Saddle Up

Will the Great Wall Steed ride up the sales charts? – Stuart Martin puts his feet in the stirrups. 

While not quite the task-building challenge of its namesake, the Great Wall team has a lot of burnt bridges to rebuild as it returns to the local market astride its new Steed LCV utility.

The brand has an Australian carpark totalling over 45,000, and at its peak had over 70 dealers and service centres. The emergence of a new importer has resulted in revisiting its original dealer group, and, having contacted previous customers and dealers about sticking with the brand, it now has 51 dealers back on board.

Great Wall Motors Australia general manager, Tony Carraturo, said discussions with customers had aftersales support at the top of the list of demands for the factory-backed subsidiary.

“We have listened and responded, the new Great Wall will be built on the foundation of outstanding customer support – our aim is to provide a new level of backing for owners and dealers,” he said.

The facelifted ute sits on the same chassis as the outgoing Great Wall utes, with a new larger chrome grille and new headlights.

Again available in petrol 4×2 and diesel 4×4 models, but both powerplants have only a six-speed manual gearbox bolted to them, something unlikely to change until the all-new model arrives in three of four years.

Pricing for the 4×2 petrol model starts from $25,990 and it is predicted this model will take 30 percent of the 5000 annual sales for the Steed in Australia.

To kick it off, the re-launch of the breed is accompanied by driveway pricing of $24,990 for the remainder of this year.

Diesel buyers will account for a similar cut and pay an extra $2000 for the 4×2 – it too has a driveway deal that drops the price from $27,990 (plus on-roads) to $26,990 for 2016.

The 4×4 dual-cab diesel will take the lion’s share, with 40 percent of sales – and, priced from a recommended retail $30,990, it wears a driveway launch price of $29,990. It is covered by a three-year/100,000 km warranty with three years of 24/7 free roadside assistance from the national dealer network of more than 50 dealers.

The base petrol model is propelled by a Euro V, fuel-injected, 2.4-litre, petrol engine producing 100 kW and 205 Nm, teamed with a five-speed manual, while the diesel models up the ratio count to six with the Euro V 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel.

It boasts 110 kW at 4000 rpm and 310 Nm of torque from 1800 through to 2800 rpm, as well as claiming an ADR fuel economy figure of 9.0 litres per 100 km, a 1010 kg payload for the tubliner-equipped tray, four tie-down points and a braked towing capacity of 2000 kg.

 

Measuring 5345 mm long, 1800 mm wide and 1760 mm tall, the Steed is 305 mm longer than its predecessor and 30 mm higher. The maker claims the rear tub is 155 mm longer, but ground clearance sits at 171 mm across the range.

Great Wall claims the Steed is fit for the segment largely abandoned by the major brands – a well-equipped, cheap-as-chips value, one-tonne workhorse “built to work,” but, despite that, the standard features list is respectable. It sits on 16-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size steel spare) and has man-made Comfort-Tek ‘leather’ trim, a carpet floor, a tilt-only adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, power windows and heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats, climate control, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, a six-speaker sound system with USB and Bluetooth, side steps and a sports bar.

The safety features list includes automatic headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, tyre-pressure monitoring system, six airbags, Bosch electronic stability control, hill-start assistance, five lap-sash seat belts, rear parking sensors, but no standard reversing camera and no ANCAP rating as yet.

Any demand for additional body styles for the Steed light commercial range will be met in 2017, but the likelihood of an automatic isn’t promising; the brand also acknowledged that and the absence of an ANCAP rating limits fleet company appeal.

Great Wall Australia chief marketing officer, Tim Smith, said “hose-out” single and dual-cab models beneath the top-spec SE and single-cab/chassis models were likely for an appearance early in 2017.

“We’re not far away from bringing in a single-cab and cab/chassis, single-cab in tub or tray, cab/chassis without the tray, we’ll play it by ear on demands, it could be the price leader but we haven’t confirmed pricing yet,” he said.

“The model outside is the SE, we’re looking at an S model base-spec, that will be similar timing but in the dual-cab as well,” he said.

The updated Steed was driven in the 4×4 form and it is a more handsome beast, sporting a new snout with a big grille and large headlights.

The cabin is more pleasant than previous offerings from its home market, although carpet flooring will need some rubber floor mats; the artificial leather is serviceable and there are some nice soft plastics, but it’s not cabin-wide.

The test vehicles were also equipped with a reversing camera, which is sadly being paired with sat/nav in a $1000 option pack.

The tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel has phone, cruise, audio and trip computer controls, but its primary purpose is marred by power steering that is too eager; steering effort in the Bunnings carpark is minimal but not so great anywhere else.

The high-set driver’s seat exacerbates the problem of tilt-only steering adjustment not delivering an ideal driving position, but there’s enough headroom to live with it. The back seat is a little upright in the backrest, but my 191 cm frame could just sit behind my own driving position.

Seat comfort and cabin noise are reasonable, but where it trips over is in the muscle department – 110 kW and 310 Nm is well down on the rest of the segment, with even the Isuzu D-Max (one of the longer-serving models) delivering 130 kW and 380 Nm. Nissan’s single-turbo Navara low-spec model boasts 120 kW and 403 Nm, Mitsubishi’s Triton delivers 133 kW and 430 Nm.

The Steed claims 8.6 litres per 100 km and sat not far from that figure during the highway and country road launch drive, but there was little suburban or hard work done in that time. The six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasant unit, with a clean and quick shift action, and it will need to be to cope with only 310 Nm of torque.

The trays were initially laden, albeit
only with a couple of solid bales of lucerne hay, 20 kg of dog food and a large boxed “care package” all for the local Salvos, so we were in no danger of exceeding the 1010 kg payload. The small load didn’t calm the lively rear end over smaller bumps, but its demeanour wasn’t out of character for a leaf-sprung live axle rear end. Overall, the double wishbone front and leaf-sprung rear ride isn’t too harsh, and if you push the Steed into a gallop in corners it’s not going to give Ford or Mazda any cause for review.

The Great Wall ute has made some progress, but, price aside, it’s still got some way to go before it is going to have a serious impact on the segment.

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