News that Chinese utes were being introduced into New Zealand was greeted with a great deal of scepticism, especially given exterior design which was a touch quirky.
When we tested the Great Wall Motors V240 double cab back then, however, we discovered a dichotomy. Because although it was a wee bit underpowered, and had some cheap and nasty plastic bits, especially on the rear bodywork, it was a remarkably good vehicle off-road. And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end when you’re talking about a 4WD ute?
Fast forward to 2012, and Great Wall unveiled a facelifted V series ute, with a new nose, new trim bits (especially a much stronger rear step bumper) and a new engine and gearbox.
These latter items are especially interesting. One of the main problems with the original V240 was its asthmatic Mitsubishi-derived 4-cylinder petrol engine, whereas this sort of vehicle cries out for diesel power.
The net result was that GWM splashed out $75 - million to develop its own common rail turbo diesel engine, and has come up with a fairly credible unit.
The flip side, though, is that it’s only 2-litres capacity, which means relatively modest output compared to the rest of the market.
In practice, it means that there’s quite a bit of turbo lag until power kicks in at around 1,800rpm – at which point the vehicle is transformed. It’s never going to be a hot-rod, of course, not with almost two tons to pull from rest, but it’s acceptable once on the move, and owners will quickly get used to
the lag and adjust for it.
The upside is that the 6-speed manual gearbox is a gem, silky smooth and positive, with the only criticism being that reverse has to be selected using a fail-safe collar on the gear lever. Again, one of those things you quickly get used to.
Selection of 2WD, 2WD High and 4WD Low is via a row of push-buttons on the dash, and it’s again easy and positive.
On-road it’s typical of previous generation utes, with a firm ride which gets better when you put a load in the back. It’s the result of the compromise designers have reached when they have to allow for a heavy load (the V200 is rated at one ton).
As a workhorse the vehicle also scores thanks to the one-handed tailgate release, and the foldable ladder rack on the rear. But tow rating (braked) is a disappointing 2,000kg.
Inside there’s a lot of kit, especially at its $30,990 price tag, and the V200 comes equipped with leather upholstery, leather-rimmed steering wheel, sound system with USB input, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, and alloy wheels and fog lights.
Standards of fit and finish were good, upset only by the heavy smell of plastics and glue.
One of the big pluses of the V200, as with other Great Wall products, is that it comes with a 3-year/100,000km warranty, plus three-year roadside assistance.
This certainly takes some of the perceived risk out of buying a workhorse that doesn’t have a long history, and if you ensure you swap your vehicle every three years, could ensure you get excellent service at a very affordable price.
Another plus is the size of the V200. As utes get longer, wider, and taller, a more compact offering has to be attractive, especially for those who spend more time in the urban jungle than the NZ bush.