PACK & SAVE
Cheap utes don’t automatically mean nasty. We take two of the most popular budgetpriced Chinese utes on a cut-price tour to see if less money still buys a lot of ute.
Cheap, but just how cheerful? We profile LDV’S T60 and Great Wall’s Steed cut-price utes.
We gathered the Great Wall Steed and LDV T60 to see how the entry level utes stack up.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, THE OLD saying goes. And with the leading utes commanding prices around $50-$70k, their budgets aren’t in everyone’s reach.
So the obvious question changes to just how much is lost when those utes start sliding down the variant, equipment and price scale? A Toyota Hilux starts at $36k; Holden’s Colorado at $40k and Ford’s Ranger at $42k, and their entry level prices come with matching entry level equipment, albeit with the shared dynamics of the respective models.
But what about the lure of the cheap Chinese ute? Is it better to buy a big fish from a smaller pond? At $40k, the top-spec LDV T60 Luxury ute offers top-line equipment at a low-level price. And at $32k, Great Wall’s top-spec Steed is around half the price of the more popular ute models, but is it half the ute?
We gathered two popular Chinese utes to see how they stack up not just against each other, but against the bank balance to learn just what a modest dollar buys, and more importantly ‘not’ buys, when choosing Chinese. So with a handful of budget locations to visit, time to hit the road.
CLIMBING THE GREAT WALL
Starting with the least expensive is Great Wall’s Steed, China’s best-selling ute for almost two decades, sold in either single cab petrol, or dual cab 2.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel. With an entry price of a $19,990 for the 4x2 single cab chassis, rising to $24,990 for the petrol 4x2 dual cab, we drove the top-spec dual cab diesel 4x4, at $29,990, claimed to be NZ’S cheapest dual cab ute.
Few frills is probably more apt than no frills, and while the dash layout, look and feel is around a decade old, the Steed 4x4 is available only with a six-speed manual. But for its sub-$30k money, there is a decent list of standard equipment such as Bluetooth, USB port, cruise control and heated seats. A rear camera is optional, but if not chosen, leaves an unsightly moulded blank/tailgate handle. A tow bar, 16-inch alloys, four-wheel disc brakes, tray liner, side steps and stainless steel sports bar are also part of the deal, so things are looking up.
There’s also a host of modern safety gear including six airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, traction control and hill-hold.
It tows, too, and at 2000kg with a payload of 1010kg, it’s modest but capable enough. On paper, the Steed looks solid.
The driving experience is a little like utes ‘used’ to be, and it’s clear the Steed is a reminder of how utes drove a decade ago. Double wishbone front suspension and a solid rear axle with leaf springs is fine as a workhorse, and remarkably comfortable when unladen.
Based on a model that dates back to 2006, a two-star ANCAP safety rating is probably the biggest cross to bear, despite the safety mandatories.
It’s also relatively quiet inside at speed, with some mild road noise permeating the cabin on the motorway, but otherwise it’s impressively refined for NVH .
At lower speeds it’s a slightly different story with the gearbox and engine often teaming up against smooth driving. The engine needs a few more revs than instinctual to not just avoid stalling, but to pull away cleanly, with a distinct dead zone under 1500rpm – above that it revs clean and sweetly to the 4250rpm redline, with its 110kw/310nm numbers relatively meek by modern 150kw/450nm top ute standards.
And while the six-speeds in the gearbox are great for economy, it often needs one, two or more downshifts in situations where some decent acceleration is required. Steed is crying out for an automatic gearbox.
Against the clock, the Great Wall offers appropriately entry level performance: 0-60km/h in 6.5 seconds and 0-100km/h in a tedious 17.3 seconds, hampered a few tenths due to second gear being maxed out at 98km/h. At least the trade-off is good fuel economy, with 9.0l/100km claimed, and achievable.
While it’s good in a straight line, steering is a different story: its enormous 14.5m turning circle (against Colorado/ranger’s 12.7m) presents constant challenges, particularly when parking in spaces at Bunnings, or negotiating the Mcdonald’s drive-through.
However, in a world of $60,000 utes, the appeal of a new car warranty could entice some, with Great Wall offering a three-year/100,000km warranty with free roadside assist.
Less of a family car, particularly with limitations relating to child anchorage
Our tour of cut-price duty started with Bunnings, and its apt company slogan.