GREAT Wall Motors is back. With the asbestos scandal, safety row and a very public spat with its former Australian distributor all behind it, the Chinese carmaker has relaunched itself as a ute-only brand with a new image – and name.
Great Wall’s sub-brand Haval also has plans to roll out a premium ute based on the same chassis as the H9 SUV.
WHAT IS IT?
It’s the Great Wall Steed. It’s the old V240 dual-cab ute, but wearing a new nose, restyled rear, fresh interior, engineering changes, and – this is the biggie – a full complement of six airbags, including head-protecting side airbags that run to the second row.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?
Trade utes of some description now account for almost one in every five sales in Australia. It’s a lucrative slice of the market, particularly as buyers – both private and tradies – aren’t shy to shell out thousands more to make their ride look the business. After a rough start, Great Wall is having another crack at carving out its slice of the action.
This corner of the market is pretty crowded with mainstream brands. However, if we’re sticking to the fringe dwellers trading on little more than price, there’s the Foton Tunland and the Mahindra Pik-Up. And let’s be realistic: add a second-hand Toyota Hilux that’s just out of warranty to this list.
Good on Great Wall for looking at the needs of the Australian market and doing what it can to respond to its demands. However, aside from price, the Great Wall Steed brings nothing new to the space; it just catches up to the tail-end.
PLUS: Good price; interior revisions lift the game; decent mechanical upgrades.
MINUS: No Bluetooth or sat-nav; underpowered petrol engine.
“IT IS what it is.” Yep, with that oft-used quote, the new Australian management of Great Wall Australia went into the launch of its facelifted and renamed dual-cab ute with something of a defeatist attitude.
Good on them for having a go. Just a few years ago the brand was in disarray, feuding in the courts with its distributor, putting buyers offside with substandard aftersales support, and doing its best to corral the damage of an asbestos scandal.
In the meantime, it has reinvented itself. Great Wall is now just a ute company – SUVs sell under the more premium Haval sub-brand – and the chain of blame is broken by renaming the V240 twin-cab ute the Great Wall Steed, the same name used in the British market, and a significant cost-saving in terms of badging.
Underneath it’s the V240 but wearing a new nose and arse, a full suite of airbags that out-counts even the Volkswagen Amarok, some significant mechanical changes, a one-tonne payload, and a $25,990 price tag. A diesel donk adds $2000; AWD another $3000.
So prices have gone up a few thousand compared with the old utes, but you now get important things such as the latest Bosch stability control module, a new BorgWarner transfer case for the AWD diesel, a new turbocharger on the diesel model, all those airbags, and a pretty flash interior with piano black inserts, faux brushed aluminium highlights and pleasant textures. There’s even LED tail-lights and rear disc brakes instead of drums; bet you weren’t expecting that. The 235/70R16 tyres are made by Giti, the company that has tenuous management ties with Pirelli.
The drive experience doesn’t set any benchmarks. The carryover Mitsubishi-sourced 2.4-litre engine with its five-speed manual is thirsty, thrashy and pedestrian; the six-speed diesel needs heaps of revs on board to wring out any semblance of performance; and the cabin is constantly jiggling about over undulations without any load in the back.
The front seats are comfortable, and the rears about what you expect once you bend past the surprisingly short, rather upright rear door.
Aside from some minor fit-and-finish shortcomings, the only other problem we had with the Steed was a seven-inch head unit that exploded into a vomit of coloured stripes rather than the home screen (and reversing camera). It righted itself after a key-out hard reset.
In the end, though, it’s all going to come down to a new ANCAP crash rating. The old V240 scored just two stars. The new, more bulbous nose on the Steed carries no engineering improvements as far as we can tell – information was scarce and sources often contradicted each other – but with an airbag count that triples from the old ute, it has to do better. Its direct rivals both have three-star ratings.
The Great Wall Steed shakes off the legacy of the V240 and potentially brings the Chinese-made brand galloping ahead of its price-driven rivals. It is what it is, but what’s that saying? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
THERE’S no automatic transmission yet, but one is coming. Sources suggest it will be the other side of 2017 before one arrives.
For those champing at the bit to mod their Great Wall, the carmaker has no plans to offer anything other than the bolt-on sports bar. However, aftermarket suppliers are looking at snorkels and bullbars that are expected to trot out to market late this year.
Model: Great Wall Steed 4x4 diesel
Engine: 1967cc in-line 4-cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Max power: 110kW at 4000rpm
Max torque: 310Nm at 1800-2800rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1798kg
Fuel economy: 9.0L/100km (claimed)
On sale: Now