NO SHOW PONY, THIS NEW UTE FROM GREAT WALL - THE UNUSUALLY NAMED "STEED" - IS A WORKHORSE.
More than just a new model, the 2016 Great Wall Steed marks the relaunch of the Great Wall brand in Australia, moving from third-party import to factory-backed operation, with the aftersales support to match.
And this ute knows its place. It’s a worker, a tool of the trade, priced to please accountants but equipped to keep workers happy. It's got it's work cut out, if it's to make a mark against the likes of Navara, HiLux, D-Max et al, in such a tough sector
Vehicle Style: 4x2 and 4x4 dual cab ute
Price: $24,990 - $29,990 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 100kW/205Nm 2.4 4cyl petrol, 110kW/310Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 5sp manual, 6sp manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.0 l/100km | Tested: 8.7 l/100km - diesel 4x4, highway conditions
With one specification, picking your Great Wall Steed should be simple - you can choose a 4x2 petrol, 4x2 diesel, or 4x4 diesel - and that’s it.
For the time being the Steed is only available as a dual cab pick-up, with a six-speed manual. There is no auto, no single cab, no cab-chassis - at least not yet, but Great Wall promises that more work-ready models will be coming next year, and an auto is a little further down the track.
Beneath the skin the Steed makes use of a proven mechanical set. It's broadly based upon the underpinnings of the V200 and V240 series utes sold here previously, along with other known elements like Bosch stability control and a Borg Warner transfer case (on 4x4 models).
- Standard Equipment: Single-zone climate control, artificial leather trim, heated front seats, powered driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, side steps, rear sports bar, tubliner, power windows, auto-dimming rear view mirror, LED tail lights, front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: CD player, AM/FM radio, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio
- Options Available: Touchscreen infotainment with satellite navigation and reverse camera $1000
- Payload: 1010kg petrol, 1020kg diesel
Great Wall describes the Steed as "a workman’s best friend"; inside you’ll find single-zone climate control, a powered driver’s seat, auto dimming mirror, and auto lights and wipers... hardly base work-spec.
There’s also full-floor carpet, artificial leather trim, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons.
The dash design is contemporary though not cutting-edge, and there were no visible issues with fit and finish, which bodes well for Great Wall’s initial quality impressions.
Some of the interior surfaces don’t quite feel as though they have the heft and solidity of more established ute offerings, and there’s no denying that it feels maybe a little basic in construction.
But not every ute needs to be premium, and as Ford and Volkswagen battle for a premium feel to the accommodation, you will sometimes feel like you need to take your Blunnies off before you get in. The Steed arrives as a decent reminder that work utes should be for work.
Up front the driving position is a better fit for shorter drivers, although there’s enough seat travel for the long-legged variety. The footwell however can be a little tight, and the tilt-only steering column limits adjustment slightly.
It’s a similar story in the rear - there’s a decent amount of room back there, but as the Steed is a little smaller than utes like the Colorado there’s a little less leg room in the rear, a little less under-thigh support, and the backrest is very upright.
But, co-workers and younger kids will still fit in, and do so without too many complaints. Even after a couple of hours behind the wheel we still felt fresh and free of aches and pains.
ON THE ROAD
- Petrol: 100kW/205Nm 2.4 litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol
- Diesel: 110kW/310Nm 2.0 four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive or low-range four wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, leaf-sprung solid rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Hydraulic power steering
- Towing Capacity: 2000kg braked
The first, and most apparent difference you’ll feel, is the extreme lightness of the steering. And that weight doesn’t build as speed rises, it stays super light, which some buyers might target as a benefit, particularly if the Steed is put to work for delivery duties.
It’s also got a very slow steering rack, resulting in a flurry or steering-wheel spinning to get in and out of tight spots. Three-point turns become comically over-animated, and even gentle-radius bends end up becoming hand-over-hand turns.
But, that’s the only major glaring on-road difference between the Steed and its competitors.
The launch drive for the Steed didn’t include any off-road activity, so we’ll wait until we have a longer loan to comment on that, but at least 4x4 models come equipped with a push-button system to make things simple.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine hardly leads the pack with 110kW and 310Nm, but it is up to the task.
It’s a little more noisy under load, but settles down to a quiet thrum for steady cruising, and (unladen at least) it doesn’t struggle with the burden of shifting the Steed about.
Without a massive swell of torque on hand, maintaining pace uphill requires some downshifting, where fifth gear might be appropriate in a Ranger, you’ll be looking for fourth (or even third) in the Steed.
But, the six-speed gearbox has a decent shift action, and the clutch is neither too numb, nor too heavy.
Buyers who opt for the petrol version will find the Mitsubishi-designed 2.4 litre petrol is also a decent unit. It’s an older engine now, so perhaps not at the top of its game for performance and technology.
It’s also mated to a five-speed manual, in place of the six-speed unit in the diesel, but (again, unladen) it gets about town with a spring in its step. That said, for overtaking or in hilly areas you’ll probably need to pedal it pretty hard.
As for ride quality, which often isn’t a ute strong point, the Steed is surprising - it's a tad unsophisticated but it's not too bad at all. It follows the usual template of a rigid rear axle with leaf springs.
With a moderate load of one-hundred-and-something kilograms in the back (the GW reps on hand didn’t have an exact figure) the Steed felt settled, and certainly never insecure on surfaces with a few undulations and mid-corner bumps.
With an empty tray (a situation that’s unlikely in a work ute) there’s a bit more bounce, but even over big hits there was no unexpected shifting around, no pothole crashing.
ANCAP Rating: The Great Wall Steed has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Six airbags, 3x three-point rear seatbelts, electronic stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear parking sensors.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Great Wall acknowledges that the Foton Tunland is aiming for a similar demographic of price-conscious shoppers, and that the Mahindra Pik-Up and Genio are cheap, but lack the same modern appeal as the Steed.
The Tata Xenon offers a bigger range of bodystyles, with similar engine specs and carrying capacity, but isn’t as plush as Steed. The Mitsubishi Triton has a sharp focus on value without feeling out-of-date, or too budget oriented, and is a better-sorted drive.
What about the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, and Holden Colorado? Those utes operate in the kinds of fleets Great Wall would like to infiltrate, but they’re bigger, more powerful, and can tow more. They’re not direct competitors, but Great wall hopes that the Steed can can take their place for buyers wanting to drive their dollars further.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is the Great Wall Steed the best ute you can buy? Well, to be blunt - no. But is it the best ute you can buy for under $30k? Right now the answer is a resounding yes.
The basics are there: it drives quite ok, is finished to a decent standard, and throws in a long-enough list of standard equipment. It may not have the polish of bigger, flasher utes, nor the towing capacity, but is just as work-ready.
Behind the scenes the new factory-backed Great Wall operation in Australia is working to ensure aftersales support (a previous issue for the brand) is better managed. It promises a full spare parts inventory, and speedy resolution of customer qualms.
Will that be enough to steer buyers towards the brand? With low pricing and a growing dealer network servicing key areas in Australia the Steed stands a better chance than the previous toiler. There is certainly nothing wrong with the price, nor the equipment list, but depreciation will likely be a factor.