Made in China. That looks familiar doesn't it? We see it on everything, everywhere, and it’s been there for so long we hardly notice anymore. But somehow, Chinese cars just haven’t seemed to cracked the nod. We’re quite proud that our cars are made locally, or in Germany.
Your iPhone is made in China, which you happily flout in front of your friends, but would you buy a Chinese car and be as proud of it?
Chinese cars seem to have a bit of a bad reputation, to be honest the first generation of Chinese cars, were less than stellar. In fact, some of them were just down right rubbish.
But car manufacturing has come a long way over the last couple of years, and there aren’t really any horrible cars on the market any more.
So we spent some time with the GWM Steed 5, a double cab bakkie, just to see how far the Chinese have come.
The Steed is a Bakkie, and as such it’s almost compulsory to have a Diesel engine. The Steed we tested was the 2.0-litre Diesel, which packs 100kW and 310Nm of torque.
The 6-speed gearbox is setup in work mode, and you always feel like you should be pulling something, which takes some getting used to, but is mighty useful when you are actually pulling something.
The clutch and gearbox are surprisingly smooth for such a work horse, but makes urban driving an absolute pleasure.
Despite the obvious Dieselness of the Steed, it’s a remarkably good drive, with more than ample power.
Generally when we test cars, we zero out all the on board computers, and keep track of the fuel economy. The problem with the Steed was that there wasn’t any on board computers to zero. There was a trip counter, and that was it. There wasn’t even a clock, so besides not knowing if you’re driving economically you don’t know what the time is, so you’re likely to be late for everything.
As pointed out when I wrote about the Economy, there isn’t much in the way of tech in the Steed. Sure, you get a radio, and you can put some CD’s and stuff in it.
The lack of tech isn’t uncommon in work horses like the Steed 5 though. They’re designed and built to work hard, so leaving out all the toys and gadgets does make sense.
If you want a car with lots of gadgets, perhaps an SUV or MPV would be better for you.
What the Steed does come with though, interestingly enough is leather seats as standard. Which is nice, but might not be super durable in the world of farming, or when the Steed has to spend it’s life being an industrial work horse.
The ride quality isn’t too bad either. Used as an urban run around the Steed had no difficulty in being a normal car. Being a double cab bakkie, you can easily load the kids in the back, and do the school run.
There is lots of space, in the front, in the middle, in the back, it’s one of the best features of the Steed. It feels roomy, and is. The Chinese have wasted no space, and filled no void with unnecessary clutter.
Leg room in the back row of seats is ample, and you’ll easily get a few adults or a sheep in the back.
The loading bay right at the back is quite big for a double cab, so you’re not losing loading bay space in favour of an extra row of seats, which is always a bonus with a vehicle like this.
After a week with the Steed 5, there were the obvious comparisons with a Hilux or an Amarok. The Amarok and the Hilux are no doubt better bakkies, the Hilux has a long history and pedigree of being a tough reliable bakkie, and the more recent Amarok is taking home all the compliments in the luxury department.
But as much as the Hilux and Amarok are better than the Steed 5, there is a R200,000 price difference, between the Steed and the Amarok, and the Hilux is at least R100,000 more than the Steed.
Is the competition better? Certainly. Is the competition R100,000 or R200,000 better? I’m not so sure. The GWM Steed 5 is actually incredible value.
There are a few things the Chinese need to address, and the Steed 6 is on it’s way soon enough. The Steed is already very very good value for a R240,000 bakkie, if the Steed 6 can hold it’s value proposition, and improve in a couple of key areas I think the Hilux and the Amarok are going to be in some trouble.
*About the Title - what exactly is 'Chi' - it's a Chinese unit of length or 'Chinese Foot'. Apt for a bakkie that has ample space, neh!