Yes, it’s bright yellow. And there has been a lot of talk about the Groundhog being made by the manufacturer of a certain bright green one.
But the JCB representative attending our product review assures us it is made by JCB in a JCB factory.
We are also told it has 10cm more leg room and is more like driving a car — except that it has belt drive, so there is no obvious engine braking.
To be fair, there is a lot of JCB engineering in it, and it is stylish, tough and very user-friendly. But why would you want a six-wheeler in the first place?
There are some very sound reasons for looking at six-wheeled utility trucks. It helps to spread the weight, which can be very useful on golf courses and sensitive or wet sites, where it’s important not to leave marks or get bogged down under the load.
This vehicle also has an extremely generous payload. You can carry 500kg in the back and tow another 500kg behind, so six wheels should help to maintain its “go-anywhere” ability.
Having six wheels also helps with traction, but don’t expect the Groundhog to be a 6x6. This is a 6x4, giving four-wheel drive performance.
The weight of the truck, a mere 630kg, also makes the Groundhog suitable for those sites where lightweight is best. What’s more, with its 21hp, three-cylinder Perkins diesel engine (Tier II compliant), the vehicle has a remarkable power-to-weight ratio.
Match this with a choice of turf or rough terrain tyres and the Groundhog delivers all that is necessary to keep surface damage to a minimum.
Looking over the vehicle, we are impressed with the features that come as standard, including ROPS and the skid plate on the front that protects the steering column. Then there’s the diff lock, hour meter and the locking fuel cap on the 20-litre tank, plus front and rear headlights.
JCB’s engineering expertise is reflected in the strong construction. This machine has a 16-gauge steel deck and the drive belt is made of Kevlar. And there’s JCB know-how in the maintenance aspects — the easy access to everyday servicing points and for changing the belts. The large, 60-amp alternator is intended to minimise wear on the battery.
But what we really want to know is what it is like to drive. Our tester takes it for a spin. “It’s very easy to drive — virtually idiot-proof,” he reports. “The controls are simple and well laid out. This would make a nice vehicle for a novice to learn to drive.”
It has continuously variable transmission (CVT), so there’s just a forward/reverse lever and stop/go pedals.
This truck has a good turn of speed, up to 29km/h on the flat, and the turning circle is quite tight — giving good manoeuvrability but without scuffing.
The long wheel-base gives a welcome feeling of stability, aided by short side bars with hand grips, plus lap belts, to keep the driver and passenger from sliding around in the bucket seats.
But, with belt-drive, will the Groundhog freewheel downhill? We find a slope. The tester, at a speed of about 15km/h, takes his foot off the pedal and the vehicle starts to freewheel. Then, bizarrely, the truck steadies as the tester puts the power back on.
“I was sceptical about the engine-braking ability but after operating the vehicle, I have more confidence in it,” he admits. “As long as you remember to give it a few revs, the belt remains tight and the truck doesn’t freewheel.”
Options for the Groundhog include a cargo-bed liner, mesh sides, electric tipping, all-weather cab and work lights. No information is available about the machine’s fuel economy.
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