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Driven: GWM's new H5 diesel

2011-11-24 10:10

ROUGH EDGES: The H5 diesel sports plenty of creature comforts and despite its sedate drive you’re still getting a lot of value for money.

Great Wall Motors has been around globally since 1976, though the Chinese automaker only entered South Africa in 2007 and has yet to make large enough strides to overcome fierce competition and the undeserved stigma attached to its products.

That’s not to say it’s not getting its products out there. Its Florid hatchback and Steed bakkie, while not exactly flying off showroom floors, are making inroads amongst SA car buyers. Now there's GWM’s latest attempt to gain a foothold in SA - the diesel H5 SUV.

It was launched this week in Cape Town with a two-litre engine and a choice of auto or manual gearbox an either 4x2 or 4x4 drive. The manual retails for R249 990, the auto for R264 990, but only 4x2 model were available at the launch.

DRIVING IT

The H5 is not a bad-looking SUV. A sporty front coupled with traditional boxy SUV design translates into a vehicle with an assertive road presence. The sloping chrome grille and curved headlights add personality.

The rear seem to have taken cues from Chevrolet’s Orlando but with obvious tweaks to the rear light configuration.

The 2.0 turbo-diesel engine is capable of 110kW at 4000rpm and 310Nm from 1800 to 2800rpm, drives trhough either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto and has a claimed fuel consumption seven litres/100km.

The engine, though technologically advanced, leaves a lot to be desired. The manual is stodgy, the auto adequate in terms of gear changes and the H5 presents driving characteristics that wouldn’t be out of place in a typical bakkie; a little harsh on the road, noisy engine  and a general feeling that it’s built for the rough-and-tumble of farm life.

However if, a workhorse is what you need, consider the automaker’s Steed bakkie.

The H5 is supposed be an extra-urban SUV and the overall experience behind the wheel is underwhelming. If you’re a large family it’s affordable and practical enough to be a daily runabout. There’s a fair amount of grip when pushing the H5 through twisties, and it’s adequate for long trips albeit harsh on the road.

FEATURES APLENTY

Inside is where GWM hopes to outdo its competitors. The H5 comes with a host of creature comforts including dual climate control, power windows, reversing camera, steering-wheel controls and key-fob central locking with "vehicle search" functionality. Other kit packed into the H5 includes, light sensing headlights, touch screen multimedia system, and power-assisted leather seats. Rear passengers have a centre arm rest (with two cup holders) and the ample boot sports 10 tie-downs.

The interior is a pleasing space and while materials do leave quite a lot to be desired, you get the feeling that GWM really wanted to great a comfortable space for drivers; and that’s exactly what it's done.

It seems Asian manufacturers, especially Chinese and Indian brands are hoping to attract buyers with relatively affordable vehicles packed with features.

As a new kid on the SUV block, the H5 has some tough competition in the form of Chevrolet’s Captiva, Orlando or Hyundai’s ix-35.

OVERALL

GWM is a brand in progress; low brand awareness coupled with undeserved stigma attached to its home country’s products will probably result in the automaker struggling to find its feet for a few years. SA buyers should reserve their judgement until they've driven the vehicles.

The vehicle industry has seen brands shake poor reputations (Renault), established global powerhouse collapse (General Motors) and even promising automakers exit the country (SEAT).

It’s only been three years since Suzuki returned and, though there were grumbles about resale values and reliability when they first reached our shores, they’ve managed to come out swinging with excellent products such as the Swift and SX4.

Perhaps that’s all GWM needs; a hit product which the masses will latch on to raise the brand from obscure automaker to established household brand. The H5 is a tolerable SUV and an affordable offering, despite its rough edges.

PRICES
H5 2.0 VGT 4x2 - R249 990
H5 2.0 VGT 4x4 - R269 990
H5 a/t 4x2 - R264 990
H5 a/t 4x4 - R284 990

The H5 comes with a three year/100 000km warranty. GWM has not formalised its service plan.


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