Vastly improved Chinese SUV
Misguided xenophobes who resist buying made in China products won’t know what they’re missing with Great Wall’s much-improved SUV, writes
When I first drove Great Wall’s products about two years ago, the company only had petrol engines and manual gearboxes, and no experience of either diesels or automatics. The paint was grim in areas that were covered by doors and bonnet lids, and not much better anywhere else.
I mentioned this, and a clutch of notebook wielding GW acolytes took everything down, as they probably do with visitors all the time.
Overall, the mechanical side of the vehicles – mainly utes and a prototype new SUV – was not bad at all. The engines wouldn’t set the world on fire but they were easy to operate thanks to obvious attention to driving and pedal positions, slick, nicely set transmission levers, and steering that while rather light, was accurate. Braking was a little less good, and overall my report card was on or below five out of 10.
What a difference two years make. That prototype SUV has grown into the X200. It now has the wheel on the right for export, has already had a styling facelift and, although most of the models imported into New Zealand have been petrol manuals, the car can now be optioned with a two-litre 110kw turbodiesel four with manual and five-speed automatic choices.
The Great Wall mechanically outspecs every Japanese light to midsized SUV on the market, save for the recently launched Mazda CX-5. And that’s before you count the power seating, leather trim, cruise and climate control, Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, and reversing camera with big screen CD/MP3, DVD AM/FM radio.
Though the X200 only proffers two airbags, it does have ESP and ABS, and scores a commendable four-star NCAP safety rating.
At 4649mm long, the car is about the size of a series II Toyota Fourrunner and the company admits that its demographic for the car was exactly that catchment.
Look, it isn’t perfect. The seats are too flat, and unsupportive for me, but the leather’s convincing and that stereo can make your ears bleed if you let it. The diesel engine clatters a little when cold, but once hooked-up and warmed-over it will maintain a surprisingly relaxed cruise-controlled 100kmh in fifth at under 2100rpm, and it can kick down to provide a brisk overtaking manoeuvre when required.
With just 110kw on tap it’s no rocket ship, but its torque of 310Nm means it shouldn’t shrug at up to 1700kg towing jobs. The X200 tips the scales at a hefty 2550kg but it didn’t feel that heavy and seemed quite nimble on the road.
The still rather over-light steering doesn’t self-centre very well, so it’s best to guide the helm back into position, but the independent front, beam-axle rear suspension works quite well and it’s better at coping with pock-marked surfaces than some more experienced Japanese brands.
The fixed, torque on demand, allwheel-drive set-up appears to cope with the light dirt work I managed to put the X200 through during my brief drive. Clearance is adequate, and though a high-low range facility would be useful, for a family weekender it’s well sorted for riverbed and gravel road sorties.
It’s also very well-priced at $34,990 with a three-year 100,000km warranty, and with brilliant paintwork, and vastly improved interior finishes than I remember in China, I’d feel comfortable with the X200 as a family prospect. The X240 petrol car starts at $28,490 in manual form.
For those concerned about resale value, which is a factor, it has to be said, with all new brands – Great Wall has a useful $2000 down and $180 a week arrangement. They might be fresh to the automotive fray but Great Wall appears to have thought of just about everything, and you get the feeling that within a few production weeks, the steering and seating will have been noted and on the way to being fixed, such is the steepness of the Chinese learning curve.
Great Wall X200: Well-styled full-frame SUV is a refreshing newcomer to the segment.