I’m not the world’s greatest fan of 4x4 pickups. They tend to be over-sized, lumbering and, frankly, hard work.
The new to these shores Chinese built Great Wall Steed, however, might be long enough to be seen from space but it’s as easy to drive as a family saloon.
Despite an exceptionally large turning circle, it is easy to park, it holds the road well and there’s no tendency to meander when reaching motorway speeds. Though the suspension is hard, this vehicle is comfortable too – and it comes very fully equipped.
A four-door, double cab offering, this is the first in an expected run of new models due to be imported into these islands from China’s burgeoning motor industry.
At a bargain £13,998 it not only competes well on price with two-wheel drive, single cab pick-ups from other manufacturers but it beats them hands down when it comes to equipment levels.
With the entry-level S version you get plush leather upholstery, alloy wheels, air-con, heated seats and Bluetooth connectivity while for £2,000 extra the SE adds a removable hard-top to fit over the load area, a sturdy load-bed liner, parking sensors and snazzy chrome side bars.
Operated through a six-speed gearbox, the torquey two-litre diesel engine snorts and rattles like an old school oil burner and provides only sluggish acceleration but has plenty of lugging power, making it ideal for caravan or trailer pulling.
34-mpg combined cycle fuel consumption is not exactly frugal but this is a big, blunt-nosed lump.
The driving position is high and commanding, with good all-round visibility, while passengers have plenty of head and shoulder room.
Controls are simple to operate and dials big, if a little hard to read. When, oh when, will car designers cotton on to the simple fact that black ;on white markings are far easier to read than white on black?
With big wheels, chunky tyres, high ground clearance and rugged build, this is a farmer’s potential best friend. It’s also bound to find a big following among builders and construction workers while lovers of the great outdoors will relish its massive carrying capacity. It’s certainly built to withstand lots of use and abuse.
Though a new name in the UK, the Great Wall tag has adorned the back end of cars for some 35 years, with more than 700,000 examples having so far been sold worldwide. My guess is that this thoroughly competent vehicle will also carve a solid niche in this market.
Sorry Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, GM, Ford and the rest, the Steed is not only the cheapest vehicle of it kind – to my mind it’s the best. That’s no mere Chinese whisper, it’s the truth.