Ordering Chinese for pick-up? We review the Great Wall Steed S

Super-low price, decent mpg, respectable 4WD, high spec, good looks

Harsh ride, narrow power band, tail-happy

review and test of the Great Wall Steed S. Image shows the Steed pulling out of a puddle of deep and muddy water. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Who are Great Wall?

When people ask about the unfamiliar pick-up truck I’m currently testing, and I tell them it’s a Great Wall, they give the same reaction I had when I first encountered them; the merest shade of a smirk flits across the countenance, before a small laugh escapes at the same time as “Great Wall – and it’s Chinese, right”. Right.

Yes, okay, get past the slightly droll namesake and we’re onto the fact that this Great Wall Steed we’re reviewing is the first-ever fully-Chinese vehicle to come to the U.K. officially. These guys rolled off their first car 35 years ago, and have built upwards ever since to become one of the largest in China, making 4×4’s, family saloons, and pick-up trucks.
Review of the Great Wall Steed S. Image shows the Great Wall badge. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
This isn’t some piece of junk thrown together and shipped over in the hopes it’ll sell either. Nope, the Steed pick-up alone that we’re testing already sells over 160,000 units a year. 120k to the Chinese and around 40k into 120 countries including Italy, South Africa and importantly, Australia, where Ute’s and pick-up’s are ways of life for many and if it don’t cut the mustard, they ain’t gonna buy them, mate. But they do, and that’s a reference all on its own.

Great Wall U.K. currently sell just two versions of one model over here in Blighty – the Steed S and SE pick-up truck.

What’re Great Wall bringing to the table?

In a nutshell, they’re promising great value. A high-spec double-cab pick-up matched with good fuel economy at seriously cheap price. Do they deliver? Read on…

Exterior 6.0/10

Great Wall Steed S reviewed by carproductstested.com. Image shows the good-sized cargo area filled with work gear. Image courtesy of Great Wall.
We’d requested the Steed S open back model over the SE with its hard top canopy. Visually the Steed is actually a good-looking vehicle – handsome even – with a fair few commenting on how cool the squared-off, chunky rear looked, and there’s not a hint of unnecessarily-weird shaping to the bodywork either. In fact the Steed S is very similar-looking to the VW Amarok and that, my friends, is certainly no bad thing. Check out this link and compare the 360˚ view of it in Ontario Green to our shots for proof.

Driving around, the Steed S gets its fair share of attention, especially from drivers in vans, 4×4’s and other makes of pick-up. Fair enough too – it’s a badge and a name they’ve probably never seen before. Even if you’re lovin’ your cars, you’d certainly be scratching your noggin over its identity.

Cargo space in the back is about average with other pick-up’s available in the U.K., and it’ll swallow a large amount of work gear or camping/snowboarding/ski/surf/kayak equipment. Four adjustable-angle strong attachment eyes for straps or ropes mean that your gear will stay well-put in transit, while the (heavy) drop-down tail-gate is hinged strongly enough to support the weight of a couple of good ol’ boys, no problem.

Interior – 5.0/10

Test and review of the Great Wall Steed S pick up. Image shows front interior and dashboard. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
Firstly: space. The front has plenty of headroom, but the rear may give your 6’3″ plus mate a bit of neck-ache, due to the elevated seating position. Legroom isn’t so much of a problem in the front or rear, although I was informed by my rather lanky brother that if three adults were in the back, it’d be a packed, uncomfortable trip.

In spite of the fact that the rear seating position sits you miles more upright than an average car, you have to expect this with most pick-up trucks (unless it’s some giant Yank version), and the seats are actually pretty well padded considering this is tantamount to a work vehicle.

While fairly simplistic in design, the Great Wall Steed’s interior is very impressively spec’d, and as standard comes with decent-quality leather seats (the fronts of which are heated, by the way), all-round electric windows (the rears go all the way down for once), air conditioning and an Alpine stereo system which features bluetooth-connectivity for hands-free phoning. Oh, and the stereo can be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel too.
Great Wall Steed S test and review. Image shows 4 photo's of interior details; dials, gearstick, heated seat buttons and steering wheel controls. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
The plastics used on the dash, centre console and door cards are the polar-opposite of soft-touch but,they don’t rattle and are pretty well bolted together all told. The roof lining is dark, which admittedly may be the worlds most fantastically boring fact but actually, if you’re some dude working your butt off on a dusty building site or thoroughly-muddy farm, a cream-coloured lining ain’t exactly welcome. Good call on Great Wall’s part.

When pressing any of the the buttons, they don’t have that reassuring ‘clunk’ that some manufacturers’ (such as Honda’s) controls have, and it’s more of just a ‘click’. For the price of the Steed, Great Wall isn’t really going have a team of 50 people designing the way the buttons press in though are they, so just suck it up and accept the clickiness, y’hear.
Testing the Great Wall Steed S pick up. This image shows the rear seating. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
The drivers’ console simply houses a speedo, rev counter, temp and fuel gauges. It’s tidy and uncluttered with dials that light up white at night, accomplishing a definite contemporary finish, rather than something outdated or drab.

Negative points? Okay, being slightly finicky, I noticed the adjustable vent slots were flimsy and I can see them breaking easily should an over-zealous dash cleaning session take place – but the parts aren’t going to bankrupt you should it ever happen, I suspect.

Overall the interior is a fairly pleasant place to be all said, and there’s nothing to really complain of. For the spec and finish, you’re paying comparatively little and getting a lot.
Test and review of Great wall Steed S pick up truck. Image showing the interior lit up at night. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Engine and gearbox – 5.0/10

Jumping into the Great Wall Steed, I didn’t have a clue what to expect with the running gear – this is a totally new make to the U.K., and I’d never driven a Chinese-built car before either.

I’ll start with the engine. It’s a Great Wall manufactured 2.0 direct-injection diesel 4-pot unit with a single Variable Geometry Turbo, which is partly why the engine is decently fuel-efficient, and has power usually seen on larger cc diesels.

The Steed puts out 141 bhp (143 ps) and 225 lbs/ft (305 Nm) of torque. For the engine capacity, this is pretty-darn good. Comparatively, the Toyota Hilux‘s 2.5 D-4D engine’s horsepower is the same, and has just 25 lbs/ft more.
Great Wall Steed S reviewed. Image shows the 2 litre diesel VGT turbo'd engine bay. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
Even with the VGT though, there’s still an uncomfortable amount of turbo lag for a modern engine. On setting off from standing start up steep hills – and even with no weight in the back – I found myself having to give the Steed a bit of a caning in first gear before changed up, or suffer a snail-like climb back into the power band. Great Wall state the torque sits between 1800/2800 rpm which is true for towing or around-town driving, but once you’re rolling along at speed you get the best of the power between 2,500 and 3,100 rpm.

A narrow power-band in the rev-range is not unusual for a diesel, but it’s still frustrating at times, especially if you live in a hilly area. Hit around that mentioned twenty-five hundred though, and you’ll get a nice surge in speed. After a few days, you get used to which gear at what speed will land you in that ‘overtaking’ target zone, and it almost becomes part of your driving routine. Almost.
Review of the Great Wall Steed S pick up truck. Detail of the engine-cover with the Great Wall badge. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
The Great Wall Steed has a 6-speed manual-only gearbox, which does feel agricultural and heavy at times (if you’re doing a lot of driving in town, for instance) and you’ll find the six-stick has both benefits and drawbacks. The drawbacks are that the engine’s tight power-band means you’ll be shifting more than usual on any given journey, apart from if you ride a completely flat piece of motorway. The benefits are that the sixth gear equates to better fuel economy. Travelling at 70mph in fifth gives 2,800 rpm, but drop it into 6th and you’ll knock a good 500 rpm off that figure meaning you’ll save fuel and have smoother, quieter ride too. And I like both those points.

If you’re worried about reliability, the Steed comes with a 3-year 60,000 miles comprehensive mechanical warranty.

On the road – 5.0/10

Review and test of the Great Wall Steed S pick-up truck. Image shows the Steed pulling onto a road. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
Around town, and on pitted country roads, the Steed rides roughly, and tends to bang over speed bumps and pot holes. It’s felt even more if you’re a rear passenger, as the seats aren’t as comfortable in the back. However people, pray remember this is a pick-up truck. The rear leaf-spring suspension is set up for when you want to carry up to 1,050kg of bricks, sand, hay, wood or whatever in the back, and you’ll find that most pick-ups will ride in this fashion.

Once on a motorway, or even a good-condition A or B road (donated as smaller roads, for our readers outside the U.K.), the Great Wall Steed rides surprisingly well, with unexpectedly low road and wind noise entering the cabin, and an overall smooth drive. If you’re travelling a good few hours on decent roads, the Steed will reward you with an agreeable journey.

My only noticeable gripes with the motorway journeys was the loss of overtaking ability from 70mph upwards – it doesn’t really have any. Sixth gear is absolutely just for cruising, and even a lead foot to the accelerator will reap little or no reward in speed. Dropping it into 5th and flooring it only saw a slight quickening of pace, rather than a hefty wave of torque. To cajole the engine into overtaking at those speeds, you’re gonna have to drop that cog to four and give the accelerator the beans.
Great Wall Steed S review and test. Photo shows the Steed S on the road - a comfortable place to be all told. Image courtesy of Great Wall.
There’s also no cruise control (and no option for it), but both the clutch and accelerator pedals are light and at a decently-comfortable angle – unlike other cars I’ve driven in the past – and I found any distance-driving fine.

The cornering feel is more reminiscent of an average family saloon car instead of a pick-up weighing in excess of 1,800 kilograms, and rather than it doing the three ship-like L’s (lunge, lean and list), it just kind of takes it all in its stride and will inspire confidence as opposed to… well… scaring.

That doesn’t mean it’s all good though. Rear-wheel-drive plus no traction control makes trying to tackle a wet roundabout even slightly over-zealously result in either; A. performing a WRC-like sideways drift (probably into the curb), or B. spinning 180˚ to face traffic. So long as you don’t drive like a just-passed-test spotty yoof, or suddenly decide you’re Stig Blomqvist, she’ll stay the course fine.

When the time comes to brake, as is the norm unless you are actually the aforementioned Stig B, the Steed isn’t too bad. Ventilated disks sit up front and large drums at the back, with both ABS and EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) there to assist, giving a satisfactory feel. Something noteworthy here though; one time I had to give the brake pedal a properly hard push to go from 70 to 40mph when coming up to unexpectedly slow-moving traffic, and there was noticeable brake-fade afterwards for a few minutes, where I was getting maybe 30% less force than normal.

That’s an unusual situation though, and overall they’re good enough.

Off road – 7.0/10

Review of the Great Wall Steed S. Image shows the Steed in a disused quarry. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
As I already mentioned the Steed can be tail-happy if you’re not careful, and if it’s raining heavy and as you’ve got no traction control and it’s rear-drive, you’re going to be tippy-toeing around. Even setting off quickly from T-juctions in bad weather will take until second gear to gain traction fully. Sure, you could engage 4H (high) as long as you’re below 12mph, but then you’ll have to dis-engage it every time you get back onto the straight unless you want premature wear on the transmission. That’s a little annoying, and it’s a slight let-down if I’m honest.
Great Wall Steed S reviewed and tested. Image showing good ground clearance on the Steed. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
When it really counts though, the Steed’s centre-locking diff 4×4 system will certainly not disappoint. I was seriously impressed with just how good it was, and so were the other guys watching it perform too. The first point is that it’s easy to engage – simply push either the 4H or 4L button on the dash, engage the clutch and wait a few seconds until the ‘4WD’ indicator goes solid. Simples.

Once you’ve done that, the fun begins. At an old quarry the Steed laughed at steep, rocky inclines by driving both up and down them with ease – the EBD likely helping out on the way down. When we decided to tackle what looked like a shallow section of water, this actually turned out to be bottom-of-the-doors deep and consisted mainly of slick, slimy mud. Again, the Steed pretty much astonished myself and the other guys who came along by – on standard road tyres I’ll add – not even coming close to being stuck. I know from previous experience that that bit of wading would challenge a lot of 4×4’s, so the Great Wall Steed did exceptionally well.
Great Wall Steed S review and test. Image shows the Steed wading through deep muddy water with ease. ©CarProductsTested.com2012
Some advice though – get a set of good on/off road tyres fitted and it’ll be even better. If Great Wall want to lend us another Steed should we get snow this winter, we’ll let you know how it does on the white stuff.
Review of the Great Wall Steed S. Image showing dust trails from driving through dry mud. ©CarProductsTested.com2012

Price – 7.0/10

At £16,744 OTR, the Great Wall Steed S is almost beyond competitive in price. The nearest comparative double-cab pick-up from Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan or Toyota starts – exclusive of VAT- at more than the Steed S’ price inclusive of VAT. If you’re in the market for a new pick-up, the Steed’s cavernous price difference is something you simply cannot ignore, especially in the seemingly-endless dive the economy is in.

Talking of economy, the Steeds fuel consumption is up there with the other manufacturers offerings with up to 37mpg extra urban. With one trip to an airport using motorways, and the rest of the time spent driving on hilly B roads and start-stop town traffic, it still managed around 33mpg, which is excellent considering I had my lead boot on the accelerator much of the time.

Verdict – overall score 6.0/10

Review of the Great Wall Steed S. Image shows one of our testers perched on the cargo edge. Don't do that on the road! ©CarProductsTested.com2012
The Great Wall Steed is not perfect, and there are a few points that need improvement. But here’s the thing; there aren’t really many. A pick-up truck is a works vehicle, and with most you’ll have to accept a harsh ride, slightly vague handling or limited cabin-comfort. But the Steed really is more than satisfactory. Alongside rivals, it more than holds its own in terms of handling, economy, off-road capability and certainly, price.

If you’re still skeptical because it’s all-Chinese, here’s my advice; Go and test drive the Great Wall Steed for a day, look at the price tag, then decide for yourself if you feel like being a badge-snob anymore.

General info

Contender: Isuzu D-Max 2.5 – has more power, better mpg, less CO2 and better towing capacity… but it’s over £5,000 more.

Options worth having: protective cargo liner, rigid load bay cover, reverse sensors (if possible)

Good stuff as standard: leather interior with front heated seats, air conditioning, all-electric windows, electric mirrors, Alpine stereo with aux-in/USB/Bluetooth phone connection, steering wheel controls for the stereo, 6-speed ‘box.

Price OTR: Steed S – £16,744 , Steed SE – £19,144 | Engine: 1996cc Diesel (CRDi), 4 cyl, DOHC, direct injection, VGT turbo | CO2: 220 g/km | Power: 141 bhp (143 ps) | Torque: 225lbs/ft (305 Nm) | Drive: RWD/4WDTop speed: 87 mph (it’s more, we know) | 0 – 62 mph (0 – 100 kph): 17 secondsFuel economy (mpg): 30 – 37 | Gears: Manual, 6-speed | Weight: 1,825 kg | Max towing: 2,000 kg | Load capacity: 1,000 kg | Website (click): GreatWallMotor.co.uk

Score Board

Exterior: 6.0 | Interior: 5.0 | Engine and Gearbox: 5.0 | On road: 5.0 | 4WD: 7.0 | Price: 7.0 | Overall score: 6.0/10

Words: Chris Davies | Photography:Jason Fanthorpe, Matthew Davies, Chris Davies

15 responses to “Ordering Chinese for pick-up? We review the Great Wall Steed S”

  1. Lane Lamoreaux

    great review! ! neat little truck.the only thing I see wrong with it is the steering wheel on the wrong side!!

  2. stuart flather

    Just got new GWS, like it but seems noisy when changing up gears.
    Good off road.

  3. Jenny Robinson

    excellent write up and kudos to the ace photographer! Whilst I do agree with the other chap…the steering wheel is on the incorrect side. 🙂

    As a blatant colonist myself I can tell you this…I wish we had a Great Wall here. In Florida.

    Hmmmm.maybe we DO!

  4. gervais fillion

    well,gave me one,i will try it here in my winter but for the price it does not look so bad.
    i always wanted a resonnable well price vehicule,yes we know that quality is not at is peak but with time they will improove.
    i surely would try one here in Eastern Quebec.
    Gervais Fillion
    Le Bic,Quebec

  5. Martin Lamb

    Took a Steed SE out for test drive and was very impressed. Agree with everything in the review though I do think the scores are a bit on the low side. Pick mine up next week and can’t wait to get my hands on it,

  6. mdavies

    Thanks for the feedback Martin. We’d be really interested to know how you get on with it in the long term if you would share that with us.

  7. Great Wall Direct

    Hey Chris,

    What a fair and easy to understand review; You really did give it a good going through, no doubt about it.

    It gives me an idea for something Great Wall Wild.

    Anyway, thanks for putting so much time into the review, I really think you’ve done an astounding job.


  8. Noel Cardew

    I’ve had my GWS for almost a year now and have clocked 8.5k miles.
    Having only ever owned Land Rovers before, purchasing a GWS was a huge decision.
    I run a busy country boozer, doing outside events on farms and the like and tow a large Ifor Williams trailer carrying equipment and large quantities of beer.
    I also keeper a small shoot and am a keen deer stalker. Get the picture?!
    The GWS is a joy, pure and simple.
    It goes everywhere my TD5 went, on road tires, carrying everything I always needed. My LR was 110 hardtop so only 2 passengers, the GWS carries 4 at a pinch.
    It’s so well spec’d as standard as to be ridiculous. Think: heaters that work, heated seats, low road noise, push button transfer box, etc etc.
    Having weathered the ridicule of my peers prior to collection of the GWS I am definitely enjoying the last laugh. Unlike my local garage owner who’s sales of diesel have plummeted. The critical point about this vehicle is that it is a commercial vehicle and it excels in this role.
    It looks good too.
    A year and 8.5k isn’t a lot but so far so very good.

  9. dan

    What’s the towing weight. .how much can they pull thanks

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