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Great Wall v Mahindra: the cheap ute showdown

words - Joshua Dowling
Newcomers from China and India shows cheap is not necessarily cheerful – even in the LCV realm

discount new cars  » Get the best price on a new Mahindra or Get the best price on a new Great Wall Motors model

The price of getting into a new 4WD crew cab ute has never been cheaper: starting at $26,990 drive-away for the petrol-powered Great Wall V240 and $29,999 drive-away for the Mahindra PikUp.

But are you better off buying one of these Chinese or Indian-made trucks or a clean, used example from a mainstream 4WD ute brand? We put on the work boots and tool belt to test these two tough-as-guts alternatives.

Great Wall Motors V240 4WD

Overall rating: 2.0/5.0
Engines and Drivetrain: 2.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.0/5.0
Safety: 2.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 2.0/5.0
X-factor: 2.0/5.0

About our ratings

Price: $26,990 drive-away.
Country of origin: China.
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol.
Power: 100kW at 5250rpm.
Torque: 200Nm at 2500-3000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
4WD system: Electric shift to 4H ‘on the fly' up to 40km/h, 4L once stopped.
Brakes: Front discs, rear drums.
Economy: 10.7L/100km
Emissions: 251g/km.
Tank capacity: 70 litres.
Turning circle: 12m.
Ground clearance: 194mm.
Entry and departure angles: 30° and 24°.
Wheels: 7 x 16-inch, 235/70 R16 tyres.
Unladen weight: 1780kg.
Towing capacity: 2.25 tonnes.
Payload: 1000kg.
Safety rating: Two stars (ANCAP).
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Roadside assistance: Three years/24 hours.

The V240 is the newer of the two Great Wall utes on the market. It looks a bit like a Rodeo from some angles but there's not a single Holden part that fits. Call it an inspired, if borrowed, design.

But the aspect most will look at is not the styling but the pricetag -- the V240 is available in 2WD for $23,990 driveaway or 4WD (the one we've tested) for $26,990 drive-away. (Note: there is another Great Wall model for $19,990 driveaway called the SA220, but it is 2WD only and has no ABS and no airbags and a 2.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine).

The V240 comes with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, anti-lock brakes and dual airbags. Unfortunately the fitment of airbags made little difference to the crash performance of the V240 in recent tests by the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and both only earned only two stars out of five. The good news is the fact Great Wall engineers were present at the test and took information away to improve future models.

First impressions of the Great Wall V240 were reasonably positive -- until I hit the horn which didn't work. At least the rest of the cabin switchgear did its job, the instruments were clear and functional, and the cabin seemed to click together pretty well. Leather upholstery is standard.

The back seat is a bit squeezy. Headroom is limited and the lower cushion is firm, short and uncomfortable. But the V240 isn't alone among crewcabs in this regard. As is typical of many crew cab utes the centre rear seating position gets a lap-only belt and no headrest.

On the road the V240 drives much like the average crew cab ute of a few years ago. It bounces around a bit on bumpy roads and leans in corners. By today's standards it is at the lower end of the ute spectrum. At least Great Wall has put some reasonable tyres on the V240's alloy rims.

The engine is average to below average. It has a distinct lack of torque and there appears to be little difference in urge regardless of revs. It's also quite coarse, even by ute standards. A diesel is due in the second half of 2010.

On dirt you can shift into 4H at up to 40km/h at the press of a button, but we reckon the V240's offroad duties are limited. In rugged terrain the V240 was no less capable, in terms of ground clearance and wheel articulation, than the older utes on the market. But its lack of grunt made it difficult to conquer hard work.

Great Wall currently has 46 dealer points across Australia but plans to grow to 60 by the start of 2010.


Mahindra PikUp Dual Cab 4WD

Overall rating: 2.0/5.0
Engines and Drivetrain: 2.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.0/5.0
Safety: 2.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 1.0/5.0
X-factor: 1.0/5.0

About our ratings

Price: $28,999 (cab chassis), $29,999 (with ute tub) drive-away.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel.
Power: 79kW@3800rpm.
Torque: 247Nm@1800-2200rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
4WD system: Electric shift to 4H ‘on the fly' up to 80km/h (we say 30km/h), 4L once stopped, limited slip diff.
Brakes: Front discs, rear drums.
Economy: 9.9L/100km
Emissions: 260g/km.
Tank capacity: 80 litres.
Turning circle: 12.6m.
Ground clearance: 210mm.
Entry and departure angles: 36° and 20° (with ute tub), 11° (with drop-side tray).
Wheels: 6.5 x 16-inch, 245/75 R16 tyres.
Unladen weight: 2150kg (with ute tub), 2010kg (cab-chassis).
Towing capacity: 2.5 tonnes.
Payload: 1000kg.
Safety rating: Two stars (ANCAP).
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Roadside assistance: Three years/24 hours.

After a brief stint locally thanks to a distributor in West Australia between 1990 and 1993, Mahindra returned to Australia two years ago when multi-franchise Sydney car dealer Michael Tynan and his family took up local distribution.

Since then, the parent company Mahindra and Mahindra took an 80 per cent stake in local operations in 2008. It's an indication the brand is here for the long haul.

At the launch of the facelifted PikUp earlier this year the executive vice president of Mahindra's international automotive operations, Pravin Shah, said the company was committed to Australia.

"Every export market we have entered we have not left, despite the global turmoil, so we are here to stay," he said.

The facelifted PikUp released mid-year gets a new nose and some key equipment and safety improvements. The original PikUp scored a "poor" two-star crash safety rating by ANCAP but wasn't equipped with airbags. This has been addressed in the new model which has dual airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners (with longer belts for beer-gutted Australians) and anti-lock brakes.

Comfort and convenience upgrades include new seats, steering wheel audio controls, a tilt-adjustable steering column, a double-DIN audio unit with MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input. External changes include a new bonnet, headlights, front bumper and chunkier door handles.

The three year/100,000km warranty continues, but 24 hour roadside assistance coverage has been increased from one year to three years.

The 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine, the fuel rating average of 9.9L/100km, the vehicle's towing capacity (2.5 tonnes) and load capacity (1000kg to 1160kg) are unchanged from the previous model. But an all-new 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine with more power, better economy and lower emissions is due in the first quarter of 2010. Cruise control will also become standard when the new engine arrives.

A five-speed manual transmission remains the only transmission choice for now, but a six-speed auto is also due next year.

The owner's manual for the original model advises that the Mahindra should only be shifted into 4H below 30km/h on dirt tracks, but a speed is not specified for the new model. The local distributor contacted Mahindra in India at our request and told us that the vehicle can now shift into 4H at up to 80km/h. Given there are no obvious changes to the 4WD system we suggest sticking to the original 30km/h advisory when shifting into 4H while on the move on loose surfaces. 

As before, there are two body styles -- two-door and four-door cabs -- available in 2WD and 4WD.

All PikUps are available with a styleside ute tub, or cab-chassis. The range starts at a little over $20,000 driveaway to $29,990 driveaway for the 4WD crew cab ute.

We tested the crew cab 4WD cab-chassis ($28,990 driveaway) with an optional drop-side tray. According to Mahindra, 60 per cent of Australian customers fit their own tray rather than take the styleside ute tub. That said, Mahindra has the biggest style-side ute tubs in the class.

Because there were no major mechanical upgrades the new Mahindra drives just like the old one, although the seats are more comfortable, especially in the back, and the convex side mirrors make it easier to see around you.

Anyone who has driven a Mahindra will relate to the weird smell of the cabin plastics. It hasn't gone away.

On the plus side, the Mahindra PikUp has the roomiest and most comfortable back seat of any crew cab in its class. It's enormous. It's just a pity that safety and comfort doesn't include the centre seating position, which has a lap-only belt and no headrest. There are, however, air vents for rear passengers, and good oddment storage, with drink holders in the doors.

The Mahindra isn't exactly brisk but it moves along nicely once it's up to speed; the torque of the diesel engine gives it enough urge to easily keep up with highway traffic.

With its heavy duty suspension and off-road tyres, the Mahindra gets the jiggles up even on a perfectly smooth road. In the wet it is dicey. Bring on stability control, we say.

In rugged conditions, the Mahindra's more agricultural nature becomes an asset. The diesel grunt makes light work of tricky obstacles, although it is a big beast and doesn't like tight spots.

Mahindra has 20 dealer points, with plans to grow that number to 25 by the end of 2009.

VERDICT: PICK OF THE CHEAPIES
The Great Wall and Mahindra are price similarly but suit different needs -- not least of which is because, for now, one is petrol powered and the other is diesel.

The petrol-powered Great Wall ute is better suited to city slickers and urban dwellers and the rugged diesel Mahindra is better suited as a farm hand.

Both vehicles have ample room for improvement, but the good news is that both will form a strong foundation for future models.

It's not really a miracle to offer a cut price ute; any of the mainstream brands could continue to bang out a two-generation old ute with limited features and sell their vehicles at this price. What would be impressive is if the Chinese and Indian makers can build a vehicle to the latest contemporary standards for safety and quality and still be able to sell a vehicle at this price.

The question in the meantime is: buy a new one of these, or a used example of an established brand?

We'd be inclined to stick with a pre-loved ute from an established brand and wait for the next generation of these vehicles -- some years away yet.

 

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Powered By Motoring.com.au Published : Friday, 4 December 2009


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