Great Wall Steed aims to avenge the demise of the working ute

MEDIA REVIEW

By DAVID LINKLATER

Great Wall Motors is bringing its ute back to New Zealand, from November.

You didn’t know it went away? Well it did. In fact, although there’s been stock of the Great Wall V240 here, it hasn’t been imported for two years. Formerly distributed by Ateco Automotive in NZ and Australia, the brand has been called back to the mother ship after a long period of transition and negotiation.

Since July, the Great Wall brand has been part of Great Wall Motors Australia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese giant that is now responsible for the light-commercial product on both sides of the Tasman.

Great Wall Steed Dual Cab Ute

Why November? GWMA has been kinda busy establishing 51 dealers in Australia and getting to grips with a 45,000-strong Aussie carpark. It’s got eight dealers signed up for NZ, with an announcement of names and places imminent as this was written. Most are existing (or should that be former?) franchisees, but there have also been some changes.

The Kiwi Great Wall ute carpark is around 5000 vehicles. More than 2000 are still under warranty.

GWMA acknowledges there’s a lot of work to do. Customer confidence has been affected by the brand’s comings and goings, there have been issues with support and parts supply from the factory… and little one-off problems like a 24,000-vehicle recall in Australia in 2012 to address the matter of head gaskets containing asbestos. The amounts were small and the law did not require the components to be actually replaced in NZ. But still…

“We have to restore confidence in the brand,” says GWMA national (international if we’re counting NZ) marketing manager Bill Soo. “We have to get systems in place and train our people.”

Great Wall Steed dash

“the cabin has had a major restyle and it looks pretty good”

There’s no real controversy about the ute itself, which is what it is: a budget pickup that’s a bit old-tech, with the price to match. It’s back with a new name and new face, but the basic premise is the same.

The Great Wall Steed, as it’s now called, has new frontal styling with a monster chrome grille, a new rear and redesigned interior. The extra bits make it 305mm longer, including 155mm in the tray.

The oily bits are much the same: choice of 100kW/205Nm 2.4-litre petrol four or 110kW/310Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel, in 2WD or Borg Warner-supplied 4WD. It’s only available with manual transmission, which is certainly a limiting factor. No automatic in sight for this generation, either.

The tray can take 1010kg and has four tiedown points. Towing capacity is modest compared with the more upmarket competition: just 2000kg braked.

Vision in all directions is very good, and even the rear chrome bar that obscures the lower section of the rear window doesn’t cause any problems with rear vision, although there is no rear camera (only reverse radar) but GWM tells us a reversing camera should become available next year. Otherwise, it’s a matter of finding an after-market item and having it fitted, something we’d recommend.

The rear seats, in common with most crew cab utes, are more upright than passengers might like, and accessing them requires considerable contortion to get knees past the B-pillar (it will be worse for tall people, one of which I am not). If there’s a third passenger back there, he or she will be very snug between the other two, but at least restrained by a three-point seatbelt.

The fitting of some panels and the carpet in particular is a little slap-dash but overall, the Steed is on a par with most of the competition.

Great Wall Steed Interior
Great Wall Steed interior

Utes are becoming incredibly sophisticated and car-like. The Steed isn’t. Why come back at all?

“The market is growing and there’s a good opportunity,” says Soo. “The [ute] segment has split. Traditionally they’ve been workhorses, but we’ve seen an expansion into larger, more luxurious models. We see Steed in that workhorse market that’s been vacated. It’s for those on the land and at worksites. It’s for pragmatic people.”

That said, the company hasn’t been able to resist blinging Steed up a bit. All models wear side steps, a stainless steel sports bar and full tray liner. Standard equipment includes climate control air conditioning, cruise control and power-adjustable heated front seats.

There’s some more worthy stuff, too. The Steed now has six airbags, automatic lights and wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors and very bright LED tail-lights.

The cabin has had a major restyle and it looks pretty good: decent fit, consistent textures and a gloss-back insert around the centre console. The materials are still pretty low-rent, though: hard in all the wrong places (the bits you touch, in other words), with the token soft section a small padded area on top of the instrument panel.

05Nm and it meets Euro V emissions compliance. It can only be had in 4×2 format.

The diesel variants use a 2.0-litre common rail unit producing 110kW at 4000rpm and 310Nm of torque at between 1800 and 2800rpm. The diesel can be had with either 4×2 or 4×4 (it’s worth mentioning the 4×4 variant is an all-wheel drive) and comes with a six-speed manual transmission, although as with the petrol model, top gear was only really useful on the flat.

Great Wall Steed Dual Cab Ute

“the Steed is an honest, hard-working, value-for-money alternative…”

You don’t buy a Steed to drive it in spirited fashion. Which is just as well. The diesel engine is no ball of fire, but it does feel willing.The manual-transmission lever vibrates furiously at open-road speeds, but you can find a gear quickly when you need it. The steering is apparently unconnected to the front wheels, but the Steed seems to bounce its way around corners regardless.

You have to think of the Steed as tray first, transport second. And also think of the price, which comes with a three-year, 100,000km warranty and the promise of excellent customer support. A promise is all it is at the moment: like we said, the relaunch will come in November.

Speaking of prices, we don’t have any local ones yet. In Australia, Steed ranges from $24,990 (4x2 petrol) to $29,990 (4x4 diesel). It only comes in double cab and one specification, but GWMA is looking at additional models, such as a cab-chassis and lower-spec double cab, for next year.

With the launch of Steed we will have seen the last of the ute-based Great Wall SUV, the X240. That’s because there’s another arm to GWMA: Haval Motors Australia, which will be introducing Great Wall’s specialist SUV brand into NZ next year with up to five models. But that’s a whole other story.

Great Wall Steed tough workhorse
Great Wall Steed payload

Article excerpt from The Southland Times. Read full article.

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*Great Wall Motors New Zealand reserves the right to change the information including, but not limited to the models, prices, colors, materials, equipment or other specifications referred to on this site at any time without prior notice. Always consult your Great Wall Motors dealer for latest specifications, availability and pricing. Images for illustration purposes only. All prices are RRP + GST + on road costs. No charge for Metallic paint. E&OE.

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