SADDLE UP

DUAL CAB 4X4S DONíT COME MUCH CHEAPER THAN A GREAT WALL STEED, BUT IS IT ANY GOOD?

WORDS & PHOTOS FRASER STRONACH

THE GREAT Wall Steed dual cab you see here currently sells for just $24,990 drive-away no-more-to-pay, yet it offers the safety and convenience of on-demand 4WD where even the most expensive Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger has to make do with relatively primitive part-time 4x4. The Steed also comes with rear disc brakes, only found on the most expensive $80K Raptor, and VW Amarok V6 least expensive of which is twice the price of the Steed. Inside the Steed youíll find leather, heated front seats and a whole host of other upmarket equipment.

Sound too good to be true? Letís find out.

What You Get

THE STEED only comes in one 4x4 dual-cab model ($24,990 drive-away) but the equipment runs to leather, electric adjustment for the driverís seat, two-stage heating for both front seats, a six-speaker audio system, auto wipers, auto headlights, tyre-pressure monitoring system, and steering wheel controls for the cruise control, audio and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Our test vehicle also had sat-nav, which is a $990 option. Thereís also 4WD singlecab diesel for $20,990 (drive-away), which includes an aluminium drop-side tray. T wo-wheel drive models are available in diesel and petrol, and single and double cab.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

THE STEEDíS 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel claims a modest 110kW and 310Nm but benefits from the fact that the Steed isnít a particularly heavy or big ute Ė being more the size of an older generation ute like the Nissan Navara D22 or the last of the Holden Rodeos Ė so the performance is a little better than you may expect, even if its highway overtaking performance is limited.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual (thereís no auto option) and off-idle is a bit soft, but it becomes energetic enough with a few revs on-board, helped by the fact maximum torque is on tap over a 1000rpm-wide band that stretches from 1800 to 2800rpm. The gearing isnít overly tall, either (50km/h/1000rpm), so once up to highway speeds it holds the taller gears on hills without much fuss. The engine is quiet, smooth and surprisingly refined, while the gearbox offers light shifts but not a notably precise shift gate.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

LIGHT but not particularly precise is also the best way to describe the Steedís steering, especially in the light of the excellent steering feel and precision of the best of the current mainstream dual cabs. Still, you get used to the Steed just in the same way you got used to many older popular utes that didnít steer all that well, eitherÖ think Navara D22. Our 20,000km-old test vehicleís suspension also felt underdamped at the front, which did the on-road dynamics no favours.

On a more positive note the ride quality is reasonable, even unladen. Better still is the auto-engaging 4x4 system, which has, at its core, a Borg Warner torque-on-demand transfer case, similar to that used in the Ford Everest. Thereís still a 2WD mode if you wish to use that, but by switching to the ĎAWDí mode, which you can use on any road surface, the system engages 4WD if and when needed. In effect itís like having full-time 4x4 and brings convenience and safety benefits on wet bitumen and variable (sealed to unsealed and wet to dry) road surfaces.

OFF-ROAD

THE SAME transfer case, operated by buttons on the dash, offers low-range 4WD with a handy 2.48:1 reduction. Helping the Steedís cause off-road is decent wheel travel at the rear and effective electronic traction control. Not so good is the fact the Steed is a little low slung and the wheel travel offered by the independent torsion-bar front suspension isnít anything special. The upshot of all this is the Steed is useful in easy to moderate off-road conditions, but baulks at the more serious off-road terrain in much the same way as a current Mitsubishi Triton does.

Tall, relatively narrow (235/70) tyres on 16s are positive from an off-road practicality point of view, even if the standard Ďhighwayí tread pattern isnít what you want off-road. Thereís no heavy-duty recovery hooks, either, only lighterduty tie-down hooks.

CABIN AND SAFETY

THE STEEDíS cabin is surprisingly wellfinished for a budget ute and very wellequipped (see What You Get). The cabin is more the size of the smaller (Triton and Navara) mainstream utes, something you notice more in the rear seat than up front. The driverís seat offers plenty of adjustment, but the steering wheel is only adjustable for tilt, as is the case with many of the more expensive dual cabs.

This particular Steed variant hasnít been ANCAP safety tested, but it does come with front, side and side-curtain airbags, as well as the now mandatory electronic stability control, the system in question reassuringly supplied by Bosch.

PRACTICALITIES

THE STEED is only rated to tow 2000kg but offers a class-competitive payload of just over 1000kg. Using bundled rolls of fencing wire we loaded the Steed up to 750kg payload to test its carrying ability and it carried this with surprising ease, both from a chassis point of view and even more surprisingly in terms of engine performance. Certainly, the way it felt with that load on board gave the impression it could cope with the full 1000kg payload. Currently there are 34 Great Wall dealers in Australia, and the Steed comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty. Since mid2016 the distribution of Great Wall utes is through a fully-owned factory rather than a third-party distributor, which should bode well for Great Wallís future here.

A LOT OF UTE

THEREíS no denying the Great Wall Steed is a lot of ute for the money, especially in terms of its features and equipment. While it may not perform as well on- or off-road as the more expensive mainstream dual cabs, itís still more than reasonable to drive. Spend some money on decent dampers and better tyres, and perhaps a reset of the front torsion bars and new rear springs for a bit of off-road lift, and it could be much better.