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.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story: Cory Martin

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

Pho­tos: Ger­ald Shack­lock

Our tour of cut-price duty started with Bun­nings, and its apt com­pany slo­gan.

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