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Words and pictures by Grant Spolander.

Off-Road Test:GWM Steed 52.0 VGT

Thanks to frequent updates and improvements to the range, the Steed 5 is swiftly revising its work horse status. What was once a single purpose pick-up has matured into a bold blend of function, value and leisure use.

Although we reviewed this vehicle i n our August ’11 issue, we recently availed ourselves of the opportunity to test the Steed ’s new engine offering, a 2.0-litre diesel burner of their own creation; the 2.5 TCi engine was, reportedly, a previous generation Isuzu motor. While buyers can still opt for the 2 .5-litre diesel and 2.4-litre petrol models, this all-new 2.0-litre diesel engine is a welcome addition to t he range.

Despite its smaller capacity, the 2.0 VGT produces 30 kW and 10 Nm more than its bigger brother – the 2.5 TCi. In other words, t he 2 .0 VGT engine boasts a power output of 110 kW @ 4 000 r pm, and 310 Nm @ 1 80 0 rpm. Those extra horses al low the 2.0 VGT to sprint from 0 – 100 km/h in 14.25 seconds, against the 2. 5 TCi’s time of 15.31 seconds.

What’s more, instead of the 5-speed manual transmission found in t he other two models, the 2.0 VGT is coupled to a 6-speed manual box, that – for the most pa rt – changes smoothly and feels durable. The Steed’s new 2.0 VGT is a great addition to the range, and a giant step forward into t he leisure 4×4 market. However, if we were to venture a guess, we’d say the 2.0 VGT model wouldn’t be a good tow vehicle. Our criticism stems from this engine’s noticeable lack of low-down torque. It’s not terribly bad, but one can definitely feel when the turbo kicks in – at around 2 000 rpm – when the engine rears to life and quickly climbs through its mid and upper rev range. On the plus side, the 2.0 VGT is capable of good fuel economy: we recorded a figure of 9.2 l / 100 km on anurban cycle. That reading should drop to the 8.0 l/100 km range once you hit the open road. you hit the open road.

Because the 2.0 VGT is so much more refined than its 2.5 TCi sibling, this modern u nit helps to highlight the Steed’s other creat ure and safety comforts; things like electric mirrors and windows, leather upholstery, remote central If I was forced to nitpick about this vehicle, despite its highly competitive price (some R200k cheaper than other similarly specced DC 4x4s!), I’d begrudge the following: One – a slight wind noise can be heard at highway speeds, which is a bit irritating on long distance trips; but the truth is that’s it’s no worse than you’d hear in a R400k Land Cruiser pick-up.

Two – the Steed’s steering system is horribly vague. You may get used to it, but the obvious lack of steering feedback reduces driving pleasure and the sense of refinement. Three – the Steed’s suspension system is rougher than a Pick ’n Pay shopping trolley. In fact, it’s the most convincing argument against buying this bakkie: hard, unyielding and jarring. The double wishbones do a reasonably good job up front, but the rear suspension’s spring-under, solid-axle setup is unbearably harsh. Four – it’s made in China, which, of course, is a completely hypocritical statement. Many of us are happy to buy Chinese made roofracks, aftermarket suspension systems, air compressors, tyres, tents and just about anything that plugs into a wall socket these days, but when it comes to Chinese-made cars we suddenly start behaving like vegans at a biltong show.

It’s a perception problem: despite the fact that GWM is making significant strides in the improvement of their products, their toughest task is to convince South Africans that there’s no shame in owning a Chinese vehicle. This is especially tricky in the 4×4 community, where age-old traditions, bragging rights and popularity contests continue to drive market positions.

The Steed 5 is best summed up on a scale of values: it’s fairly well built, boasts good all-round performance, and excellent value for money. A test drive may not win you over, but at R243k you really have to give this 4×4 its due.