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Great Wall Steed S

Click to view picture gallery“Built by the appropriately-named
  Great Wall motor company, China’s
  first pick-up for Europe — the Steed
 
has just landed in the UK where
  it has the distinction of being the
  cheapest 4WD double cab pickup
  by far
...”

CALLED STEED unlike the suave character with the furled umbrella and bowler hat from The Avengers, this Steed doesn't come with a leather-clad Emma Peel, although it does have black leather upholstery the first Great Wall vehicle to wear British registration plates costs a hard-to-walk-away-from 13,998 (before VAT, but then that's reclaimable anyway).

Tempted? You should be. Wise man, he say: "Why pay more when you can be sure of bargain?" We'd go along with that. So, is the Steed a gift horse — or a Trojan?

For a start, go to any other brand for a pickup and 14K will only buy you a single cab with just two seats and two-wheel drive. So before you even turn a wheel (or four!) you're already ahead, even in the cheapest entry-level Steed which boasts a double cab and switchable 4WD and which also comes well specced with leather, heated seats, etc.

“Why pay more when you
can be sure of bargain?
We’d go along with that.
So, is the Steed a gift
horse — or a Trojan?
The Steed's double cab has room for 4/5 adults but if you're not carrying the full complement of bodies, the rear cabin and seats come in handy for stowing personal kit — especially for those with active outdoor lifestyle pursuits who need to haul around a lot of expensive gear.

For those who plan to make full use of the Steed's dual-purpose capability there's more good news because cheap doesn't mean 'cheap and cheerful' — even the entry-level Steed (the S, as tested here) is well equipped out of the box with full leather upholstery, heated front seats, power windows and mirrors, tinted glass, AirCon (very efficient), daytime running lights, Alpine CD/radio with USB/MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, front airbags, and a set of 16-inch alloy wheels wearing meaty 235/70 rubber.

Climb aboard and you'll be faced with a neatly laid out fascia with well fitted, durable-looking plastics that should stand up to the kind of abuse most pick-ups can expect. Controls and switchgear are logically arranged and non-distracting on the move. Plus there are ample storage bins and pockets — about the only things missing are readouts for the average mpg and the range to empty.

In addition to the hard-wearing black leather upholstery and heated seats, other desirable kit is all there along with some unlooked-for (given the 'bargain basement' price) features such as doors that lock automatically as you drive off, remote audio buttons on the leather-wrapped wheel and height-adjustable seat belts not just in the front but in the back too.

Space-wise, the interior reflects what you'd expect from studying the Steed's imposing outer dimensions: plenty of room and generous-sized seats with good side bolstering that comfortably accommodate real people. And with plenty of head and shoulder room and large windows, the cabin feels airy.

“This might be
a big brute of a ute but
it’s easy to place.
And despite the
large footprint, it drives
as well as any other
pickup
The commanding driving position is all the better for the deep glasshouse's excellent visibility in all directions — even through the back screen — and the steering-wheel's stepped rake/height adjustment is not an issue as there's more than enough adjustment on the driver's seat. Over your shoulder there's room for three more side-by-side on the rear bench, with ample foot, leg and knee-room.

Behind the cab is a reinforced and lined cargo bed accessed via a drop-down tailgate measuring 1,380 long, 1,460mm wide and 480mm deep that feels as though it could support the Forth Bridge. The maximum payload is 1,000kg and the Steed can tow 2,000kg with a braked trailer.

Once you're belted-in and off you're aware of two things: first, this might be a big brute of a ute but it's easy to place; secondly, despite the large footprint, it drives as well as any other pickup with reassuring handling and pulls up without any fuss.

Under the bonnet you'll find a willing four-pot 2.0-litre turbodiesel that kicks out 141bhp backed-up by a beefy 224lb ft of torque @ 1,800-2,800rpm to give it the necessary lugging ability — fourth and fifth gears are flexible enough for smooth progress on country roads with the minimum of change-downs.

Hitting 62mph from standstill takes a 'paper' 17 seconds (it feels far quicker); use the revs and this workhorse reveals it can gallop along surprisingly swiftly. Keep the pedal to the metal and there's no reason why you won't hit its 87mph maximum speed; 70mph calls for an unstressed 2,250rpm in 6th — in fact the diesel unit is not at all intrusive while it's working. More good news: the clutch has a light action and driving in stop-start traffic is not at all tiring.

The Steed's hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and precise manual gearchange are fit for purpose in a good way — remember, this is a tough workhorse kind of a steed but it delivers on a day-in-day-out basis both on road and off. The four-wheel drive is switchable 'on demand' and combined with 194mm of ground clearance lets you tackle some rugged terrain without raising a sweat.

It also scores well in the
economy stakes —
officially 34mpg on the
combined cycle.
We worked it pretty hard
and still averaged
32.3mpg...”
Making best use of the on-demand 2/4WD is a cinch: in slippery on road conditions, or whenever you need to go off-road, you can select all-wheel drive high by pressing the button on the fascia (on the move, at speeds of up to 12mph). Two additional buttons do the same for 2WD drive and low ratio 4WD (selectable only when stationary). For everyday driving, though, the Steed is fine left in 2WD.

And whether you're using two- or four-wheel drive, it feels pretty much planted on all surfaces. Left in 2WD it's grippy and holds its line and you can press on confidently even though it's no hot-hatch!

Riding this particular steed is no hardship either — ride comfort is surprisingly good given its separate platform chassis and heavy duty suspension. Okay, it can jar over potholes and speed humps (most noticeable when empty) but get it on the motorway and it's smooth-running enough to cover long distances at the end of which you can jump out more or less as fresh as when you left. Given that it's an unashamed utility vehicle, that's gotta be good.

It also scores well in the economy stakes — officially 34mpg for the combined cycle. We worked it pretty hard and still averaged 32.3mpg.

For the record, 700,000+ Steeds have already been sold all over the world by Great Wall, China's largest SUV producer, who have been making rugged pickups for over 35 years. Double check the keen £14K price and remember that 20K is what you'd pay for many of its rivals, and then only in their very basic specs. Even if it's just toughness and value-for-money you're after, the Steed ticks all the boxes, and then some. Clearly this Chinese workhorse is no Trojan. And as Maggie says: "The Steed certainly has M-Appeal!". — MotorBar

Great Wall Steed S | 13,998
Maximum speed: 87mph | 0-62mph: 17 seconds | Overall test MPG: 32.3mpg
Power: 141bhp | Torque: 224lb ft | CO2 220g/km