I highly doubt there are many block mounted photos of the GWM Steed hanging on preadolescent boys’ bedroom walls next to a 458 Italia or even an Amarok, but that’s OK, because when it comes to hitting the nail in terms of its core focus, all you have to do is look around South African roads to see how squarely on the head that GWM wallop has been.
The South African market is one that enjoys a good double cab bakkie thanks to our outdoorsy, rugged nature, but it must be said that with the rise in popularity of the vehicle package, so followed the pricing and those looking to buy a new, capable, comfortable and good looking double cab usually went shopping with anything around R300 000 in their wallet. However, with prices starting at just R184 990, the GWM Steed 5 Double Cab petrol and diesel could be enough to swerve those off the path of fanatical brand loyalty and more towards the main purpose of what owning a family-oriented pickup is all about. Let’s not forget that GWM is already China’s largest SUV maker and overall vehicle exporter, with over US$1 billion put aside for its in-house tech centre research and development to produce more refined vehicles, engine technology and testing facilities to capture the 8% global market share it is eyeballing for 2020.
Our first wave of GWM pickups definitely carried a “plumber’s toolbox” look, but the still-in-production and still fresh Steed 3 was the first GWM to offer something pleasing to the eye, with rounded features, attractive mouldings and an overall appeal to someone other than wrench-slingers. GWM engines, based almost precisely on Toyota blueprints, have also proven themselves reliable and strong enough to take on the toughest work situations of India, Russia and of course Africa, so there’s no reason it should let you down during a Sandton shower.
The Steed 5 has a redesigned front end, including the grille, light clusters and bumpers, for a much more angled, sporty look than its slightly bug-eyed predecessor, which gives it an aggressive, tough look from head on. The back section, with its narrow taillight clusters and flattened tailgate, could probably have done with a lift, but from any other angle, the Steed really looks the SUV part. Most of the changes and improvements have been made in terms of comfort levels and engine specifications.
Air conditioning and power windows, -mirrors and -steering are now standard across the range, along with an improved CD/MP3 stereo system with satellite controls on the adjustable steering wheel. Individual bucket seats ensure passenger comfort up front, with easy access to a stylish and easy to operate centre console. The usual array of cup holders, storage binnacles and passenger amenities, made from good quality materials overall, makes the interior a pleasant and practical, if somewhat utilitarian, place to be (opting for black leather takes the ambience up a good notch or two). A remote alarm/immobiliser and central locking setup rounds off the comforts package.
The engine for Steed 5 is the biggest change, with GWM tossing the 2.8TDI model for a 2.5TCI common rail, intercooled turbo-diesel unit employing Bosch EFI. Improved fuel economy with matching performance was the goal here and the TCI delivers a useful 80kW across a wide band of 300Nm of torque. The other engine option is a 2.4-litre petrol, good for 100kW and 200Nm. In terms of what this car is supposed to be used for (or any double-cab for that matter), the diesel seems by far the better option. Both have a 70-litre fuel tank and wide ratio 5-speed manual gearbox that should see good range, however no official economy figures have been published as yet. Given this is a brand new engine built with efficiency in mind, expect around the 8-litres/100km mark for the diesel – anything more and GWM are off the mark (and simply not trying hard enough); anything less, and they have a winner.
On to the practical side, the Steed has good ground clearance of 198mm, sitting astride 16-inch alloy wheels protected by moulded mud flaps, also featuring a double-insulated load bin with tie down hooks for carrying around your off-road bike, the jetski, a pallet of building materials, or more likely a bag of shopping from Woolies. A one-ton payload is offered by its variable rigidity asymmetrical leaf springs and double wishbone independent setup at the front.
Safety is often an issue when it comes to purchasing Chinese cars, but the same goes for toasters for that matter. GWM have served up a respectable level of features in this regard. ABS and EBD are present for the front disc brakes (drums at the rear), as are dual airbags, front foglights, central locking and a 4 star C-NCAP rating. That’s “Chinese” NCAP, so I won’t wager a guess as to how that translates to Euro NCAP, but based on the chassis components and safety features, I would expect at no more than 3 stars here, which is still as good as (if not better) than the likes of the Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton, all weighing in with around R100 000 more on their price tags.
GWM offers an extensive three-year/100 000km warranty and two-year, 24-hour roadside assist package with all Steeds sold, which should also allay some fears regarding service and reliability. All in all, the biggest drawcard for the Steed still remains its low pricing, but if you’re seriously in the market for a good, honest, comfortable and reliable 4×2 or 4×4 double cab pickup, ignore the price and the badge. Just take a good look inside and out a Steed 5 and then imagine your wallet with around R100 000 extra cash in it.
Pricing starts at R184 990 for the Steed 5 Double-cab 2.4 Petrol 4X2 Luxury, going up to R199 990 for the 4X4 Luxury. The Steed 5 Double-cab 2.5 Diesel 4X2 Luxury comes in at the same price, going up to R217 990 for the 4X4 version. Prices include emissions tax and VAT.
- Kevin Willemse