CONSIDER this the bareback experience. Aboard the new Great Wall Steed (it's called Wingle overseas), this is the dual-cab ute's comeback to the Australian market.
Much like Tony Lockett and Hey Hey It's Saturday, the Great Wall's return will be known for all the wrong reasons.
One of the most asked questions of motoring scribes is "the best car you've driven". A close second is the worst. For now, the Steed takes that inauspicious title.
Apart from the fact it received a two-star Australian safety rating this week - heck that's the same as the Ford Mustang so it's not all bad - the driving experience is more confusing and expletive-laden than a Molly Meldrum speech.
The best news is it's priced from $29,990 drive-away...but the caveat list is long.
On the road
Underpowered, vague steering and a turning circle to rival a truck ensures the Steed is a handful.
You really have to drive the dual cab, much like the experience of utes from a decade ago. Some of the other cut-price utes on the market (such as the Foton Tunland) aren't much better, but the utility genre has improved dramatically during recent years with improved ride and performance which is almost car-like.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel which really doesn't get going until above 1500rpm. Jump on the accelerator and it feels like you're pushing rope before reaching the 310Nm torque sweet spot between 1800-2800rpm.
Patience is required, and you need to apply that virtue when parking. Swinging into spots needs precision, and you'll get a work out regularly as three-point turns become a routine due to the monumental turning circle. Steering rivals a Kardashian for vagueness, and on the highway there is ample slop on centre and you can give short saws left and right without having an impact.
The ride is reasonably smooth, and better than some of the other modern dual cabs, and this translated to being comfortable even on a short off-road stint.
Shifting into four-wheel drive is simple via dash buttons, and it is armed with a BorgWarner transfer case.
Ground clearance is just 171mm so tackling anything too tough off-road is out of the question. The Mitsubishi Triton is 205mm, Toyota's HiLux is 279mm...even the new Subaru XV coming soon is 220mm.
Compared to the old V240 model this variant got major upgrades. There's no asbestos parts, and it also has six airbags (including curtain airbags which the VW Amarok lacks) and electronic stability control.
Despite ticking many of the technical boxes, structural integrity is still an issue. ANCAP reported "excessive footwell deformation, separation of footwell panels and pedal displacement in the frontal offset crash test".
The side impact test got full marks, but in total it scored 16.49 out of 37.
Another missing feature is tether points for children's car seats. The dual cab ute has become family-friendly for work on weekdays and play on weekends...but it's useless if your kids are young.
Interior features are impressive, with carpet floor, fake leather seat trim with the front two chairs heated, real leather on the steering wheel, electric adjustment of the driver's seat, cruise control, aircon, 16-inch alloys, roll bar, side steps, 13-function digital driver display and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The basic stereo is difficult to pair to your phone, and our test car had a deafening disparity between volume on calls and the stereo. Cranking up the volume on calls, if you forget to turn it down quickly the radio or CD will blast your eardrums. Getting your phone to pair via Bluetooth is a challenge and it's the first time in a while we've had to check the manual.
One modern functionality is automatic lights, but when in use the high beam didn't work on our test car.
Back to the positives, and the cabin is quiet, with useful cup-holders in the console and door storage.
It also possesses excellent tie-down points on the outer side of the tray, although there is a flaw with the rear tub: when parked on a small decline during a storm, it filled with water due to no drainage holes.
About 37,000 Great Walls have found homes since the brand went on sale here in 2009.
There is no doubt the manufacturer has improved, and the Haval offerings are a fine example of how far they have come. But the Steed has not advanced enough.
Price point has been the motivating factor behind previous sales. Staff who don't care about their work vehicles, another key factor.
Yet when you have the option of getting into a Mitsubishi Triton GLX for $32,990 drive-way, it shows how far the Steed is off the mark.
Yes, it has improved safety features, and an excellent list of features, but the trade-offs are not worth the bargain price.
Great Wall Steed
Price: $29,990 drive-away.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 110kW and 310Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive.
Safety: Two stars, six airbags
Dimensions: 5345mm (L), 1800mm (W), 1760mm (H).
Spare: Full size steel.
Towing: 2000kg (braked).
What matters most
WHAT'S IT GOT: Strong specification list, handy tie-down points.
WHAT IT HASN'T: Guts and performance of any kind, structural integrity, child seat tether points.
WARRANTY: Three-year/100,000km, three years of free roadside assistance.
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