The What Van? Road Test: Great Wall Steed

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hot on the heels of DFSK’s launch of the Loadhopper microvan, a different Chinese manufacturer is attacking another area of the UK light commercial market. This time it is Great Wall Motor, which is now starting to sell the competitively priced Steed pick-up against some tough and well-established rivals.

While precious few prospective customers will have heard of Great Wall, the more motor industry-savvy among them may be aware of the company that is importing its products: IM Group has been shipping in Subarus since the late 1970s and also distributes Isuzu pick-ups.
As it happens, the Steed looks a little like one of Isuzu’s previous products, which is no bad thing, and externally it seems to have been put together to a higher standard than we’d initially expected.
The newcomer is being marketed in Britain as a 4x4 four-door five- seater double cab with the choice of two trim levels. S is the basic one and the level we chose, but for another £2000 you can opt for SE. Pay the extra cash and you benefit from a body-coloured hard-top for the load area (which also gets a protective liner), rear parking sensors, chrome side bars, hard-top roof rails, a body-coloured spoiler and chrome- trimmed daytime running lights.
In-cab oddment stowage facilities include a big glovebox with a lockable lid and a deep bin between the front seats with a lid that incorporates a tray. There are bins in the front doors, but they look a little flimsy and seem unlikely to stand up to hard usage. They incorporate cup-holders and there are two more holders ahead of the gear stick. It’s a shame there are no bins in the back doors but at least there are pockets in the backs of the front seats.
The steering column can be adjusted for height but the driver’s seat cannot. All seats are trimmed in leather as are the steering wheel and gear knob, but the quality is nothing to get excited about.
The quality of the various plastic fixtures and fittings around the cab could stand to be improved too – one bit of trim came loose during our test – but at least there were no annoying squeaks or rattles.
Although fine for local runs, it’s unlikely the rear seating accommodation would be too comfortable on a long journey. And while it’s good that all three rear seats sport a lap-and-diagonal belt, Great Wall earns a black mark for failing to protect the centre occupant with a headrest.
A lighter-coloured headlining might help to lift the interior a little. The one fitted to ours was dark and made the cab feel rather gloomy.
Access to the cargo area is by means of a heftily constructed drop-down tailgate. Although it can be locked horizontally, it cannot be lowered completely because of the bulky rear bumper, which can sometimes make loading a little awkward. It’s a trait the Steed shares with a number of its competitors. The bumper does, though, incorporate a step with a non-slip rubber tread.
Four load tie-down points are provided and our demonstrator was equipped with an optional plastic load box liner for an extra £145 – all prices quoted here are exclusive of VAT – but there is no ladder rack behind the cab. That’s a surprising omission for something that is being promoted as a working vehicle.
Maximum load length is 1380mm. Maximum width is 1460mm narrowing to 980mm between the wheel boxes while maximum height is 480mm. Rear loading height is 825mm. Gross weight is 2885kg and top payload capacity is 1000kg, but at 2000kg the comparatively low maximum towing weight for a braked trailer is a cause for concern. Some prospective customers are likely
to want to haul a heavier trailer than the Steed can handle, and a higher towing capacity – along with a few more horsepower – would not go amiss.
Great Wall has confirmed that a tachograph can be fitted to the vehicle for towing purposes.
The Steed is only available with one engine – a 2.0-litre 16-valve four-cylinder intercooled longitudinally mounted diesel equipped with a variable-geometry turbocharger and benefiting from exhaust gas recirculation to help control emissions. The common-rail system installed is sourced from Delphi.
Maximum output is 143hp at 4000rpm. Top torque of 305Nm makes its presence felt across a 1800-2800rpm plateau, while a six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard.
The engine is to Euro4, not the latest Euro5, exhaust emission specifications. Great Wall has made use of a derogation that allows Euro4 N1 vehicles – the category this truck falls into – to be sold until the end of 2012. A Euro5 Steed will appear at the start of 2013.
Four-wheel drive is selected electronically, so there’s no wrestling with an uncooperative lever. You push buttons instead – it’s possible to switch between 4x2 and 4x4 at up to a comparatively low 12mph.
A button is used to engage a low-ratio set of gears once the truck is stationary.
The dual-range transmission is made by BorgWarner.

Chassis and steering

The solidly built cargo box sits on a sturdy-looking ladder frame chassis that should easily withstand the beating dished out by off-road work.
Independent front suspension helps support the front of the vehicle complete with double wishbones, an unequal-length torsion bar and an anti-roll bar. At the back there are semi-elliptic steel leaf springs and a live axle.
The rack-and-pinion steering features hydraulic power assistance with 3.78 turns lock-to-lock and a 13.5m turning circle. Our demonstrator’s standard 16-inch alloy wheels were shod with Chinese-made Kumho Radial 798 Plus P235/70 R16 M & S (Mud & Snow) tyres.
While, as already indicated, the Steed could probably benefit from a bit more power when heavily laden or pulling a trailer, the number of horses on tap is perfectly ­adequate when it is lightly burdened.
The handling is sharp, with no lurching or wallowing, and the steering provides ample feedback. Its lightness at low speeds makes manoeuvring into tight spaces – not always a simple task in a 4x4 pick-up – just that little bit easier.
While the ride is firm, it is not uncomfortable. On the downside, although the gears are easy enough to engage, the change can sometimes be noisy.
A brief foray across the rain-sodden fields of Herefordshire convinced us that the 4x4 Steed can cope with most of what rural Britain is likely to throw at it, although it clearly will not go where a Land Rover Defender will go. But it should be fine compared with pick-up rivals. Ground clearance is 194mm.
Air-conditioning, electric windows all round, a 12V power point on the dashboard and big electric exterior mirrors (which would nonetheless benefit from a wide-angle section) are all included in the price. So is the Alpine radio/CD player, which is presumably fitted at the import centre and should really be replaced by a better-quality built-in unit fitted on the production line. But at least it is MP3-compatible, offers Bluetooth connectivity and comes with steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls.
A heated rear window is fitted, and top marks should be awarded to Great Wall for providing heated front seats as standard – just what you want first thing on a bitterly cold morning.
Our test vehicle came with  a colour co-ordinated front bumper plus colour-matched wheel-arch protectors and side rubbing strips.

Buying and running

 

The Steed is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile mechanical warranty, a three-year roadside assistance and recovery package, a three-year paint warranty and a six-year anti-perforation corrosion warranty. Our demonstrator fell into insurance group 7A.
Forty dealers have been appointed so far and they all offer a free collection and delivery service to workshop customers based within 20 miles of their branch. That’s a facility likely to be appreciated given the short service interval of one year or 10,000 miles. The vehicle is also returned fully valeted.
In addition, test drives can be offered at the homes of prospective buyers or at their business premises if they are within 20 miles of the dealership.
Furthermore, dealers are committed to doing all they can to keep their customers mobile while their pick-ups are being serviced or repaired under warranty.
As for fuel economy, we averaged 33mpg, which is slightly less than Great Wall’s figure.
Ventilated 280mm-diameter disc brakes are fitted at the front while 295mm-diameter drums are installed at the back. ABS comes as standard along
with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution plus driver and front passenger airbags.
Turning to security, remote central locking is included in the price as are a Thatcham-approved Category 1 alarm, an immobiliser and security-etched glass.

 

Verdict

Detailed improvements are still required along with more power but it’s not a bad start by any means. 

 

Number one in the Chinese pick-up market

 

China’s Great Wall is probably the biggest motor manufacturer you’ve never heard of. It started building vehicles 35 years ago and has just opened a new plant at the port of Tianjin,
some 60 miles from Beijing. The move will enable it to produce a total of 800,000 units annually as part of a plan to boost output to a whopping 1.5 million by 2015.
Great Wall has occupied the number one slot in the Chinese pick-up market ever since 1998 and sells around 120,000 Steeds domestically each year. Chinese customers have snapped up 700,000 of them to date and the company aims to export some 40,000 of the trucks during 2012. Major investments are being made in product development with a £500m research and development centre under construction near Great Wall’s headquarters in Baoding City, which is about 90 miles from Beijing. Covering an area of 250,000m², it will employ around 5000 engineers.
 

 

 



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