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GWM's Chinese cracker of a hatch

2013-10-14 08:37

CHINESE BRAND GOES OFF THE WALL: GWM has suddenly done all Chinese brands a favour with its C20R, a sporty four-door hatch that feels solid, is well-equipped and is really fun to drive. Image: GWM

It's been a long evolution but Great Wall Motors has finally laid its foundations and the stone they've used is the new GWM C20R, a Chinese cracker of a hatchback.

The evolution of an automotive brand is a bit like a mountain - for the first few years it's a steady uphill climb then, wham, you're on a plateau with nowhere to go but horizontal. That's what's happened to European and American automakers through many years and to Korean brands more recently.

Today they're all, frankly, damn good - only a buyer's desire for more power, more gadgets, more comfort, more tech continues the now slowing evolution but, hey, you've got 100kW, a comfortable leather seat, how much better can it get?


Changes are now becoming incrementally small and only possible because of colour-screen technology and shrinking computers - perhaps the next big step will be anti-gravity cars or everlasting, self-regenerating batteries.

So to those Chinese... Their cars' reliability, style, comfort and tech caused amusement in Western markets, even bursts of outright hilarity. Floppy fit 'n finish, crappy plastic, engines copied from the European automotive Dark Ages. Rugged, perhaps, but hardly aesthetically pleasing; fine for a peasant, not for a city slicker.

And then came this car, the GWM (Great Wall Motors) C20R, recently launched in South Africa. It's a tipping point, a watershed; the car that has taken China Cars Inc. into a fair fight with European, Japanese and Korean hatchbacks.

The C20R is based on the GWM C10 hatchback but, the automaker says, has gained decoration and a certain (good) style all of its own with a new grille and airdam design pierced by a pair of fog lights; also added are black wheel-arch liners, roof rails and SUV-themed front and rear underbody plates in a contrasting silver colour.


The upholstery might be pinholed pleather, but it looks good in black and red and does pretty much what cowskin does; 16" alloy rims are standard and the extra ground-clearance to 172mm is good for the city, useful in making the new guy from China an adept when it comes to weekend gravel-roads getaways.

Colours are striking, too: orange, blue, red, black, silver and white. But then let the images tell the tale of how looks the C20R - see the image gallery.

The driver’s seat and the steering-wheel are adjustable from tiny to tall; aircon, electric power to the steering, windows and external mirrors are part of the deal, as are audio controls on the steering-wheel, height-adjustable headlights, rear-parking radar and a radio/CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary and USB sockets.

The boot features has a double floor - handy for security - and the rear not seats not only fold forward but also offer reclining and fore/aft sliding. The overall design theme in the cabin is one of sportiness and quality, best evidenced by the aluminium-look pedals, cylindrical instrumention and tactile nature of the curvy facia.

And yes, after driving the car for a week, no argument there.


It's perky, too, with a 1.5 petrol engine with variable-valve timing to deliver 77kW at 6000rpm and 138Nm at 4200 through the front wheels vai a five-speed manual transmission with, really, perhaps the slickest stick action I've ever encountered. GWM claims 7.7 litres/100km with 179g/km of emitted CO2.

Two air bags up front, anti-lock disc brakes all-round with emergency pressure assistance, IsoFix child-seat anchors, height-adjustable front seat-belts, remote-controlled central locking and an immobiliser are also standard.


GWM C20R - R154 900 (including VAT and emissions tax).
Sold with a three-year or 100 000km warranty, two years of 24-hour roadside assistance and, for the first time on a GWM SA product, a three-year or 45 000km service plan.
Read more on:    gwm  |  vehicle launch  |  new models

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