Great Wall Steed

With a wave of vehicles from China expected to start arriving in the UK, Gary Squires gears up to putting them through their paces. First up is the Steed from Great Wall.

The pick-up truck is becoming an increasingly popular choice for installers – as the recent run of them in Installer testifies – because they combine the practicality of a work vehicle with the versatility and comfort of a ‘car’ for when you’re not working. With this in mind (and over 35 years’ experience of utility vehicles), it’s easy to see why Great Wall has chosen to unleash its own version – the Steed – as a first attempt at gaining a vital foothold in the UK market.

On the road

First things first. I don’t think that the Steed is really fighting for ‘the car at the weekends’ market – it just doesn’t have the handling. There was very little feeling back through the steering and at times – and at speed – it felt worryingly light. In reality, the Steed is a workhorse. It’s rugged, solid and robust and will probably take quite a bit of abuse out and about on site. Similarly, it’s responsive enough in terms of acceleration, but I wouldn’t have thought that anyone buying one of these will be choosing it for speed.

The brakes felt at times like they were asleep and then suddenly woken by the furtherapplication of my foot to the pedal, which takes a bit of getting used to. The steering was nice and light at low speeds, which – together with the reversing sensors on the SE model that I tested – made it fairly easy to park. The Steed does also have a good steering lock and good views from the mirrors to further help when fitting it into tight spaces.

Inside story

Moving into the cab, the designers at Great Wall seem to have taken the time to look at what an installer needs when moving from job to job. For example, there was plenty of storage space, cup holders and even a lockable glove box – all nice additions to have in a working van. All the controls were easily accessible, including controls on the steering wheel for the radio and Bluetooth connectivity. There was just a feeling that the interior was a bit dated – even with the leather seats. Furthermore, I didn’t find this van very comfortable. Although the seat moved backwards and forwards there was no height adjustment and no lumbar support.

A real plus, though, was that the seats are heated, which is always nice on cold mornings. The steering wheel had no adjustment either so it wasn’t easy to find a comfortable position. The other aspect that is always key for an installer when choosing a van is storage space. Personally, I don’t think that pick-up style vehicles are really suitable for a heating engineer. With other ones that I’ve tested for Installer, I’ve been prepared to compromise and find a way to make it work, but I didn’t feel the same about this one.

Normally one of the reasons for having the double cab pick-up is to also use it as a car when not working, but if this were my work vehicle I wouldn’t use during my leisure time. The SE version that I tested came with a hard top for the storage area. This is not on the standard model, but there is still the issue of overnight security for tools and equipment with a pick-up truck.

Overall impressions

I was excited about testing this truck because the brand is new to the UK and I was interested in seeing how it performed. It looks solid enough and certainly has a rugged tough appearance. The materials used feel quite hard-wearing and there are some clever touches in the design – especially in the cab – but I was a little disappointed. Obviously, Great Wall need to convince people to choose them over more established and trusted brands, and the way they have done that is to keep the cost of the Steed low compared to its direct rivals. It’s definitely going to interest those installers who want a double cab pick- up truck but assumed they can’t afford one.

These trucks come with a 3-year 60,000 mile warranty and range from only £13,998 plus VAT for the basic model to £15,998 plus VAT for the model I tested, which included a leather interior, parking sensors and the hard top. You definitely can’t complain about these figures compared to all the other makers of double cab pick-ups. Personally, though, it wasn’t one of my favourite test drives. I found it quite uncomfortable, and it felt like driving a pick-up from 10 years ago.

The way it handles, performs and feels seems a bit dated when looking at what its rivals are producing. Other manufacturers have moved on and improved whereas the Steed feels as if it has been left behind. I think that the Great Wall Steed is an ideal choice for someone who needs a solid truck to get around rural areas or even a development team who need to ferry people and tools around site. It feels as if it would handle a lot of rough treatment, but the finishing touches that would make it appealing as a crossover work/play vehicle just aren’t there.