A trip in a Great Wall Steed is like traveling back in time, when cars had drivers, electrics were for household appliances and gluten intolerance hadn’t been invented yet.
Great Wall’s original V240 (petrol) and later V200 (diesel) arrived with much fanfare, promise and silly price tags.
Early adopters cottoned onto the bargain pricing quickly, but the initial sales spurt was short-lived as other more established brands reacted with sales designed to woo buyers back.
The original utes from China however, achieved another result, which would ultimately not make things easy. Great Wall Motors paved the way for a raft of Chinese automotive product to follow them into New Zealand.
Despite the arrival of more Chinese product, Great Wall survived, though somewhat painfully, with dated designs.
The brand survived however and sometime between then and now, the Great Wall V240 became the Steed, a ‘’new’’ ute to promote the Great Wall brand and one which has clearly adapted for a more demanding market.
Some things about the original ute Great Wall have carried over. Great Wall remains the only petrol-powered ute available for instance, and the 2.4-litre engine – though older technology (some would say ‘proven’) – had given Great Wall no reason to change.
Similarly, the manual five-speed gearbox has not hurried Great Wall into an upgrade. Personally, I found first and second notchy. At the top end though, I wasn’t – as I thought I was going to be – hunting for the next cog up, so maybe GW’s techs got that right after all.
The new Steed does however, have more features than could be reasonably expected for the price.
Things like a tyre pressure monitoring system, heated front seats, leather wheel and trim, cruise control (and a good one), electric heated and folding mirrors and Bluetooth with steering wheel controls, bolster the ABS, ESC with hill ascent, front, side and curtain airbag complement and brake assist systems, which are expected fare.
The Steed is a big unit with a serious case of “shift left or else” ‘tude. The best way to look at it – from the outside anyway – is side on, which is the way most will see the Steed for the first time.
Forget U-turns in a Steed, bank on three-pointers (at least) every time and you won’t be disappointed. Interestingly, no one seemed to take offense at waiting while the Great Wall shifted; I guess that illustrates the earlier implied point of size is might and might is right.
For all that the Steed is big, it’s not overly tall, which made getting in and out a breeze. Running on 16-inch tyres (standard for both 2 and 4WD models) the Steed is fine for building site work, and most will prefer the advantages of easy boarding over an ability to go bush bashing.
Those car-sized tyres soak up a lot of road irregularities and the noise is well muted. A leaf-sprung rear suspension may sound old school, but it works, so why fix what isn’t broken?
I came to like the seating which at first, seemed odd. You sit ‘’on’’ the seats rather than ‘’in’’ them, but, you are well supported and can cover a lot of kms without back ache at the end of it, not a claim all ute seats – even the modern ones – can make.
Not everyone can afford a $60 to $80k ute. Some won’t want to spend $35 to $50k on a ute. For anyone looking at spending less than $30k for a ute built to work, park your prejudices and jump on a Steed – the ute that keeps it real.