Steed by Name, Workhorse by Nature ….
It doesn’t have the most recognisable or inspiring of names, but after a week behind the wheel of a Great Wall Steed, I was really quite surprised by this latest Chinese import. Could this be the Dacia Duster of the pickup world?
We all have preconceptions about foreign imports especially when it comes to vehicles. Remember how we all scoffed when Japanese motor cycles appeared on our streets? Stamped out of tin plate with engines attached, and how we all laughed. Look where the great British motor cycle industry is now.
It was the same when Datsun and Toyota turned up on our driveways, followed by Hyundai and Kia. If they proved anything, it proved that the foreigners learned kind of quick! Just look at their current ranges.
So anyone who scoffs at Chinese imports will do so at their peril, especially if they take a cold hard look at the first official import from China, the Great Wall Steed pickup.
As far as 4×4 pickups go, it certainly looks the part while the interior is remarkably well equipped. You get the feeling that the marketing men have thrown a confectionary bag of accessories at the cabin. Some are better thought out than others, but even so, the kit hit-list is mighty impressive for a capable and practical vehicle in this price range.
For instance, it’s got air-conditioning, carpets, full leather trim and heated front seats as well as the expected electrically operated mirrors, remote central locking and a heated rear screen. It has steering wheel controls and a radio with Bluetooth and media player connectivity. It even has a wee clip on the interior light above the windscreen to hold cards and receipts!
Running in 2WD mode as standard, the 4WD transmission and diffs are controlled electronically at the push of a switch and it also has a lo-ratio setting. Ideal if stuck in a boggy forestry ditch!
The 141 bhp, 2 litre turbo-diesel engine won’t crick your neck under acceleration, but with a six speed gearbox it will pull a 2 tonne trailer. On a recent 220 mile round trip, it was getting somewhere in the region of 35 mpg cruising quite happily at the legal limit with a remarkably pliant ride. Neither was it noisy, and whether that was down to insulation or not, the engine didn’t seem overly clattery.
Some folk may criticise the 2 tonne towing limit, but they are missing the point. At just over 1.8 tonnes, the Steed is lighter than most other mainstream pickups and it just has the 2 litre engine, so towing capacity has to be restricted. On the other hand if towing needs are greater, then a more substantial vehicle would be needed anyway.
For the majority of farmers, landowners and forestry workers, 2 tonnes isn’t at all bad. This is a lighter pickup for lighter duties and will find its own niche market on that basis. For many folk that will be more than adequate. If what is needed is a nimble, light duty, workhorse that can traverse difficult terrain, then it will be hard to beat at this price.
The only downsides are more niggles than seriously critical. The steering is low geared and more hopeful than directional, the seat cushions are bit short for the longer legged and the load-lashing loops in the loadbox sidewall have been covered up by the canopy clamps. So there’s nowhere to tie down the toolboxes, trolley jacks and spare wheels.
It comes with a 3 year/60,000 mile Warranty which is not quite industry leading, but here’s the clincher. All in, it costs 16 grand plus VAT and that includes the alloys and reversing sensors, the glazed, locking hardtop and a full size spare wheel – a much more sensible option when stuck in the middle of nowhere and the recovery service hasn’t a hope of reaching you, even if it can find you on its SatNav.
Make no mistake, the off-road capability of this machine is quite exceptional. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve had something of a wet summer, so the ground is sodden, boggy and very sticky. In fact going off-road in some parts of the country requires boats as opposed to pickups, but those extremes aside, going off road in the Steed needed a deep breath and a steadying of nerves before the leap of faith into the unknown.
And you know what? No drama, no fuss. With its 194 mm of ground clearance it went where it was pointed. Even crossing a couple of watery ditches in the Glentrool Forest required nothing more than Lo-Ratio four wheel drive and an oblique approach (rather than head-on). The front n/s wheel dropped in followed by the rear n/s and front o/s wheels with the o/s rear wheel following as the front n/s crawled up the opposite banking. Neither did it creak, clatter or bang. So build quality on first impression is also pretty good for the price.
There was only one item that the driver needed to be aware of and that was the fancy rear bumper with extra lights, step and reversing sensors. It would be quite easy to remove this inadvertently on more rigorous terrain, but then anyone fitting a tow-bar would remove it anyway.
What Great Wall have achieved is a combination of capable off roader with comfortable on roader that will provide the ideal ‘entry-level’ 4×4 pickup for those whose carrying and towing needs are modest.
And here’s another thing to bear in mind. Some weather predictors are anticipating some big dumps of snow again this winter. Could the Great Wall Steed be the perfect second car?