Steed vs Vi­gus

AL­WYN VILJOEN learns how to ask for ‘dis­count’ in Man­darin

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

I HAVE long been im­pressed by Great Wall Mo­tors (GWM), a company I had de­scribed as “China’s equiv­a­lent of Toy­ota”.

Just the Re­search and De­vel­op­ment di­vi­sion at GWM em­ploys 6 500 peo­ple, many of whom are work­ing on post doc­toral re­search, and GWM plans to in­crease the R&D staff to 10 000 in the next few months.

They use the lat­est dig­i­tal de­sign tools to quickly make and im­ple­ment feed­back from clients. Com­pare this to the tra­di­tonal de­sign ap­proach, which is to model a car with nice lines, use the moulds as long as pos­si­ble and then de­sign some­thing to­tally new after five years.

The GWM phi­los­o­phy is to “im­prove lit­tle by lit­tle ev­ery day”. Which is why the 2,0-litre VGT Steed Xs­cape I drove this week is light years from the first Steed I had tied with a rope to a CAM bakkie eight years ago.

The idea back then was to see which of the many Chi­nese bakkies that were on sale could pull the hard­est.

Those old CAM and Steed bakies were about equally matched, but the GWM bakkie went on to be­come China’s best sell­ing bakkie for eight con­sec­u­tive years while CAM stopped sell­ing in SA.

China’s top-sell­ing bakkie

The Steed 5 dou­ble cab I drove this week shows why the Steeds sells in China like the Hilux does here.

All the ma­jor en­gine parts are made by Bosch, which GWM says “fully guar­an­tees a high qual­ity en­gine with low noise and fuel con­sump­tion”.

The 2,0-litre VGT turbo-diesel makes 105 kW at 4 000 rpm and 305 Nm from 1 800 to 2 800 rpm, send­ing the power to the rear wheels through a smooth six-speed trans­mis­sion.

What is most im­pres­sive from this ad­vanced high-pres­sure en­gine is the lack of turbo lag. For those who need a 4x4, wait a few months, when a Steed 5 will be sold with a BorgWarner elec­tric all-wheel-drive sys­tem that shifts on the fly from two high to four high. Four low can be en­ganged when parked.

Even with only 4x2 the Xs­cape is still a good buy for fam­i­lies who like to go camp­ing. The cargo body, for ex­am­ple, can fit stuff that are 1,68 me­tres long. The in­te­rior is pleas­antly clad in plas­tics that look soft (although they feel hard), with leather-looka­like on most sur­faces and gen­uine leather on the steer­ing wheel.

Other lit­tle lux­u­ries inside in­clude a tyre mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that dis­plays in the rear view mir­ror and a touch screen me­dia cen­tre that can link via Blue­tooth or plays au­dio­vi­sual files from an SD card slot or USB port. You will soon use th­ese in­puts, as the new frac­tal antenna that re­placed the roof antenna of the old Steed seems to catch as much static as it does a clear FM sig­nal.

Price and com­pe­ti­tion

At just un­der R275k, the GWM Steed 5 Xs­cape com­petes headon with the JMC Vi­gus SLX, which sells for R290k, but this in­cludes a five-year or 60 000 km ser­vice plan, which is op­tional on the Steed.

The JMC war­ranty is for three years or 100 000, com­pared to GWM’s longer, com­pre­hen­sive five years or 100 000 km war­ranty, with a 10-year cor­ro­sion war­ranty and two-year/24-hour road­side as­sis­tance.

The 2,4 turbo diesel in the Vi­gus is less pow­er­full than the Steed 5’s 2-liter, but the Vi­gus beats the Steed 5 in ride com­fort.

The Steed rides an inch higher on dou­ble wish­bones with a tor­sion bar up front, giv­ing that typ­i­cal bakkie ride — hard over the bumps and loose in the cor­ners. The Vi­gus rides on a dou­ble wish­bone with he­li­cal springs up front and softer leaves at the back and it de­liv­ers a pli­ant ride that won’t have the wife hug­ging her chest over back roads.

While I did not load th­ese bakkies, ex­pe­ri­ence dic­tate the Steed’s harder ride will en­able it to carry a load that will force the Vi­gus low onto its haunches.

It all adds up to the top-end Steed be­ing six of one and the Vi­gus half a dozen of the other and what this means is looks will be­come the fi­nal de­cider for most buy­ers. Both bakkies look good enough to at­tract pas­sion­ate views, with the Steed of­fer­ing taut lines and hard flanks that will ap­peal to VW Amarok or Ford Ranger ad­mir­ers, while the Vi­gus has flared lines and pumped curves that re­minds of the Mazda BT-50. For those who like both, I say let the dealer dis­count de­ter­mine the sale.

PHOTO: JONATHAN BUR­TON

The Steed 5 Xs­cape of­fers a lot of hand­some bakkie for the price, but so does JMC’s Vi­gus.

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