This year’s Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto includes an indoor EV test track and while sifting through available vehicles on press day, I landed on an unfamiliar marque – VinFast. After handing over personal identifying information that I’m almost certain will come back to bite me, I queued up to drive a VinFast VF8.
For those unfamiliar with the marque, VinFast is the automotive arm of Vietnamese conglomerate VinGroup, and it aims to make a splash in the North American market with an array of mildly posh crossovers. It’s been a bumpy ride so far with product delays and layoffs, but a massive auto show and marketing push suggests that the brand has proper funding behind it, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see VinFast stick around for at least a few years.
As it stands, many media drives of VinFast vehicles haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. From Kevin Williams’ report of lavish yet controlling press trips that seem to push the ethics of automotive journalism to Out Of Spec Reviews’ experience of excessive road noise and suspension jounce, VinFast feels like a brand best approached with a cocked brow. This is an all-new brand developing cars from scratch that expects to compete with premium brands at premium price points. Being asked to accept that feels like being asked to sniff someone’s finger. Still, with opportunity ahead of me and PR reps at the booth far behind, it was time to sample this thing for myself.
First, a few disclaimers: The indoor test track at CIAS doesn’t really emulate real world conditions. You won’t find a hockey rink in Toronto as flawless as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s concrete floor, let alone a road. In addition, there was supposed to be a speed limit of 20 mph, but I got the YOLO signal from my chaperone and was able to get mildly VinFast and VinFurious. Figure surface street levels of peak speeds, but not exactly arterial road or highway cruising. In addition, the VinFast VF8 I drove was allegedly a pre-production model, but it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to let members of the press drive pre-production vehicles to review a final product [Ed note: …or for automakers to make sure those versions are, ahem, better than what you might find on the street – MH], so I wouldn’t give that too much weight. In such conditions, the VinFast VF8 isn’t as bad as I expected.
The biggest area of concern that surfaced during several laps of a near-billiard table-smooth autocross course is slightly jiggly suspension. This isn’t a surface that should produce much suspension movement, so to ever so gently feel scored lines in the concrete rather than simply hear them is a shame. That would be acceptable by 2013 standards, but it’s not exactly superb in 2023. Another quirk is lazy accelerator pedal tip-in, but that may be partially due to creep being turned off. I can see the decision process behind approving a sluggish accelerator curve in EVs as it prevents absent-minded owners from suddenly exiting their garages with the doors still closed, but it probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Oh, and don’t think that the VF8 is very quick. Although VinFast quotes 457 lb.-ft. of torque in all-wheel-drive models, the model I drove felt down around 100 lb.-ft. of torque from official numbers [Ed note: Thomas has a perfectly-tuned posterior dyno – MH]. Acceleration is perfectly acceptable for the class, but it’s not outstanding.
However, judged under the criteria that most crossover owners will actually care about, the VinFast VF8 makes a good first impression. The light, numb steering should make the VF8 easy to guide through tight drive-thrus, the brake blending between regenerative braking and the friction brakes is rather good, and power delivery is as graceful as you’d expect from any EV. What’s more, it doesn’t roll like a playful dog in the corners, nor is dive under firm braking what I’d call excessive [Ed note: How fast were you going in this parking lot?!? – MH]. In short, it should do the client who doesn’t care about driving just fine.
The news gets better in the cabin. The faux leathers are delightfully soft, the heads-up display is as crisp as a ten dollar bill, and the infotainment system almost felt Tesla-grade. From really detailed vehicle info pages to a karaoke mode, there’s something in this UX for everyone. What’s more, interior plastic quality and fit-and-finish on the example I drove felt on-par with many GM products, and the paint was fairly free of orange peel. I can see the VF8 making a decent showroom impression as it feels like some proper thought went into the cabin.
While it’s too soon to say if it’ll feel alright on public roads, my limited sampling of the VinFast VF8 suggests that despite it drawing some deserved criticism, the days of truly awful cars being sold in America are well behind us. Instead, VinFast’s first product may have just ended up being expensive and mediocre, a bit like Beats headphones or a Cartier watch. Such is the progress of humanity, I guess.
(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)
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I saw their new showroom on Pine St in SF, it’s on my main route home. The cars were in there and now they are not. I don’t think the place is open yet.
It took Toyota a decade and Hyundai/Kia ~25 years to successfully be the ambassadors for their countries to the US market. This feels like a credible first effort from a new player, and assuming they have the backing of the Vietnamese government, we may get to see Vin come with something highly competitive in the near future.
And even H/K are exhibiting issues with security and engine issues still.
Exactly, who knows what the brand will make in a few years? For a first entry to the U.S. market to be fine but certainly not great is fairly remarkable, and some more refinement could turn the VF8 into a credible alternative to established players.
Vingroup’s annual revenue is more than 2% of Vietnam’s GDP, putting them on par with Walmart’s impact in the US. Even if it’s not explicitly stated that they have government support, they are way “too big to fail”.
Fun fact, VinFast bought Holden’s old test track and proving grounds from General Motors in 2020 for US$26m….then shut it down less than 12 months later and put it back up for sale. It’s still for sale now.
Good point. As Korea and Japan age out, someone else in Asia will have to build the cars.
China already has it’s own demographic problems. But Viet Nam, India, and especially Indonesia could make the Hondas and Hyundais of, say, 2050?
Where Vinfast falls down is that they’re not bringing the bargain pricing to match the not-quite-there-yet quality. Their pricing is all over the map but generally over $50k not counting the early battery-subscription quotes.
This is what gets me. A mediocre product from a brand with no recognition in an increasingly competitive segment is one thing, but to price it in line with the competition? If it had knock out styling it a characteristic CEO I could see it working, at the very least in the short term, but as it sits I can’t see it being anything but a flop here.
Indonesia is attractive, except remember it’s a Muslim country, which some companies see as a potential red flag, especially in view of some issues in places like Malaysia. That’s why Vietnam has been the new Asian focus for many companies, although it should be pointed out that VinFast is home grown.
“interior plastic quality and fit-and-finish on the example I drove felt on-par with many GM products, and the paint was fairly free of orange peel”
Descriptions like this are why we have the saying “damning with faint praise”.
Somehow pwning two manufacturers at once.
After reading the Kevin Williams and other articles on press drives in Teh Nam, universally abysmal as I expected,
your carefully worded review sounds like damning with faint praise. Driving it in a perfectly smooth parking lot at low speeds, and not being impressed says a lot.
It is exactly the kind of first attempt by a Vietnamese company I expected.
I’m a little disappointed that you threw down a line about how you got “VinFast and VinFurious” and then left Vin Diesel out of it. C’mon!
He also ignored “My Cousin VinFast.”
Those darn Youts!
After the VW emissions scandal, VinDiesel will only be available in Europe.
Like his dating.
Saw these all over the place in Vietnam (HCMC) last month. So, I guess unlike many automotive/EV startups, at least they’re not vaporware. I didn’t get a chance to drive one but they seemed decent enough. The number of models on the road was impressive — I was in VN just before the pandemic and there wasn’t a single one on the road at the time.
Some of the criticisms of the VinFast in Kevin William’s article seemed really bad, but also possibly easily solved. For example, the ride and handling issues might be resolved by hiring a consultant like Huibert to help identify the issues and help tune the suspension. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. But I wonder if there are some cultural issues that make them too proud to hire outside help.
Every single time I see a picture of a VF8, it takes me a second to process that it is not some rebadged Renault from five years ago. Every. Single. Time.
Not saying it is a good or a bad thing. It just… is.
The V logo looks like half Renault’s diamond logo. Foreshadowing these are half as good as Renaults.
And since Renault is known for making quality vehicles, these should be pretty decent…
Yes, they copied the red. And the wheels. I thought they lost the fight with Citroën over ripping off their logo? Apparently not.
Honda called, and they want their wheels back.
How was the range? Were you able to get from Hall-C to Hall-F and back?
So Vinfast is better than Vincent Vega ?
VinFast is the Cadillac of Vincent Vegas. And Vincent Barbarinos.
I’m enjoying all of these Vin-yettes
GM interiors aren’t terrible places to be like they used to.
I wonder if a more compliant tire would solve some of those ride issues. If the factory specs cheap flinty tires, a more expensive aftermarket tire may sort it a bit more.
So this isn’t going to be a horror movie staring Vinfast Price?
“Car-ry Night ” by Vinfast Van Gogh
I was kinda expecting to see Malcom Bricklin mentioned somewhere…
“It’s Kinda Okay” isn’t really a good place for a $41,000+ light truck to be
Well sure, but at least you won’t be able to find parts for it.
I can’t get even parts for my 2003 Ford Focus (motor mounts; the off-brand Chinese ones are absolutely horrible). Getting parts for my 90s JDM cars is only very slightly harder.
What do you think you are really going to need? A new ear?
Crash parts, actually, would be concerning. Someone will crash one within a week of them going on sale
Overnighting parts from HCM City just doesn’t roll off the tongue….