Another area where this Steed may confound your expectations is in the way it looks. There isn't that much you can do with the shape of a double cab pick-up, but most, we think, will see this as one of the more smartly-styled models in this segment. This revised version got a slightly sleeker profile, with its side indicators incorporated into the door mirrors instead of the front wings. Otherwise, the appearance remained much as before, the chunky shape emphasised by the high ground clearance.
The solid, car-like front end features a high bonnet line and deep grilles above and below the protective bumper. Sculpted lines lead airflow around the lower edges of the deep headlamps towards the Steed's flanks where protective rubbing strips run along a side profile emphasised by muscular wheelarches. The stylists clearly copied the established Japanese models and under the galvanised body is the kind of tough ladder-framed chassis you'd expect a working pick-up to have, strengthened and braced by reinforced middle cross-members, an impact-absorbing rear beam and a reinforced cargo bed.
It's inside though, where the most significant changes made to this revised post-2014-era model are to be found. Higher quality materials, such as those used on the seat facings, and a sharper, more contemporary design for the instrument cluster together make a huge difference. You no longer feel you're getting into a used car when in fact you're buying a new one. Further helping to create a more up-to-date feel is fresh technology: take the auto-dimming multi-function rear view mirror which incorporates an outside temperature display. Then there's the useful addition of a tyre pressure monitoring system able to display the working pressure for each tyre.
As before, you sit in the usual elevated pick-up seating position in front of a simple instrument binnacle housing a speedo, a rev counter and fuel gauges lit by cool white illumination at night. This leather seating may not be suited to the muckiest tradesmen but it feels as if it could handle a hundred thousand miles without too much of a problem and although the dash is built of some hard plastics, that's probably appropriate given the stick this car is likely to get in the working environment. Plus everything seems to have been decently screwed together by the Tianjin factory, 60 miles from Beijing.
In-cab storage includes most of the basics you'd expect - a lockable glovebox, space in the front centre console, a deep bin between the front seats with a lid that incorporates a tray, cupholders in front of the gearstick and in the front door pockets and front seatback map pockets. As for finding the ideal driving position, well that's a little hampered by the fact that you don't get a height-adjustable driver's seat, nor is the wheel reach-adjustable. Still, all-round visibility is very good and all of the major controls fall easily to hand. All in all, it's a good showing, especially at this price point.
The rear seats aren't as comfortable as those in the front and kneeroom will be at quite a premium if the person in front is long of leg. The middle occupant does without a headrest too, but at least, unlike with some rivals, they can expect to find a proper three-point belt. It's also nice to find that, for once in this class of vehicle, the windows actually go all the way down.
As usual with a pick-up, check underneath for signs of over-enthusiastic off road use. And inspect the alloy wheels carefully for signs of damage. Significant nicks and scratches represent effective grounds for a small price reduction. There have been issues with shock absorbers giving up if the Steed sees a lot of off-road driving, but on the whole it's mechanically quite tough. The cabin plastics aren't the best quality and the seat adjusters and dash trims aren't the sturdiest. The oily bits seem fairly bombproof, as everything is in a pretty low state of tune. Check for fluid leaks and make sure the transmission isn't doing anything unexpected.
(approx based on a 2014 Steed 2.0) Parts aren't too badly priced. You'll need around £148 for a set of front brake discs and £52 for a set of front pads. A fuel filter is £46 and a set of carpet mats is £30. An oil filter is £23 and an air filter will cost you £17.
Approach any pick-up expecting a rewarding driving experience and you're likely to be in for a disappointment. It goes with the territory. The leaf-sprung suspension that most vehicles of this kind need for the heavy payloads they must carry is about as conducive to pin-sharp handling as wellington boots would be to Lewis Hamilton's driving. So if we tell you that this Steed feels solid and utilitarian behind the wheel, you should gauge from that a vehicle pretty par for the course in its segment.
Okay, so it's not as refined as a Ford Ranger or a Nissan Navara, but at 30% less to buy, did you seriously think it would be? About the biggest compliment that you can pay the Steed is that if you couldn't see any badges, you'd never guess that it wasn't any one of the more affordable pick-ups. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel under the bonnet isn't the last word in engine technology, but it's fitted with a charge air-cooled intercooler system and modern glow plug technology.
Importantly, it remains a willing thing, with 139PS on tap - about the same as you'd get from a 2.5-litre D-4D Toyota Hilux. True, you don't get quite as much torque as you would in a Hilux - the 305Nm figure is one of the things illustrated by the lengthy 17s rest to 62mph acceleration time. Once the variable-geometry turbo spools up and this vehicle gets into its stride though, most should find the performance to be quite adequate, provided you don't ever need to go any faster than 87mph. More significantly though, this engine was rated with a much higher braked towing capability in Euro5 form - up from 2,000 to 2,500kgs - something that'll make a lot of difference for many potential owners.
The manual six-speed gearbox isn't the sweetest thing you'll ever use and needs a firm hand, but this improved model certainly stops more confidently than it did before thanks to the replacement of the previous version's ancient old rear drum brakes with a more modern rear disc set-up. As you'd expect, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is an integral part of the package. Also effective is the steering, light and responsive around town (where it facilitates a 13.5m turning circle) but reasonably feelsome on the open road. In fact, rather surprisingly, this is one of this Great Wall's best features. All too often, pick-ups offer up a response at the helm that's vaguer than a BBC chief at a parliamentary inquiry, but the Steed is easy to place through corners and has decent feel, to the point where you always know what's going on at the front wheels.
If you wonder how relevant the need for that is in a pick-up, then you probably aren't very familiar with driving one. The Steed is like most vehicles of this sort in that it functions in rear wheel drive for the majority of its time on tarmac and doesn't benefit from the aid of traction control. All of this means that if you're pushing on without much idea of what's happening beneath you, hazards like wet roundabouts and slippery corners can very quickly land you in trouble.
The Steed is more reassuring in such circumstances. Because 4WD is standard, you don't have to have the thing in rear wheel drive if conditions are slippery. Pressing the '4H' button on the dash, as you can at speeds of up to 12mph, brings the front wheels into play too, for extra piece of mind on rainy or icy mornings. You can also get a remarkable distance off road in the high range 4WD setting too, but for really mucky stuff, you'll need to go a step further.
Selecting the '4L' option gives you a further set of low range gears that, if you've an appropriate set of tyres fitted, will get you almost anywhere off road. Capability aided by a reasonable 194mm ground clearance height and useful approach and departure angles of 30 and 24-degrees respectively. There's also a ramp angle of 17.5-degrees.
In the first half of the 21st century's second decade, pick-up makers were mostly all pushing their products up-market, which left a gap at the lower, more affordable end of this segment that this improved Steed slotted right into. But even if you're aware of that, you can't help approaching this vehicle with a 'where's-the-catch' mentality. It is just so much less expensive than its rivals that you tend to find yourself analysing every aspect of the way it works to see where corners might have been cut.
Do that with this improved post-2014-era model and it's a lot harder to find fault than it was with the original post-2012-era version. Certainly, a big step forward was made in cabin quality, the thing that rather over-emphasised the affordability of the earlier version of this vehicle. As a result, at the wheel, you feel like you've invested in a much more modern product. As indeed you have. The Euro5 engine is cleaner, the rear disc brakes are more effective and the towing capability is a match for the best of this Chinese pick-up's rivals. If you can find a well looked-after, well-priced example, it'll all make sense. Buy carefully though.