GWM has established quite a foothold for itself in the South African vehicle market over the last couple of years, especially within the light commercial vehicle segment. The Steed 5 has been selling well, and owner feedback ahs generally been good. Now the company is intensifying its focus on the segment with the introduction of the eye-catching Steed 6.
We like the GWM Steed 5 very much. Considering its price, it is a truly excellent offering. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t quite have the presence and sheer bulk of the latest popular double cab offerings. It is not a show-stopper.
At the 2013 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS), however, GMW South Africa did have a show-stopper on its stand: the Steed 6. This was one very showy and eye-catching bakkie – one that undeniably had charisma.
“The pre-launch interest in the Steed 6 has been phenomenal. Ever since its first showing at the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) last year, we’ve been flooded with requests for more information. And now it is here…” says GWM brand manager Hannes Oosthuizen.
Yes, the Steed 6 is here, and it is a vehicle that will be headlining the GWM range. “Given its cabin comforts, its size and not to mention its very bold styling, the Steed 6 will force the public to take notice,” says Oosthuizen. “You simply can’t miss it, or ignore it.”
According to GWM SA, the Steed 6 “targets customers for whom an upmarket Double-Cab is a leisure tool and status symbol, and who demand modern conveniences and the latest safety features.”
That said, the Steed 6 will still be priced very competitively, though obviously higher than the Steed 5. Only two models have been made available at launch: the SX and the flagship Xscape. The XS retails at R294 900, while the Xscape goes for R319 900.
Even the SX has some very impressive features, such as climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, an Eaton rear diff lock, dual airbags, ABS and EBD. The Xscape model boasts leather upholstery, electric driver seats, six airbags, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, electronic stability (ESP) and hill-start assist.
Under the bonnet, things are a less impressive. At launch, the Steed 6 is offered only with GWM’s two-litre VGT oilburner that develops 105 kW of power and 305 Nm of torque. One can’t help but feel that a large and imposing bakkie such as the Steed 6 deserves a meatier mill. Perhaps a larger engine will be released down the line…
Still, the VGT is a tried-and-trusted diesel that does dependable service in the Steed 5. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it offers a decent enough driving experience. But how does the engine/gearbox combo perform in the larger and more upmarket Steed 6? Does it offer the sort of driving experience one would expect from a vehicle that GWM South Africa describes as its new flagship vehicle?
Well, you notice the quality of the Steed’s interior the moment that you climb into the cabin. The Steed 6’s interior offers a level of comfort, elegance and technological refinement that is new to this segment of the bakkie market. No Chinese vehicle has ever had this sort of cabin before. It is quiet, comfy and very well equipped. The price of the Steed does not reflect the quality of the cabin. When it comes to interior specifications and finishes, the GWM can go toe to toe with many of the established brands.
Once you set off, the experience becomes a tad less striking. The ride is fairly hard, but not harsh. We drove the vehicle when it was completely empty, so the quality of the ride was to be expected. Overall, the ride and handling offered is perfectly in line with what one would expect from a double cab.
The engine is arguably the biggest let-down – not because it is terribly lethargic, but because the Steed 6 is such a large and imposing vehicle, that the relatively diminutive two-litre diesel mill with its 105 kW of power and 305 Nm of torque underwhelms somewhat. You can’t help feeling that the Steed 6 deserves something meatier under the bonnet. With a three-litre oilburner generating 130 kW and 400 Nm of torque the Steed 6 would be an absolute joy to live with.
That said, there is nothing wrong with the performance of the GWM’s engine as it is. The engine won’t exactly blow your hair back, but it doesn’t feel asthmatic either. Power and torque is adequate, and overtaking slower vehicles isn’t difficult at all.
Nothing about the Steed 6 feels “cheap” or slapdash. Were it not for the GWM badge on the steering wheel, one could genuinely be forgiven for thinking you were in the cabin of a Japanese, or even European, vehicle. The ride and performance doesn’t quite match the quality of the interior, but it is still generally excellent. With the Steed 6, GWM has risen to a new level. The company is no longer competing purely on price.
Sure, things aren’t perfect. There are still some hard plastics here and there, and some buyers might find the exterior to be a bit too showy. But overall, this is a vehicle that any bakkie fan can be proud of owning.
Steed 6 2,0VGT SX (2WD) R294 900
Steed 6 2,0VGT Xscape (2WD) R319 900
*No 4×4 models available at present. 4WD models will arrive in 2015.