Great Wall's attempts to sell us a cut-price, full-sized pick-up didn't quite hit the mark. Undeterred, the Chinese are back with a better Steed. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Great Wall Steed is back in revised form. Boasting better quality and Euro5 emissions compliance, this pick-up is tough, rugged and fearsome value for money. Owners swear by 'em.
For a car company that's been operating for nearly forty years, the Great Wall brand still has a pretty sketchy recall amongst the British car-buying public. While the Chinese were manufacturing products like the Wingle, the CoolBear, the Cowry and the Sailor, most of us were blithely unaware of the marque. It was only with the introduction to the UK of the Steed pick-up that we began to get an inkling of what they could do and that was to sell cars very cheaply. The Steed was, to all intents and purposes, a cut-price version of a Toyota Hilux, offering rugged durability at a price that read like a misprint. Cynical bunch that we are, we tended to look at the Steed and reason that if something looks too good to be true, it's probably worth avoiding. Perhaps it was a few years too late to capitalise on the austerity era of the credit crunch, who knows, but the Steed never really chimed with British buyers. Undeterred, Great Wall has regrouped and come back with an updated proposition.
The latest Steed hasn't changed that much under the bonnet, but the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is now certified to Euro5 emissions standards. Only a two-litre? Don't worry, because this one's power and torque (139PS and 310Nm) are comparable with many of its rivals' 2.5-litre engines. It'll get to 60mph in 17 seconds, which isn't particularly rapid but then you're probably not buying this car as an alternative to a Holden Maloo. Likewise, the steering and gearchange aren't anything to give Porsche designers recourse to the drawing board, but it's big, honest and does exactly what you'd expect and more of a vehicle in this class and at this price point. There's a switchable four-wheel drive system and decent ground clearance which means the Steed will smash its way through the muddiest sites. The Borg Warner transmission is rugged and the latest Steed has a maximum payload of 1,050kg and is now certified in the UK to tow 2.5 tonnes with a braked trailer. What's more, the latest Steeds get rear discs, as opposed to the drum brakes of the previous version.
Design and Build
The Steed lost a few sales because the fit and finish of the previous model just weren't up to what UK buyers have come to expect. It's a measure of how seriously Great Wall took such criticism that it upped sticks and moved production to an entirely new plant in Baoding City with improved vehicle assembly robotics, a fully automated paint shop and full testing centre. You'll see the difference in paint quality straight off the bat and the cabin features higher quality upholstery, a redesigned instrument cluster and a whole host of additional equipment that means that the cabin no longer feels quite so built down to a price. The seating position offers decent all-round visibility, which you'll need when piloting a vehicle this big around and there's space for three passengers on the bench seats in the rear without too much of a squeeze on leg room. The load bay is a good size, although as with many pick-up trucks, you'd probably want an optional lockable topper for added security.
Market and Model
Value for money is bound to draw buyers to the Chinese brands and the Great Wall Steed offers us a taste of what we can expect. With many of its rivals starting at around £20,000 even in their most stripped out basic specifications, the Steed looks strong value with prices starting at just under £15,000 on the road in S trim, with the Tracker costing around £16,000 and the SE costing almost £17,000. Standard equipment in the S includes alloy wheels, leather seats that are heated in the front, air conditioning, electric selection of four-wheel drive, a load liner, rear parking sensors and an Alpine double-DIN stereo with Bluetooth and a USB slot complete with steering wheel-mounted controls. The SE adds black roof rails, a body coloured hardtop canopy, chrome rear lamp surrounds, chrome side bars and chrome trim for the daytime running lights.
Cost of Ownership
The figures we have so far indicate that the Great Wall Steed will emit 222g/km of carbon dioxide and return a combined fuel economy figure of 32.8mpg. That's actually worse than the old car which, given that power has gone down from 150PS to 139PS, probably points to the difficulty Great Wall have had getting the car through the Euro5 emissions test. Depreciation hasn't been the disaster that many predicted, with two year-old cars holding better than 75 per cent of their value. That might even improve with the better quality of this latest model. There are issues that need addressing though. Not submitting a vehicle for Euro NCAP testing is hardly the best way to garner public confidence in a product. The warranty's not bad though; a six year / 125,000 mile mechanical warranty, a six-year anti-perforation warranty, three-year paint warranty and three years of roadside recovery and assistance.
It's true. You do get what you pay for. Comparing a Great Wall Steed to a Toyota Hilux or even an Isuzu Rodeo just isn't comparing eggs with eggs. It's a bit like expecting a Mazda MX-5 to square up to a Jaguar F-TYPE. That said, for what you're paying the Steed does a solid job. Brand loyalty amongst existing customers is through the roof and a many will trade in their existing vehicles against this latest model and only have to incur a cost to change of about £4,000. That's not expensive motoring for almost three years under full warranty cover. Try that with a Hilux. The Steed will appeal to those who just want a cheap pick-up that can do the business. The fact that it's decently equipped will come as a bonus. In fact, there would probably be a market for a really stripped out model on steel wheels that would rasher another £1,000 or so off the asking price. Success hasn't been easy to come by for Great Wall. Perhaps now with a little momentum behind it, the Steed can find its stride.