An­other brick in wall

The Chi­nese make their first raid into the Aus­tralian mar­ket, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

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