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Great Wall VX10 nearly here

Ready, set: The Great Wall VX10 light car will go on-sale in Australia in the first quarter of next year.

First passenger car from Australia’s pioneering Chinese brand on the starting blocks

31 Oct 2011

GREAT Wall Motors is almost ready to launch its first passenger car in Australia, but it remains unclear which grille the pint-size Chinese hatchback will wear when it lands in local showrooms later than promised in early 2012.

Known as the Voleex C10 in China, the VX10 – as it will be called here – had been due for Australian release by the end of this year, but will now go on sale in Australia in the first quarter of next year after receiving official ADR approval this month.

The light-size five-door hatchback will be the second Chinese city-car to become available here nationally after the J1 from Chery, which is also distributed in Australia by independent Sydney-based vehicle importer Ateco Automotive.

Priced at just $10,990 drive-away, the J1 is Australia’s cheapest new car but was recalled in August after it was awarded a sub-standard three-star crash test rating by the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) in May.

At the time, ANCAP said the J1 suffered “loss of structural integrity” in the 64km/h front offset crash test conducted in April, resulting in “considerable risk for occupants”.

61 center imageLeft: Alternative Great Wall VX10 grille designs.

Chery and Ateco subsequently recalled more than 700 examples of the J1 in Australia to replace front seatbacks in a bid to improve the car’s crash performance – a move it repeated in September with more than 1600 examples of its J11 compact SUV, which still scored a two-star ANCAP safety rating.

Although it performed better than the one-star Proton Jumbuk ute and Mitsubishi Express van, the J11 attracted the dubious honour of being the only passenger car currently on sale here to achieve less than three stars and joins the two-star ‘hall of shame’ also occupied by the Indian Mahindra Pik-Up and Great Wall’s V240 ute.

The latter became the first Chinese-branded vehicle to arrive here when it went on sale nationally in mid-2009, while Ateco added the full-chassis Toyota 4Runner-based X240 compact SUV in October that year.

Now Atceo, which launched Chery’s second hatchback in the form of the Corolla-sized J3 five-door ($14,990 drive-away) in September, is ready to launch the VX10 after it received formal Australian Design Rule (ADR) approval on October 14.

Unlike Chery’s similarly sized J1, the VX10 – which follows the alpha-numeric model-naming convention established by Ateco for its ute and SUV models – will come as standard with electronic stability control, making it eligible for sale in all Australian states.

The VX10 five-seater is also expected to come with curtain airbags, which help minimise injury during side impacts, as well as twin front airbags and ABS brakes.

With a kerb weight of just 1113kg in five-speed manual form, it will be powered by a 70kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with the option of a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The VX10 measures just 3810mm long, 1705mm wide and 1540mm high, making it one of the smallest models on Australian roads, while wheelbase is listed at just 2460mm and ground clearance a low 114mm.

Towing capacity is rated at 550kg (950kg braked) and, unlike many city-cars, the VX10 will be fitted with all-disc brakes, instead of rear drums.

It will ride on 15x6.0-inch wheels with 185/65-section tyres and a temporary spare wheel will be fitted instead of a full-size spare.

Expect the VX10 to also feature a host of standard interior features, however, including power windows and mirrors, remote central locking and front and rear foglights.

In China, the C10 is also available with a smaller 1.3-litre engine and in two equipment levels – Luxury and Elite.

The VX10 is also sold with two distinctly different grille designs in China, where it is also known as the Phenom, and company spokesman Daniel Cotterill told GoAuto that Ateco remains undecided about which front end will be seen here.

“There’s been a lot of internal discussion about that,” he said. “I’m not sure which grille we’ll get yet.” It also remains to be seen whether the VX10 matches the all-inclusive $10,990 price of the J1 – with which it will directly compete at the bottom end of Australia’s booming light-car segment – but expect it (like the J1 and J11) to be offered in a single well-equipped specification at a single drive-away price.

Mr Cotterill confirmed two VX10s were in the country for ADR testing and that the new model would hit Great Wall dealerships within the next five months.

“We said (the VX10 would go on sale here) by the end of this year,” he said. “It’s fair to say that will now be early next year – in the first quarter of next year. They’ve got to build them and get them here now.” The VX10 will join Toyota’s new Yaris hatch, Holden’s new Barina hatch, Kia’s new Rio hatch and Hyundai’s new Accent sedan and hatch in Australia’s burgeoning light-car class.

In turn, the under-$15,000 sub-light sub-segment, which was pioneered by Suzuki’s four-seater Alto hatch, will be bolstered next year by a facelifted Proton S16 sedan, Nissan’s Micra-based Almera sedan, Volkswagen’s all-new Up hatch, an all-new entrant from Ford and, possibly, Kia’s latest Picanto.

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