Another brick in wall
The Chinese make their first raid into the Australian market, writes GRAHAMSMITH
IT’S been some time coming, but the Chinese have finally landed on the local market with the launch by Ateco of two utes made by Great Wall Motors. Both are dual-cab models and they follow the successful formula of affordable pricing, combined with a long list of standard features that Ateco used when selling the Kia brand before the South Koreans took it back.
Ateco managing director Ric Hull was the driving force behind Kia’s early success, in which the Kia Pregio became one of our topselling vans, and is now driving the push into Australia by Great Wall Motors.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Hull is using the same formula to sell Great Wall utes, and he’s confident it will deliver similar results for the Chinese brand as it did for Kia.
‘‘We have no thoughts of taking the market by storm,’’ Hill says. ‘‘It will be a gradual process. But I think it will be easier than it was with the South Koreans. Everything we buy now is made in China so people are comfortable with buying Chinese.’’
The three-model Great Wall ute range starts with the SA220, which is an older-generation 4x2 ute. It’s aimed at tradies shopping for a second-hand HiLux or similar model, but who might be tempted by a new vehicle with plenty of fruit and a full warranty for less than $20,000 on the road.
For those who want a ute that can be used at weekends as well as work, there’s the V240 in two and four-wheel-drive variants.
The V240 is a later generation of dual-cab ute than the SA220 and sits more comfortably alongside the current models from the mainstream brands. It, too, follows Hull’s tried-andtrue formula of affordable pricing with a host of standard features. The 4x2 is $23,990; the 4x4 $26,990. Both models are neatly styled and comfortably fit into the local ute landscape.
The build quality, though not at the level of the main Thai-built players in the market, is quite good with a decent paint finish and good panel fit.
The SA220, being an older-generation ute, has hard interior plastics that lack the subtlety of those in later models, but they all fit together quite well.
Surprisingly, seat facings are trimmed in leather, but Hull says it was cheaper to leave the leather than delete it at the factory.
SA220 owners will also enjoy standard airconditioning, four-speaker CD sound with MP3 compatibility, power windows and mirrors, cup holders and a centre console. Unfortunately, they don’t have the protection of airbags in the event of a crash.
The SA220 gets its power from a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine with a modest 78kW at 4600 revs and 190Nm at 2400-2800 revs.
It’s no fireball and lacks mid-range grunt, but appears it’s able to hold its own in traffic or on the highway.
Ateco claims the SA220 will return a combined average of 10.8 litres for 100km.
A five-speed manual gearbox is the only option available and it’s a decent unit with a smooth, if rather long-throw, shift.
Underneath the SA220 is built on a conventional ladder chassis with the familiar combination of torsion bar front suspension and solid rear axle on elliptic leaf springs. It rides comfortably with little of the firmness that characterises most one-tonne utes.
The standard power steering is well weighted but still gives the driver a good feel of the road.
A combination of front ventilated discs and rear drums provides braking power. Anti-skid brakes are not available.
With a payload of 855kg and towing capacity of 1800kg, the SA220 is made for work.
Stepping from the SA220 to the V240 is a journey from one generation to the next. The SA220 has been in production in China for several years but the V240 is a relative newcomer and, as a result, much more refined.
The interior has a softer, more modern feel with better quality plastics than those in the SA220, and the fit and finish are better.
As with the SA220, the V240 has a long list of standard features, including airconditioning, six-speaker CD sound, leather-trimmed seats, cupholders, and power windows and mirrors. Again there are no airbags or anti-skid braking.
Power comes from a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out 100kW at 5250 revs and 200Nm at 2500-3000 revs.
Compared with the older, smaller engine in the SA220, there’s a substantial jump in power, but the torque increases by a modest 10Nm and it too suffers from mid-range sluggishness.
It’s quite sprightly off the line and when wound up rolls along nicely on the highway, but it struggles when asked to accelerate in the mid-range.
Hull expects to have a diesel engine available in coming months and that should improve the mid-range performance.
Like the SA220 the only gearbox option is a five-speed manual, but in the case of the V240 there is the choice of two or four-wheel drive.
Four-wheel drive is part-time with high and low range with a two-speed transfer case, and is selected by pushing a button on the dash.
Underneath there’s a ladder chassis with torsion bar front suspension and elliptic leaf springs at the rear, with a combination of front discs and rear drums.
On the road it rides more firmly than the SA220, but it isn’t in any way uncomfortable.
The payload of the V240 is 1000kg and towing capacity 2250kg.
All three models in the Great Wall ute range have a warranty of three years or 100,000km, and there’s 24-hour roadside assistance.
Aimed at tradies: the range starts with the SA220, an older-generation 4x2 ute.