Car reviews - Great Wall - Steed - range
Great Wall models
Manual shift action, payload, ride quality, pricing
Room for improvement
Towing capacity, footwell width, steering too light, stability control paranoia, no standard rearview camera
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7 Sep 2016
WHAT’S in a name? If you’ve got an IT bent then a Wingle is familiar equipment, but it’s also the name of the Great Wall ute that has been re-introduced to Australia, thankfully with a new nameplate for the local market – Steed.
While that may also conjure up images of Diana Rigg in action, bowler hats and sturdy brollies, it’s a better name for the phoenix rising from the ashes of Ateco Automotive’s efforts with Great Wall.
The range sampling was done behind the wheel of the 4x4 manual diesel, which is in SE spec initially with rubber-floored S models on the planning wishlist but not here yet.
Sporting a nicer snout than the outgoing model, the new Steed might not be the most rugged looker of the LCV segment in Australia but it’s not the worst either, with a big grille and large headlights that seem to work well for a masculine look in the metal.
The cabin is a pleasant place to dwell – carpet and artificial leather, auto headlights, wipers and auto-dimming mirror and some nice soft plastics (and some not-so-nice bits as well) which seems to fly in the face of the brand’s stated aim of getting in below the luxo-utes and winning over cockies, chippies, plumbers and sparkies.
The test vehicles were also equipped with a reversing camera, which is being paired to satellite navigation in a $1000 option pack.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel – which has phone, cruise, audio and trip computer controls – is a nice unit, but sadly is connected to a power assistance system that is over-anxious to help, resulting in steering effort that’s perfect for the Bunnings carpark but not so great on a country road.
It’s also tilt-only and conspires with the high-set driver’s seat to put the driver a little taller than is ideal, but there’s enough headroom to spare knee width in the footwell however is on the tight side.
At 191cm our driving position didn’t prevent us from – just – taking a seat in the back either, although the backrest angle is a little too 90-degrees for long-term occupation.
Seat comfort is reasonable, as is the cabin noise factor from the engine or the windrush, neither of which are horrendously out of order for the segment.
Where it falls a little short is in the muscle department. 110kW and 310Nm is well short of the mark for the segment, with one of the segment’s elder statesman – Isuzu’s D-Max – laying claim to 130kW and 380Nm.
Nissan’s low-spec single-turbo Navara boasts 120kW and 403Nm and the Triton offers 133kW and 430Nm the Steed claims 8.6 litres per 100km and sat not far from that figure during the highway and country road launch drive.
An absence of automatics will hurt fleet sales potential (as will an absence of ANCAP star stickers on the window) but the six-speed manual gearbox itself is a pleasant unit, with a clean and quick shift action, something you’ll be familiar with when it starts to slow on 310Nm of torque.
The trays were initially laden, albeit only with 20kg of dog food, a large boxed “care package” and a couple of solid bales of lucerne hay that were all delivered to the Salvos it didn’t strain the 1010kg payload, nor did it completely dampen the rear end’s over-enthusiastic demeanour.
Jiggles and wriggles over smaller bumps are de rigueur for anything with the leaf sprung live axle rear end and the Chinese workhorse doesn’t change the status quo, but its ride isn’t too harsh either.
Over-assisted steering aside, the Steed can be hustled along a country road without holding up traffic, provided you’re prepared to use the gearbox, but if pushed in the corners it’s not going to frighten a Ford or maul a Mazda in the bends as it tortures its GT Radial Savero HT Plus tyres.
While the Great Wall has clearly made some progress, it’s still got some way to go before it is likely to upset the LCV applecart.
An automatic, the holy grail of five ANCAP stars and some less pessimistic stability control calibration would all be on the list of things to do for Great Wall, but the Steed is certainly trotting in the right direction.
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