Thursday, 2 January 2014

REVIEW - Great Wall Steed S Tracker

Chinese car making firm Great Wall Motor entered the UK market in 2012, with a pickup truck- the Steed. It promised a high specification with prices starting from sub-£14,000 (ex VAT) so would offer great value for money. There were obvious reservations, with the UK market populated with a list of well established names. But in the name of fairness I thought I'd give it a test. Happily the lovely chaps over at IM Group were happy to help, so before I knew it I had a Steed sat on the driveway...

Looks - 5/10

The Steed doesn't actually look too bad on the outside. The slightly rounded front adds a bit of style, whilst maintaining the chunky and box-like profile of a pickup. The wheels are nice, and I particularly liked the tyres with sidewall writing to add a 'go-anywhere' image. At the back there's a nice load liner (optional), step and towbar (optional); all the basic essentials for a pickup. My test model was a rather bland Noble Grey, but five other colours are available. The bits of chrome on the mirrors and door handles are a nice touch too. You can tell the Steed is built to a budget though, because the panels are simple to keep costs down.

This is even more evident on the inside of the Steed. You get leather seats, selectable 4WD, an Alpine stereo and electric windows. However, the leather isn't a match for rivals, and I wasn't even sure it was real leather at first. The plastics are definitely low-budget, which is true of the whole interior. The steering wheel is very uninspiring, and the buttons all seem cheap and lack the sense of being able to withstand the test of time. Even the roof lining was a cheap, felt-like material, but this was worse to the touch than to look at. 

Handling/Performance - 6/10

The Steed is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine which offers up 143PS and 305Nm of torque, which is sent to either 2 or 4 wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. This isn't the most advanced engine; 0-62mph takes a glacial 17 seconds and the top speed is 87mph. Once you get moving the Steed doesn't feel overly slow, but the engine is noisy and rattly so gives an impression of all noise, no go. The 6-speed box works well, and means that you can try to keep the engine revs to a minimum one up to 40/50/60mph. The Steed never struggled at motorway speeds despite the low top speed, but if you want more refinement then there are plenty of rivals to choose from.

The handling of the Steed is also rather strange. The steering is heavy, but more than is necessary. When added to the low-geared steering this makes for a strange combination on the road. The suspension seems rather firm too, but on the positive side this seems to prevent 'wallowing', and body roll isn't too bad either. I never got chance to drive the Steed under full load, nor did I get chance to take it off-road, and so I'm unable to offer any wisdom on that one. The 4WD system did seem primitive, but offered plenty of grip nonetheless, and seemed like it would get the job done.


Economy - 7/10

Thanks to it's 6-speed manual gearbox and 2.0-litre engine, the Steed is relatively economical. Combined fuel consumption is 34mpg and CO2 emissions are 220g/km, which is slightly less economical than some rivals. However the Steed is classified as a Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) meaning that road tax is £220 for the year, and the same in the first year. Again I can't tell you how this is affected by a full load, but obviously it will be lower in 4WD mode, and if you go above 60mph or so you'll struggle to get this kind of economy, but then this is a pickup after all.

Practicality - 8/10

The Steed has plenty of aspects to make it a practical vehicle to own. The selectable 4WD system means you can benefit from better economy in 2WD mode but then can use the full capabilities when the going gets tough. With the options of the towbar and load liner there is a more usable bed, and also the possibility of towing which may be useful. Also being a double cab the Steed can fit five adults in without issue. To live with, you may be left wanting more from the Steed in terms of luxury; unlike some of its rivals the Steed doesn't feel as much like a nice car, but like the commercial vehicle it is. One major issue for me was the key fob. Both the 'lock' and 'unlock' buttons are multi-functional, which means if you double press the lock button, the Steed will unlock itself. This seems like poor design and could mean you leave the Steed unlocked and vulnerable.

Fun - 4/10


It probably doesn't come as a surprise that all in all, the Steed isn't that fun. Admittedly, it has the 4WD capabilities to handle itself in the rough stuff, but then realistically this won't be your everyday commute. For the most part the Steed is just a no-thrills pickup truck. It is a tool; a practical vehicle but one that is useful only for its intended purpose. I never found myself wanting to grab the keys and go for a drive. You can just sense that this car isn't built for keen drivers, but instead for people wanting a cheap vehicle that does what it says on the tin. As I mentioned earlier, I never got to drive the Steed off-road, so it could well be a barrel of laughs in the dirt.

Concluding Remarks

So the Steed then. A practical, well-equipped pickup truck on a budget. The basic 'S' model comes in at £13,998 Ex VAT. For £2,000 more you can get an SE model, which comes with a body-coloured hard top canopy, rear parking sensors, a cargo load-liner and chrome sidebars. The Tracker special edition I tested lies in the middle of the two, costing £14,998 (£17,942 inc. VAT). That's very cheap indeed, and it's why the Steed makes sense. You get a lot of car for your money, especially if you can claim the VAT back. What's more if you want a work-horse, and nothing else, you will find the Steed perfectly fits the bill. So to sign off then on the Great Wall Steed; the budget, no-nonsense pickup that gets straight to the point.

Total Score - 30/50

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