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GWM Cannon Alpha Hybrid 2024 review

Until now, utes from China like the GWM Cannon and LDV T60 have had one big draw card, cheapness, undercutting their Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max and Toyota HiLux equivalents by tens of thousands of dollars.

And you know what, they always felt like it too, despite being packed with features and so-called “luxuries”.

But now, there’s this – GWM’s provocatively-named Cannon Alpha.

Like before, affordability is the key. But this time it adds two more reasons to buy Chinese – extra size and hybrid tech as an alternative to the standard diesel engine.

Yep, we’re talking Australia’s first (and so-far only) proper petrol-electric ute. Forget about mild-hybrid nonsense like the HiLux 48V (although Toyota is wisely not calling that a hybrid). This one’s coming in hot and spicy.

Read on to see whether the Cannon Alpha – as both a diesel as well as hybrid – rate.

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 9/10

GWM is not mucking around here.

The Cannon Alpha is aggressively priced, positioned and specified for maximum impact in Australia. Just like the very closely-related Tank 500, which is the Ford Everest to this ute’s Ranger, for context.

Three models are available at launch – Lux Turbo Diesel (TD), Ultra TD and Ultra Hybrid. All are exceptionally well-equipped, especially for safety tech, with seven airbags including a front-centre item. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), front and rear cross-traffic braking, lane-departure warning/assist, traffic-sign recognition, auto high beams and adaptive cruise control.

Side steps come as standard Side steps come as standard

Lux TD kicks off from a keen $51,990 drive-away, and features everything you might hope but not actually expect from a modern base-grade dual-cab ute.

We’re talking LED headlights, a 360-degree surround-view camera, “Clear Chassis View” under-car road view, wireless Apple CarPlay (though the Android Auto is wired), dual-zone climate control, a powered driver’s seat, front and rear parking sensors, a reclining rear bench, rear privacy glass, side steps and 18-inch alloy wheels.

For another $6000, the Ultra TD from $57,990 drive-away compels by turfing the plastic for part-leather upholstery (what’s wrong with cloth?), while also including fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, 14.6-inch touchscreen (up from 12.3), powered, heated, ventilated and massaging front seats with driver’s side memory and ignition-on/off auto-positioning for easier access, automatic parking assistance, a wireless charger, a (sometimes uncooperative) 60/40 split tailgate, electronic diff lock and an electric sliding back window. A reasonable ask, though the latter means you do lose the rear-window demister. Weird.

It features LED adaptive headlights It features LED adaptive headlights

Then from $64,990 drive-away is the Ultra Hybrid, the Cannon Alpha headline act.

Along with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, electric motor and battery, it ushers in goodies like a head-up display, rear climate controls, a rear wireless charger, heated steering wheel, 64-hue ambient lighting, a 10-speaker premium audio upgrade, electric reclining rear seats with heating and ventilation and auto reverse assist.

BTW, a less-posh Lux Hybrid cheapie might drop later on – maybe when the BYD Shark PHEV arrives later this year?

The rails make it slightly taller The rails make it slightly taller

Whatever, the pricing is sharp. And, given that the Ultra Hybrid flagship is actually cheaper and better-specified than a mid-spec Ranger XLT and HiLux SR5 auto, you’d be worried right now if you were Ford or Toyota.

Especially if you like a bit of extra girth driving to and from work in your dual-cab ute.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10

So, let’s talk about size then.

GWM reckons you might want to consider the Cannon Alpha over a Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado or Ram 1500 that are more than twice the price with kit approaching this level.

But that’s only true if you were comparing it to, say, a 1970s F-Series, because today’s Big Americans are WAY larger. Like, nearly a metre longer, and much wider to boot.

The Cannon Alpha is slightly larger than Ford Ranger, but it is still considered a medium-sized ute. The Cannon Alpha is slightly larger than Ford Ranger, but it is still considered a medium-sized ute.

The fact is, the Alpha is only around 100mm or so longer and taller (probably because of these roof rails) than Ranger and co. It’s only in width and wheelbase where you might appreciate the GWM’s extra two-and-a-half inches.

For the record, length/width/height/wheelbase dimensions are 5445/1991/1921 and 3350mm respectively.

Anyway, with that out of the way, you can enjoy the Cannon Alpha for its generically handsome face, techy LED lights, smooth sides and surprisingly elegant proportions. Even the alloys look classy.

The Alpha is only around 100mm or so longer and taller The Alpha is only around 100mm or so longer and taller

Standout details include clamshell doors that apparently cut noise – along with the double-glazed windscreen and back windows; you’ll find hidden cubby compartments on both sides which won’t fit an iPhone; side steps that probably aren’t as strong as you might like given the damage on ours; and the combination fold-down/swing-door tailgate not seen since the demise of Ford’s XC Fairmont wagon in 1979.

So, yes, the Alpha is a bit bigger outside. But also, it feels usefully roomier inside.

Even the alloys look classy. Even the alloys look classy.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside? 8/10

As with many Chinese vehicles launched in Australia this decade, the Alpha’s interior presentation is striking, with a bold, pace-setting modernity.

Dominated by the 14.6-inch central touchscreen – which is about the perfect size for this size of vehicle – the Ultra looks expensive inside. Sadly, with access only to the Ultra grades on the launch program, we cannot definitively reference the Lux interior here, but we doubt it would have quite the same swish ambience.

But space is a luxury all Alpha owners can enjoy.

There are no prizes for guessing that the sheer amount of room available is the first impression, aided by that boxy cab, deep windows and low, horizontally set dashboard.

The Alpha’s interior presentation is striking The Alpha’s interior presentation is striking

With clear air above, below and beside you, the sense of spaciousness is palpable – though not to the level of the aforementioned American full-sized utes.

The front seats provide ample accommodation, and sufficient comfort over short distances, but longer drives did reveal them to be a little too squidgy and soft to be properly supportive.

But the driving position is nigh-on perfect, vision out is excellent and most drivers should be able to actually see the Alpha’s extremities when parking – even without the help of the surround-view cameras. No complaints about the many storage options either, especially around the deep centre console area.

The Alpha’s dash is lovely to behold, with a very pleasing symmetry to its design. The digital instrument dials are easy to read. And the simplicity of the big screen above and toggle switchgear below makes this one of the best in the business from an aesthetic point of view.

Space is a luxury all Alpha owners can enjoy Space is a luxury all Alpha owners can enjoy

Functionality, though? Not so much. For a touchscreen experience, there are worse, because at least here the menus are clear, access doesn’t require multiple prods and screen response is quick.

But there is no physical knob for the volume and you still have to navigate away from the home screen for important tasks, including temperature adjustment, when simple buttons would suffice. Note, though, that the largely-frustrating voice-command system does actually achieve that for you. Still, the point is that while familiarisation is required, it’s still unnecessarily fiddly and distracting.

Note, too, that the dusk/dawn light makes the toggle switchgear nearly impossible to decipher. And our test vehicle’s wireless Apple CarPlay only worked for the first hour. After that, it never operated again during our time with the Ultra.

Some more works needs to be done here, GWM.

The rear seat seems to be well padded The rear seat seems to be well padded

Meanwhile, the rear seat seems to be well padded; the backrest reclines 33 degrees for added comfort. There are grab handles, air vents, map pockets, reading spot lamps, USB ports and – on Ultra Hybrid – climate control adjustability. The centre armrest contains retractable cupholders and the second wireless charger (Ultra Hybrid only). Hidden storage areas are fitted within the seat. And that sliding back window glass is fun. 

Now to the cargo bed out back.

The split tailgate only works sometimes. One short press for the doors to swing out and a longer one for both pieces to fall as one unit. But only the latter worked reliably. And, actually, the keyless entry’s central locking operated only sometimes. More frustration.

Bed presentation wise, the Alpha cannot compete with the Ranger just yet. There is no side-step assistance up and inside the tub, nor a sliding cover, flexible rack system, roof cross bars, surround lighting, 12V outlet, sliding cleats or clamp pockets to help secure loads.

But there are a pair of hooks – that look like they’re from Mitre 10. Perhaps an accessories pack from GWM might rectify the above? Let's wait and see.

Bed presentation wise, the Alpha cannot compete with the Ranger just yet Bed presentation wise, the Alpha cannot compete with the Ranger just yet

A full-sized steel spare wheel is slung underneath the floor.

Of course, the ute uses body-on-frame construction, with a double-wishbone independent coil sprung set-up up front and leaf springs and a rigid axle out back.

The tub dimensions are as follows: 1500mm long, 1520mm wide, 500mm tall and 1100mm between the arches. For context, a Ranger’s corresponding numbers are 64mm longer, 64mm wider, 11mm taller and 124mm more between the arches.

Plus, with 821kg maximum payload in the TD and just 735kg in the Hybrid, the GWM falls behind the many alternative utes that exceed 1000kg. With either powertrain, braked towing is 3500kg and 750kg unbraked. Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is 3310kg.

Is there enough muscle lurking at the other side of the Alpha to help haul the gear around?

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission? 8/10

The Cannon Alpha TD uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, pumping out 135kW of power at 3600rpm and 480Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm.

It sends drive to either the rear or all four wheels via a GWM-developed nine-speed torque-converter automatic.

Moving on to the Hybrid version, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is utilised, delivering 180kW and 380Nm.

Mated to a 78kW/268Nm electric motor, GWM reckons the combined power and torque outputs are 255kW and 648Nm respectively, again driving either the rear or both axles via a nine-speed auto – though this one is different.

The normal 2WD and 4WD high and low ranges apply here, along with several driving modes, as part of an all-terrain response system.

Speaking of which, the Alpha offers 28.5 degrees of approach angle, 19° breakover angle and 23° departure angle. Ground clearance is 224mm while water wading-depth capability is 800mm.

The ladder-frame chassis consists of double-wishbone independent coil sprung suspension up front and a leaf-sprung solid rear axle out back. Kerb weight is 2489kg (TD Lux), 2550kg (TD Ultra) and 2575kg (Hybrid Ultra).

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range? 6/10

Both of the Alpha’s powertrains are Euro-5 rated.

The TD offers a combined average fuel consumption figure of 8.9 litres per 100km, translating to a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 234 grams per kilometre.

Fitted with a 78-litre fuel tank, an 875km range between refills is possible.

GWM also publishes Urban (10.2L/100km) and Extra Urban (8.2L) results. Our trip readout was 12.3L during our mix of city, suburban and rural driving, with some thirsty off-roading thrown in.

Both of the Alpha’s powertrains are Euro-5 rated Both of the Alpha’s powertrains are Euro-5 rated

Does the Hybrid fare better?

Capable of running on standard 91 RON unleaded petrol, GWM says the Alpha’s system is tuned for performance rather than outright economy.

So, it might disappoint some to hear that the combined average figure is 9.8L for a CO2 number of 225g/km. With an 80L tank, that translates to a range of 816km. Hybrid’s Urban and Extra Urban outcomes are 8.9L and 10.4L respectively. During our launch drive route, the trip computer showed 11.3L.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to refuel during our test drives on the launch program, so the car’s digital calculations are all we had to go by.

Driving – What's it like to drive? 6/10

Let’s start with the Cannon Alpha TD diesel.

Slow, loud, laggy and jerky, it feels like it is of the old-school variety, being sluggish off the line, reluctant to respond to throttle inputs unless you’re already on the move, and prone to surging when accelerating. Not pleasant.

Tellingly for the Alpha, a new Mazda BT-50 that was also sharing the same garage space, and its fairly noisy and gruff diesel felt delightfully muted and consistent by comparison. And not to mention stronger in performance.

GWM reckons the combined power and torque outputs are 255kW and 648Nm respectively. GWM reckons the combined power and torque outputs are 255kW and 648Nm respectively.

Only when cruising on the highway does the GWM’s engine meet expectations, settling down to a distant thrum. And it does actually deliver a decent turn of speed if you give it enough road. Just don’t plan any sudden overtaking or lane-joining manoeuvres without considering how tardy this TD reacts first.

Off-road, the diesel’s lack of muscle is also quite evident too, as you need to factor in the lag when all you want is immediate punch. 

In contrast to the TD, the Hybrid’s performance is revelatory, offering smoothness and quietness from its 2.0-litre four-pot turbo-hybrid powertrain that elevates it to another level.

At least the brakes are instant and effective At least the brakes are instant and effective

It accelerates off the line strongly and effortlessly, aided by hybrid electric assistance for a seamless extra bit of boost muscle, resulting in a brisk and responsive performer. There’s always a sense of urge.

There’s also plenty of muscle in store for fast overtaking, though it isn’t as blindingly quick as that 648Nm of combined torque suggests.

Steering is light and easy. It corners and handles well for a heavy ute, but isn’t at all sporty or involving, and lacks the involvement of the better utes as defined by the Ranger. At least the brakes are instant and effective, without the over-sensitivity of, say, many of Toyota’s hybrid system set-ups.

The Hybrid is the better of the powertrains in the Alpha range The Hybrid is the better of the powertrains in the Alpha range

Two things really let the side down, however.

The driver-assist safety systems are far-too nervous and intrusive, warning about and reacting to things that just aren’t issues.

Also, the ride is harsh and even uncomfortable around town, over speed humps, and struggles to deal with the bad surfaces common in urban areas. Sometimes you’d call it jarring. It’s only really settled out on smooth highways. This is crying out for more Australian road tuning.

The Hybrid managed to get through fairly impressively, tackling boggy tracks with ease. The Hybrid managed to get through fairly impressively, tackling boggy tracks with ease.

Why can’t other manufacturers learn from our road conditions, even if it means grabbing a Ranger and seeing how well it absorbs and isolates? Not good enough.

Off-road, with sufficient ground clearance, and the right combination of gearing and diff locks over a challenging course, the Hybrid managed to get through fairly impressively, tackling boggy tracks with ease.

Hands down, the Hybrid is the better of the powertrains in the Alpha range.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating? 7/10

There is no ANCAP crash-test rating for the Alpha right now. Its slightly smaller GWM Ute Cannon kid brother did manage five stars in 2021.

Seven airbags are included (dual front, front side, front centre and curtain), along with AEB offering junction assist and pedestrian and cyclist detection, front/rear cross-traffic alert/braking, forward/rear collision warning, lane departure warning/assist, 'Lane Keeping Assist', 'Lane Central Keeping', 'Emergency Lane Keeping', 'Lane Change Assist', a door-open warning, LED adaptive headlights, auto high beams, a driver-fatigue detector, traffic sign recognition, an emergency signal system, a 360-degree monitor, clear chassis view (to aid off-road driving) and parking sensors all-round.

No data about AEB and lane-support systems operating parameters were available at the time of publishing.

Also included are stability control, anti-lock brakes with 'Electronic Brakeforce Distribution' and 'Brake Assist', an event data recorder, 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control'.

There is no ANCAP crash-test rating for the Alpha right now There is no ANCAP crash-test rating for the Alpha right now

Finally, a pair of ISOFIX child-seat latches are mounted at the base of the rear seat, and a trio of top tethers for straps can be found behind the folding bench. A rear-row child monitor is also included.

For any vehicle, this is an impressive list of active and passive safety features. However, the driver-assist tech hounded us relentlessly throughout all our testing, to the point where we were tempted to disable them to save us from distraction.

This is a serious issue and consequently points have been docked from the GWM’s overall safety score.

More Australian road tuning is required here. Please try before you buy.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs? 7/10

The Cannon Alpha is the second GWM after the Tank 500 to score a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, as well as seven years of roadside assistance and capped-price servicing.

After the first service at six months, TD intervals at around every 12 months or 10,000km, while the Hybrid is at every 12 months/15,000km. 

Pricing varies. GWM does publish this information on its Australian website.

It is the second GWM to score a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty It is the second GWM to score a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty

On first acquaintance, there’s plenty to get excited about here.

Huge space, plenty of features, decent towing capacity, ample 4x4 capability and – of course – a very competitive pricing structure.

But regardless of powertrain, our first drive of the Alpha also reveals an unladen ride that is borderline bumpy and driver-assist systems that require more Australian-road tuning.

So, sure, Ford and co. should be scared out of their wits, but as far as being right up with the class best, you’re still buying this Chinese ute on price. GWM still has plenty of work left to do.


Based on new car retail price


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