China’s Great Wall marque is making inroads into the UK with a well-priced pick-up that impresses Frederic Manby
CHINA is coming. It will be like the South Koreans and before them the Japanese, invading our roads with cheaper vehicles – at first lacking real quality but that will come, too. Unlike the Korean and Japanese early vehicles, the Chinese ones will look acceptable because as well as copying the technology they have also copied the styling of their peers.
DFSK is already here with a work van which looks like Suzuki’s but it is Great Wall which will be the first volume seller, launching with the Steed double cab pick-up.
Great Wall – what a momentous name, that dominant Chinese fortification on which every tourist must tread. We often named our cars after their founders: Austin and Morgan. So did the French. The Germans were rather more embracing, the name sometimes describing what they did – Volkswagen – or where they came from – Bavarian Motor Works, with Italy’s Fiat and Alfa Romeo and Spain’s Seat and Sweden’s Saab being instructive acronyms.
So far, we do not have a brand called Hadrian’s Wall or Pyrenees – though I do ride a bicycle called Rocky Mountain. Great Wall, then, one of China’s successful carmakers, launching a small truck named after either a horse or the bowler-hatted TV hero.
It is being imported by the IM Group, who also brings us Subaru and Isuzu (and previously Daihatsu which was quietly dumped). This distribution is unusual because most large carmakers own their import operations. I think the last to take over was Nissan, some 20 years ago.
Great Wall has been going for 35 years and is China’s largest SUV producer, with an annual production capacity of 800,000 vehicles and plans to increase to 1.5 million by 2015. It exports to more than 120 countries.
It has had the best-selling pick-up in China every year since 1998, of which the Steed contributes 100,000.
Prices start at £16,744 on the road for the Steed S model which has a 2.0-litre, 16-valve turbocharged diesel. Official fuel consumption figures are 30.1 mpg urban; 37.7mpg extra urban; 34.0 mpg combined.
The Steed S has 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, remote central locking, electric front and rear windows, an Alpine CD/radio with USB/MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air-conditioning, heated fronted seats and a full leather interior.
The Steed SE at £19,144 does not look as good value as the S, gaining a hard-top canopy, spoiler, chrome trim and side bars, black roof rails, load bay liner, and rear parking sensors.
I borrowed the entry model. There is no doubt it looks the part. It is big. It has a glossy face with the rather clever brand logo. It looks like a Japanese pick-up – most of which are made in Thailand.
Ford’s Ranger is the bright new arrival and the only one to get a five-star EuroNCAP crash safety rating. The Great Wall has not been through this test schedule.
The Great Wall does not quite live up to its famous name. The cabin has plenty of storage areas but some plastics are flimsy – a few ill-fitting panels – the Pre-Delivery Inspection should have corrected those – and the door facings wobble when you tap them. I could have ripped them and the facia off with bare hands.
The radio controls on the steering wheel did not work – another PDI blip. The radio itself is an after market slot-in with fiddly controls no doubt cursed by the horny handed truck driver, with a detachable front to deter theft. Very old school. I had a similar lack of faith in the D-rings in the load area – made of a synthetic material and secured by Allen bolts and thus easily removed by a thief along with whatever you may have locked to them. The rear step had a fibre-glass type face which flexed when mounted. Other queries include the hit or miss response of the remote door locking.
On the move the engine pulls well, with plenty of torque at low revs but generally is noisy – no doubt of little consequence to the workman driver but more so on that weekend getaway. But oh dear, the turning circle is immense which will be an embarrassment in the builders’ yard and the ride is lumpy. Fortunately it does not get any worse off road.
The gearshift action is easy, with an easily engaged reverse for those six-point turns you will be making. «
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