The real story comes later this year when the diesel and automatic transmission arrive. In the meantime, Great Wall Motors has just released a better equipped, restyled version of its off road X240 wagon, pegged amazingly at the same price as the first.
The big drawcard with this vehicle is the price, which at $23,990 driveaway is mighty persuasive, especially if money is tight (and when isn't it?) You don't see as many of the X240 wagons as you do the Great Wall utes. But the ute's rock bottom pricing means it has found a ready market with tradies just about everywhere.
For the asking price the X240 delivers leather upholstery and climate air conditioning, along with a power operated driver's seat and a whole grab bag of goodies in a smart looking package. Bluetooth and a touchscreen audio system have been added to the latest model, along with a reversing camera, a DVD player, steering wheel audio controls, plus automatic lights and wipers.
What you still don't get and what prevents the sale of this vehicle in Victoria is electronic stability control which won't get here until later this year, with the arrival of the diesel-powered X200. Victoria became the first state to mandate the proven, life-saving technology from the beginning of this year and the rest of the country will soon follow suit.
It's too soon to see how Great Wall's vehicles are standing up to the rough and tumble of Aussie life. But, little more than 12 months down the track, the Chinese manufacturer has already made running changes to the wagon.
Changes have been made to the front panels, there's different lights and a different front radiator grille, all of which combine to give the car a fresher, almost Mazda-like appearance. Say what you will about the rest of the car, but Great Wall certainly has an eye for design.
The X240 sits on the same ladder chassis as the Great Wall ute. It's powered by a 2.4-litre, petrol four cylinder engine built under licence from Mitsubishi, in combination with a five speed manual gearbopx and a part-time four wheel drive system that can be engaged on the move with the push of a button.
Generating 100kW of power at 200Nm of torque, fuel consumption is a claimed 10.3 litres/100km. With low range and a reasonable amount of ground clearance, you can take this vehicle off road with confidence. But like most four wheel drives it will spend the majority of its life as a suburban hack.
The drive experience is a bit rough and ready, almost agricultural in the context of the latest Japanese wagons. For example the engine generates plenty of noise, vibration and harshness and a fair percentage of it penetrates the cabin. The effect is exacerbated by the fact that you have to work the four cylinder engine hard to get the most out of it. But, it gets the job done.
The manual gear change is vague and finding the right gate can be difficult at times. In this regard, some fine tuning of the setup would go a long way. The thing is Great Wall's cars will improve and more rapidly than most people anticipate.
Standard equipment includes two airbags, anti-lock brakes, with electronic brake force distribution, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, and an eight-speaker sound system with AUX and USB input.