Here at Fleet Van we spend a lot of time preaching about the need to focus on wholelife costs – and not front end prices – when choosing the most cost-effective vehicles. The cheapest to buy is rarely the cheapest to run when fuel and depreciation are taken into account.
But occasionally a vehicle is so cheap that no matter how badly it performs in other areas, it will still make economic sense. One such is the Great Wall Steed, which beats the opposition into a cocked hat in terms of front-end price. In our last running costs evaluation in the December issue, this vehicle came top in its class, beating the likes of the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200.
With such credentials on offer, it would be easy to assume that Great Wall was steaming ahead in the sales charts at present – but this is not the case. It appears that British fleets, far from embracing Chinese vehicles, are turning away from them. Sales last year were down by 43% after an encouraging start in 2013.
In a bid to halt this alarming decline, Great Wall has upped the spec for 2015, throwing even more standard equipment at this truck – great news for fleets.
New for this year is a sleeker profile, while inside higher quality materials are used throughout. The Steed has a maximum payload of 1,050kg and is now certified in the UK to tow 2.5 tonnes with a braked trailer. It also comes with a host of new standard features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, remote central locking, a Thatcham-approved Category 1 alarm, electric windows all round, air-conditioning, heated front seats and the addition of an Alpine CD/radio with USB/MP3 withBluetooth connectivity and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
An auto-dimming rear view mirror is now standard. The Steed also has a six-year/125,000 mile mechanical warranty.
Models on offer are S and SE, our test model being the top spec variant which is priced at £16,998 ex-VAT, around £3,000 cheaper than the equivalent Toyota Hilux.
This model is a marked improvement, with general fit and finish feeling a lot more solid and upmarket. It’s a handsome looking beast, with chunky macho looks, sparkling paintwork and nice touches, such as chrome side rails.
It has plenty of standard equipment too, such as alloy wheels, leather seats and reversing sensors. If the whole list were printed here, it would need its own page.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine offering 139hp – average for the sector – and 225lb-ft of torque, which is plenty to power this truck along nicely.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Steed’s performance: the seats are large and comfortable for a long journey and the gearchange is reasonably slick, while 4x4 high and low are selected by simply pressing a button.
Cons include noticeably vague steering, which can prove pretty unnerving on occasions, and low (32.8mpg) fuel economy.