transport vehicle has quite a bouncy ride. Going over rutted streets, speed bumps, and uneven terrain will result in the vehicle shaking about. There were even instances that even after I've already passed a bumpy road, the Harabas is still bouncing around. Perhaps Foton can put different dampers to compensate for its ride quality.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

Then there's the noise coming from outside and from the engine. With a turbo-diesel motor located underneath the seats, there is little to isolate between yourself and the engine. The cab-over design of the Harabas means it's also not the most aerodynamic vehicle on the road. At highway speeds, you have to contend with wind noise since it doesn't have too much in the way of Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) deadening. But then again, this an LCV meant for clocking in long hours, no questions asked.

All in all, the Foton TM 300 Harabas in MPV guise ticks the boxes of what you'll need in a people carrier or a business carrier. It has a robust engine, a spacious body at the back, and standard amenities that would make the others green with envy. What lets it down, however, are its ride quality, and cargo-carrying capacity. It can lug over 1,100 kg, but it's still beaten by its closest rivals.

2021 Foton Barabas TM300 image

But perhaps the Harabas' best feature is its price: at PHP 860,000 the Harabas is the most affordable out of the lot. The Hyundai H-100 Shuttle Van starts at PHP 1,210,000 while the Isuzu Traviz with a shuttle body is priced at PHP 1,162,000 for the S variant (PHP 1,204,000 for L variant with shuttle body). As for the Kia Karga, it retails for PHP 1,110,000. Last but not least, the Mitsubishi L300 FB Exceed is available for PHP 998,000.

The Harabas name may have been known back then as just a simple and robust vehicle. But Foton wants to make the name their own by using it on an LCV that can move your business or transport people with ease, no matter the distance.