The launch of the Great Wall Steed wasn't significant in itself, more what it represented. It was the first Chinese-branded vehicle to go on sale in the UK. It’s a four-door double-cab pick-up, and the first of many products due to be imported into this country.
With a pre-VAT price of less than £14,000 for the entry-level Steed S, it heavily plays the value card, and is the cheapest four-wheel-drive double-cab pick-up on sale today.
Rivals generally offer just two-wheel drive and a single-cab for the same money, together with meagre equipment. Instead, the Steed S features leather upholstery, heated front seats, alloy wheels, USB connectivity and air conditioning, while £2000 extra buys you the SE, which includes a hardtop, load liner, chrome side bars and parking sensors.
Its agricultural 141bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine delivers more power than its rivals on paper, but on the road fails to feel any more alive, and is hindered by a slow-witted six-speed manual gearbox. Great Wall claims 34mpg on a combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 220g/km.
We weren’t able to test it either partially or fully laden, so couldn’t judge its suspension when under load, but drove it extensively off-road, which it did - as most four-wheel drives of its type do - with ease.
On the road, however, it proves nowhere near as competent or as sophisticated as its rivals, such as the Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux. The Steed's steering is relatively imprecise and overly weighty, which coupled with an overly firm ride means it's a constant task to keep it headed in the right direction.
Visibility is adequate, however, which at least makes it easy to place on the road. The ride settles a little at speed too, and motorway trips aren't entirely torturous. Its brakes are adequate as well.
Inside, the plastics are hard and everything feels built down to a cost - and it's questionable as to whether it and the rest of the Steed would endure regular hard use. The driving position is just about tolerable, even though there's just rake adjustment to the steering, and there is a decent amount of headroom both front and rear.
The controls are logically arranged, though some, like the audio and ventilation controls, would be better mounted higher up to avoid prolonged moments with your eyes averted from the road. The speedometer markings appear cluttered too, making it hard to read the all-important 30 and 70mph speeds at a glance.
No-one is going to buy a pick-up for its driving experience, instead it will usually be bought out of a need for a utility vehicle. With its keen price tag there is some merit to the Great Wall Steed if you're on a strict budget, need something brand new and want decent equipment levels.
For most, however, a used example of a more mainstream option, like the Toyota Hilux or even the SsangYong Korando Sports, would be a much wiser investment - especially if you intend to use your pick-up on a regular basis or for longer trips.