Great Wall 4x4 Steed well worth a look
  |  First Published: June 2017

Great Wall cars are proudly made in China and now being sold by numerous distributors in Australia to promote the brand and provide vital backup of parts and spares, provide roadside assist, handle warranty claims and all other issues like other major car makers.

The Steed stable includes a 4x2 petrol dual cab, a 4x2 diesel dual cab and the 4x4 diesel dual cab reviewed here. Obviously, Great Wall are casting the net fairly wide to secure their customers and they do have one advantage in that the marque is well-established. In fact, with 45,000 of their V series utes sold in past years, with a revamp and upgrades all-round the newly designed (and larger) Steed is out and galloping.

One thing worth remembering is that trade utes now account for around one fifth of motor car sales in our country – who’d believe the Hilux ute would be our top selling car last year? You can rest assured that this massive Chinese manufacturer is after a goodly slice of this pie, especially in the more affordable market segments where Fotun, Mahindra, JMC Vigus, and SsangYong have been steadily nibbling corners off the cut price trade ute/ SUV section of retail sales for some time.

There is no denying that our market is well serviced with mainstream brands. While these newcomers perhaps don’t have as much on or off road presence as the big players, they are happily offering some big cash savings.

The big difference is that putting a name-brand dual cab ute in the carport or garage with as many features as the Steed offers can easily see $40-50k or more out of the pocket. On the other hand the Great Wall one tonner will see less than 30km missing from the bank balance. Those sorts of savings could see plans for a couple of trips to Weipa, Exmouth or NZ being made and a big smile on the dial!

What is the Steed?

Put simply, the Steed is a good looking, proportionate, large four door ute made to high standards. The paint job appeared very deep and lustrous. The panels had a very solid feel about them and the weighty doors closed with a nice sound. The finish was quite good for a vehicle at this price point. The diesel 4x4 as reviewed had a ground clearance at 170mm, a high driving position, was quite wide, and was even – dare I suggest it – handsome.

Currently available only in manual transmission mode, the six-shifter sported very easily managed gear changes and a light clutch with plenty of feel about it. The pedals were widely spaced and made for positive gear work.

The Steed also sported roof rails, side steps to prevent off road damage, LED daylight driving lights, 16” alloy wheels with road tyres and a stainless steel bar setup in the tray which gave it a distinctly sporty look. The large rear tray was equipped with a full liner, brilliant for loading up with gear and going to work for the day (or the beach for the weekend) and had external side rails to secure the ubiquitous flexible tie down cover so important to keep gear in place. A decent side protector strip also graced the Steed’s side panelling to ward off bangs and bumps from shopping centre encounters.

Well appointed interior

There’s a lot to like about the Steed’s interior. The seating is faux leather but without any annoying odours and featured very neat stitching. With decent cushioning and support the front seats are very good. A four hour long highway trip saw no back or backside discomfort. The driver has electric forward and seat-back rake adjustment and both front seats are heated.

The steering column had rake but not reach adjustment. It a comfortable driving position. Rear seating was fairly upright in styling but still comfortable with ample room. The transmission tunnel hump in the rear area was quite discreet and did not intrude on legroom to a great degree.

Within the cabin the main colour scheming was mainly dark, with lots of piano black (which is all the rage these days) with some silver highlighting around the radio, the controls for the climate control air conditioning, and the interior door handles. Interestingly, the large centre screen on the reviewed Steed was not set up with navigation or reversing camera, this being a $1000 extra, but a move to reverse gear quickly brought a loud serious of warning pips upon approach to any obstacle behind the vehicle.

A leather bound steering wheel, auto dimming mirror, electric windows and steering wheel cruise control were standard as was hill start assist – a vital feature for a manual diesel vehicle. The Steed’s six speaker sound system was enjoyable and powerful enough to work well away from local towns with the Bluetooth/USB phone and audio streaming an additional handy feature.

Safety features included tyre pressure monitoring, six air bags, including side curtain air bags, a Bosch stability control setup, EBD and Brake Assist.

4x4 gearing handy

The Steed’s driving mode buttons were located in a slim row immediately under the radio controls. With 2WD, AWD and low range all available at the touch of a button, it was very easy to dial in 4x4 or even low range when we needed it, which we certainly did. This came about when we moved from a great fishing spot on one of the New England Rivers following overnight rain. Incidentally, the cod were on. I suspect they must have known it would rain overnight!

Daylight saw more rain on the way, so we packed up and moved. With a good load of camping gear aboard the tray and the interior rear packed with tucker boxes, bedding, bags of clothing – the New England is cold – the Steed was faced with a fairly steep climb out on some slippery going. At the press of the low range tab a slight jar indicated the Borg Warner transfer case was doing it’s job (as did the on-dash indicator). The Steed easily moved up and out much to my relief.

Decent road manners

I was surprised at the overall ride quality of the Steed on both bitumen and gravel surfaces. Sure, unloaded it tends to bounce and jiggle somewhat as expected of a one tonne ute with a double wishbone suspension up front and five leaf springs at the rear. To be frank, I have experienced more bounce to the ounce with a couple of the more costly dual cab 4x4s that are prominent today. With our load of camping gear aboard the ride was very good. The overall handling was quite laidback and without excess body roll on corners.

The steering was light and with a lot of turns from lock to lock. It certainly won’t excite an outright enthusiast with it’s lack of road feel, but let’s not forget the price point. You get what you pay for. The price point also governs the engine which was a 2L four-cylinder turbo diesel turning out 110kW of power and 310Nm of torque.

While Euro 5 compliant it was adequate rather than awe-inspiring. With six ratios on hand with the manual shifter, so long as 1500-1800 revs were maintained, the engine was able to do its job smoothly and quietly. At 2000rpm the speedo hit 100kp/h with virtually no engine noise whatsoever. There are, for the record, some far noisier diesel engines in some of today’s crop of work utes than the Steed’s. Fuel use over the New England trip was 9.1L/100km – right on the money for mine. The tow rating is 2t for a braked trailer.

Summing up

There’s no denying that the Steed is a very useful sort of work truck with enough comfort features and overall room to make it also suited to a fair amount of play time on weekends. The suite of extra features, running even to tyre pressure monitoring, moves the ute’s spec level to high, no question about it. With Great Wall’s established credibility in our market the Steed has lots to offer a potential owner. Ground clearance might restrict it in some of the more rugged off road scenarios but the 4x4 system certainly won my praise when push turned to shove down on the river.

My view is that once an auto version is released there will be no stopping the Steed. It’s out of the stable now. With an auto offering it’s going to be a real cup winner. The warranty is three years/100,000km with 24/7 roadside assistance as part of the package and the price is $29,990.

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