- The Steed double-cab pick-up is Great Wall’s first entry in the UK
- Low priced, well-equipped, generous warranty, but quality lags behind rivals
- £13,998 + VAT | On sale now
Gavin Braithwaite-Smith | 21st November 2013
Great Wall is one of China’s largest vehicle manufacturers, although as it’s not the biggest, we can’t make a joke about being able to see the company from space.
The firm’s ambitions are no laughing matter though, with a serious assault on building a strong export market already well underway. Indeed, the Steed double-cab pick-up – as tested here – represents Great Wall’s first entry into the UK and whilst it can’t quite match its more established rivals when it comes to quality and refinement, it’s a remarkably good first effort.
In fact, it’s arguably one of the most surprising vehicles we’ve driven this year. Not perfect by any means, but like the Dacia Duster, it presents a compelling blend of high specification and exceptionally good value for money.
Prices start from £13,998 plus VAT for the Steed S, rising to £15,998 for the Steed SE, which boasts a body-coloured hardtop, reverse parking sensors, chrome side bars and a load liner.
There are also a couple of special editions, including – as tested here – the Chrome, which features chrome side and sports bars, chrome fog light surrounds, chrome rear-lamp finishers, stainless-steel door entry guards, an over-rail bed-liner, tinted windows, metallic paint and rubber mats. It costs £14,998 plus VAT.
What is the 2013 Great Wall Steed Chrome like to drive?
Double-cab pick-ups like the Great Wall Steed Chrome will invariably spend most of their time in urban or rural environments, rarely venturing further than the county border. Tradesmen will rely on them for regular trips to the builders merchants, whilst a farmer may wish to sling a few bags of feed into the load bed.
But perhaps the most surprising element of the Great Wall Steed Chrome is how well mannered it is when out on the road. The steering may be horrendously vague, but its lightness gives the Steed tremendous manoeuverability. The high driving position also provides a commanding view of the road ahead.
Great Wall describes the Steed’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as ‘gutsy’, which for the rest of us translates to ‘unrefined’. Making swift progress is hard work, with the engine becoming ‘boomy’ when pressed hard. You soon find yourself avoiding the temptation to change down a gear as the six-speed gearbox isn’t one of the Steed’s strongest assets.
That said, we used the pick-up on a 500-mile round trip to Leicestershire, plus a family outing to Longleat Safari Park and it’s long distance manners were very good. The slightly bouncy ride is typical of pick-ups of this nature and you do learn to avoid potholes, as the resulting ‘thud’ can be quite severe.
Other negatives include plenty of wind and engine noise at high speeds, although at least they help to drown out the excessive road noise. Aside from that, the Steed behaves far better than you might think. We wouldn’t think twice about doing another 500-mile round trip in one.
Genuinely, if you intend to run a Steed as a weekday workhorse, you won’t feel shortchanged if you’re forced into using it at the weekend. Just look out for the brakes, which seem inadequate at bringing this 1835kg lump of Chinese metal to a halt. They certainly make you think twice before mixing it with the Audi A4s and the Vauxhall Insignias on the outside lane of the M5.
So how does it perform as an everyday proposition?
As you’d expect, we approached the Great Wall Steed Chrome from a more consumer-led perspective – viewing it more as a lifestyle vehicle than the hardworking commercial vehicle it’s destined to become. And after a week spent in the company of the Steed, we see no reason why it couldn’t slot neatly into family life.
Let’s get the workhorse essentials out of the way first. The Steed boasts a braked towing capacity of 2500kg and a maximum payload of 1050kg. Great Wall claims the 2.0-litre diesel engine will return 34.0mpg, although we suspect you’ll see nearer the high 20s.
It also features a low-range gearbox and a ‘shift-on-the-fly’ four-wheel drive system, which was perfectly adequate on some light green-laning, if a little agricultural in its delivery.
Even the basic Steed S offers an enviable list of standard equipment, with air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, Alpine radio/CD, Bluetooth and heated leather seats all included for the entry-level price. Opt for the Chrome edition and – as we’ve already mentioned – this extends to a few more cosmetic enhancements, including metallic paint.
It’s impressive and on paper at least, a formidable offer. But there’s a catch. Start to dig a little deeper and the gloss – quite literally – begins to wear off.
Even after 3000 miles, the interior was showing severe signs of wear and tear. The leather is of a low quality rarely seen today and was already ‘threading’ in a number of places. The plastic coating on the passenger airbag panel – well that was already peeling as though it has been sat in the sun for 20 years. And we even found areas where the metallic paint lacquer was beginning to deteriorate.
The Alpine CD/radio also feels a bit archaic, with a series of tiny buttons making it near-on impossible to use whilst out on the road. It may have been acceptable in the 80s, but today a head-unit like this just doesn’t cut it. The air conditioning didn’t feel particularly efficient and, most irritatingly, the wiper motor ‘clicked’ each time the wipers cleared the screen.
That said, the gap between the Steed and its more established rivals is much narrower than you might think.
MR VERDICT: 2013 GREAT WALL STEED CHROME
If we were asked to write a school report on the Great Wall Steed Chrome, we’d probably sum it up as a ‘surprisingly good first effort’. It’s much, much better than we thought it would be and, given the purposes for which it is likely to be purchased, the concerns over quality may not be an issue.
We’d recommend spending as little as possible, forgoing the temptation to ‘upgrade’ to some of the cosmetic enhancements. Again, like the Duster, the Steed is at its most convincing when you’ve paid the least for it.
On the evidence of this first effort, it won’t be long before Chinese companies are delivering vehicles in the UK capable of giving some of the more established brands a few sleepless nights.
In the meantime, pick-up a Steed and take advantage of the generous 6-year/125,000-mile warranty package. It could be the best take-away you’ve had this year.
- Volkswagen Amarok – from £20,720 plus VAT
- Toyota Hilux Double-Cab – from £20,045.83 plus VAT
- Nissan Navara Double-Cab – from £17,954.17 plus VAT
- Mitsubishi L200 Double-Cab – from £16,549 plus VAT
- Ford Ranger Double-Cab – from £18,102.97 plus VAT
Specification – Great Wall Steed Chrome
Engine 2.0-litre 16v turbocharged diesel engine
Price from £13,998 (Chrome)
Torque 225lb ft
0-62mph n/a seconds
Top speed 87mph