GWM's GREAT LEAP FORWARD

by James Siddall 
 

Is there a precedent for this? Not that I recall, at least not in recent memory. And by “this” I mean the simply intergalactic pace at which GWM – that's Great Wall Motors – has accelerated from being purveyors of machines that were merely pretty good at the price to being purveyors of machines that are up there with the world's major players.

Take but the GWM Steed 6. And frankly I wouldn't mind taking one. Ideally home for a few years. This big, bold bakkie has been raking in awards since its launch late last year. And justly so. Not only does its styling galvanise, but in terms of quality it matches and in some cases even eclipses the very best that this extraordinarily competitive segment has to offer.

Powering both the SX and the even more upscale Xscape model is GWM's proven 2.0-litre VGT motor. A refined turbodiesel powerplant that bangs out 105kW and a stump-pulling 305Nm of torque, running through a six-speed manual 'box. The cabin, too, is as sybaritic and as beautifully finished as any top-end double cab's, while later this year we should be seeing a 4X4 version. But get this. Prices are insanely reasonable, and the Steed 6 starts at a quite unbeatable R294 900.

Then there's its sibling, the refined new Steed 5E, and let's not forget the worthy new C30 sedan. Here's proof indeed of the massive, unmitigated strides that this Chinese manufacturer has made in the quality stakes. After all, late last year the C30 was voted tops by its owners in the JD Power Asia Pacific Initial Quality Study (IQS) in the Mid-Size Entry category. Pretty darn phenomenal if you ask me.

Of course, the Steed 5 range soldiers on, being incrementally improved all the time. In fact, every time I get behind the wheel of a GWM – any GWM, even an existing model variant that I've only recently driven – it seems to be at least just a little better than the previous one.

And then there's the GWM H6. I recently ran one of these mid-sized softroaders as a long-termer. Guess what? Its durability and refinement awed. Ditto the bigger H5 that I had as a long-termer prior to the H6.

Good news indeed is that as with the H6, this big SUV – available in 4X2 and 4X4 guise – is now available as what's termed a City model. This is essentially a baseline variant, costing just under R245 000. Which gives you a remarkable amount of metal for the money.

Add to this list the spunky little C10 hatch and the sweet little M4, as well as the Corolla-challenging C50T, and GWM now fields a broad and brilliant array of machines – with prices that in many cases make a mockery of those of the opposition.

So it might be a very good idea indeed to visit Meyer Benjamin, Hennie Lintvelt and his merry men at Suzuki Jhb South – which is also a franchised GWM dealer – and sample the wares. Now handing out guarantees is silly, but I don't think you'll be anything short of beguiled...