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BUT if you want the best, the best per­for­mance, the best qual­ity, the best re­sale and the best econ­omy, don’t read any fur­ther. This re­view is about the best value for money 4WD or SUV on the mar­ket. It’s not about the num­ber one SUV. There are bet­ter SUVS, no doubt about it, but no­body else can match the Great Wall on price and equip­ment.

WHAT IS IT?

The X240 is a com­pact soft off-roader with a body-on-frame ve­hi­cle, which is a body at­tached to a sep­a­rate chas­sis (a tech­nique mostly used on util­ity ve­hi­cles and trucks), as op­posed to the body be­ing one com­plete unit and hav­ing sus­pen­sion at­tached to it, which is how most cars and soft­road­ers are made.

HOW MUCH?

The X240 doesn’t set any new bench­marks for technology or in­no­va­tion and is quite crude in parts by mod­ern stan­dards but it has one big ace up its sleeve: the price of $23,990 drive away.

For now, there is only one model in the X240 range: the 2.4 petrol en­gine with five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. A diesel man­ual and a petrol au­to­matic are due in the sec­ond half of 2010.

The only op­tion is a sun­roof, which at $1000 is a rel­a­tive bar­gain. Leather up­hol­stery, map lights, sun­glasses holder, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, CD/ MP3 player, power win­dows and mir­rors, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, rear pri­vacy glass, and rear park­ing sen­sors are all stan­dard. So is a three­year, 100,000km war­ranty and 24-hour road­side as­sis­tance. The au­dio unit has an aux­il­iary au­dio in­put socket in the form of a USB port. In­deed, the only no­table con­ve­nience item omis­sions are a lack of stan­dard Blue­tooth con­nec­tion and cruise con­trol.

WHAT ARE THE COM­PETI­TORS?

Only the tiny, three-door Suzuki Jimny 4WD is cheaper ($20,490 plus on-roads) al­though the Hyundai ix35, Nis­san Dualis and Kia Sportage, which, like the X240 are also five-seat soft-roader wag­ons, are only $2000 more than the Chi­nese of­fer­ing.

Real-world dol­lar-for-dol­lar ri­vals will likely be used Toy­ota RAVs, Subaru Foresters and Mit­subishi Out­landers, all of which are avail­able for about the same money at around 18 months old with 30,000km on the clock and some war­ranty left.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET

Al­though they share the same Mit­subishi-sourced 2.4-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine, five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and 4WD sys­tem, the chas­sis of the X240 soft­roader is shorter than its ute sta­ble­mate and gets coil sus­pen­sion at the rear in­stead of the ute’s more rudi­men­tary leaf spring set-up. And four-wheel disc brakes (in­stead of drums on the rear of the ute).

The 2.4-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine (100kW and 200Nm) and five-speed trans­mis­sion are the same as those found in the GWM V240 ute.

The X240 is no sports car. The en­gine doesn’t seem will­ing at first and it takes a while to get a head of steam up. But, in­ter­est­ingly, re­ally high revs seem to be counter-pro­duc­tive, so you need to keep the en­gine on the boil be­tween 3000-5000rpm. Any­thing be­yond that gives the X240 a bit of an asthma at­tack.

The of­fi­cial 0 to 100km/h claim is about 20 sec­onds. This is 1960s slow. The five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion feels solid but can be a bit notchy. The clutch ac­tion is light and easy. You can shift into 4WD while on the move (up to 60km/h) and there is a choice of high and low range for those who want to go off-road­ing. But the 4WD sys­tem has not been de­signed to work on tar­mac. Most soft­road­ers in this class have 4WD sys­tems that do work on tar­mac.

HOW DOES IT GO?

As with the GWM V240 ute, which felt like a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ute, the X240 soft­roader feels like a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ve­hi­cle. It’s a bit like the first Mit­subishi Chal­lenger. There are good tyres, so while the sus­pen­sion jig­gles around and gets a bit up­set by bumps, there is grip once ev­ery­thing set­tles down. MAKE: Great Wall MODEL: X240 BODY: Five door wagon PRICE: $23,990 EN­GINE: 2.0-litre four cylin­der POWER: 100kW @ 5250rpm TORQUE: 200Nm @ 2500-3000rpm TRANS­MIS­SION: Five-speed man­ual, rear­wheel drive FUEL CON­SUMP­TION: 10.4L/100km, un­leaded CO2 EMIS­SIONS: 244g/km DI­MEN­SIONS: Length 4620mm, width 1800mm, height 1800mm, wheel­base 2700mm, weight 1830kg WAR­RANTY: Three years/100,000km RI­VALS: Hyundai ix35, Nis­san Dualis and Kia Sportage, Ssangy­ong Ky­ron AVAIL­ABIL­ITY: Check with dealer DEALER: Mo­toco Cairns, Mul­grave Rd, West­court ph: 4046 6377 WEB­SITE: www.mo­toco.com.au

The brakes feel sur­pris­ingly good (per­haps be­cause the X240 gets discs on all four cor­ners whereas the ute has rear drums) but need to be stood on in a high speed stop. Vis­i­bil­ity all around is good thanks to large win­dows and a low win­dow line (com­pared with most mod­ern cars). Con­vex mir­rors on both sides of the car also help to see what’s go­ing on around you.

The gearshift could be smoother, and the power de­liv­ery of the en­gine could be bet­ter and more con­sis­tent. How­ever, it feels and is gut­less and, when loaded up with peo­ple will strug­gle, es­pe­cially on our range roads. But it will eas­ily tackle the off road with a stint on some of the tracks around the Ross and Locke west of Gor­don­vale on the banks of the Mul­grave River show­ing it can mix it with the best in the rough.

IS IT ECO­NOM­I­CAL?

The X240 is slightly thirstier than its near­est ri­vals, de­spite its leisurely pace. The of­fi­cial com­bined cy­cle av­er­age is 10.4L/100km, but by way of com­par­i­son the all-wheel drive Subaru Forester has an av­er­age rat­ing of 9.3L/100km and the base model 2WD Kia Sportage has an av­er­age rat­ing of 8.0L/100km.

City cy­cle for the X240 is 13.6L/100km and high­way cy­cle is 8.5L/100km ac­cord­ing to the Green Ve­hi­cle Guide.

IS IT GREEN?

Rel­a­tively. Pro­duces 244g C02/km. The Green Car Guide gives it three and a half stars with a green­house rat­ing of 5 out of 10 and an air pol­lu­tion rat­ing of 6.5 out of 10 (10 is best).

IS IT COM­FORT­ABLE?

The X240 is on the slightly smaller side of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of soft­road­ers. It’s sim­i­lar in size to the first-gen­er­a­tion Subaru Forester or Mit­subishi Chal­lenger. The X240’s body-on-chas­sis de­sign brings with it some com­pro­mises, how­ever. The cargo floor is higher and the floor in the cabin is quite shal­low but apart from that, the cabin is rel­a­tively com­fort­able. There’s room for four adults or two adults and three young­sters. The back seat flips for­ward and up in one easy move to cre­ate a mas­sive cargo space. The tools for the wheel jack are stowed un­der the back seat, too.

A full size spare wheel is at­tached un­der the rear of the car, which means you’re go­ing to get dirty if you get a flat, but it also means you don’t have to un­pack your lug­gage to get to the damn thing. It’s not the best qual­ity ve­hi­cle in terms of ma­te­ri­als and build.

IS IT VALUE FOR MONEY?

Yes, no doubt about, with lots of metal and equip­ment for the price.

WOULD I BUY ONE?

Only if I couldn’t af­ford a bet­ter SUV. The X240 is a good first ef­fort, and the build­ing blocks for a bet­ter ve­hi­cle are here. It fea­tures a sharp and mod­ern de­sign, is well-priced and well-equipped with three years’ free road­side as­sis­tance.

On the safety front side airbags, trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol are not avail­able. The 4WD sys­tem can’t be se­lected on tar­mac. The en­gine is coarse and gut­less and there are some gaps in cabin qual­ity.

Ba­si­cally you get what you pay for.

>> TEST CAR COUR­TESY OF MO­TOCO CAIRNS, MUL­GRAVE RD, WEST­COURT.

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