V200 ute: Price helps close performance gap

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Basics covered ... Standard equipment includes a decent sound system, power windows, air-conditioning, remote central locking and power windows and mirrors.

Spot something familiar about the look of Great Wall's V200 ute, beyond the fact that - with more than 600 registrations so far this year - it is becoming an increasingly common sight on New Zealand roads?

That's right, aft of its distinctive nose, the V200 bears a striking resemblance to a previous generation of the Holden Rodeo. There's no surprise about that; when production of that model Rodeo ceased, Great Wall bought the panel dies and pressed them into service for their own machine.

The V200 is part of the wider V-series ute range that comprises both petrol and diesel variants, 2WD-only and 2WD/4WD variants, and single- and dual-cab choices. The version tested here is the flagship diesel 2WD/4WD dual cab.

The interior of the dual cab is as mainstream as the exterior, although utterly different in terms of dash and centre-console design from the X200 SUV. It feels well put together and, when compared with the SUV, the predominance of hard-touch surfaces raises fewer eyebrows, given the more utilitarian nature of a ute.

Standard equipment includes leather seat trim, a decent sound system (with iPod plug-in and fingertip controls on the steering wheel), power windows, air-conditioning, remote central locking and power windows and mirrors. Dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes are also fitted.

The V200 features the same 2-litre turbo-diesel engine as the X200, but with a six-speed manual rather than five-speed automatic transmission. Carrying capacity is rated at 1050kg and towing capacity at 2000kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

As with the X200, four-wheel drive is electronically selected via a push-button system on the dash. This time, however, there is low ratio as well as standard high ratio. While the switch from two-high to four-high can be made on the fly, it is necessary to stop and engage the clutch to effect the switch to low ratio.

Broadly speaking, the ute's performance characteristics mirror those of the Great Wall SUV: below-par initial throttle response and turbo-lag are weak points but, once "spooled up", the engine is an honest, if slightly gruff, performer.

It's a similar story with handling, where there is a sense of stepping back a generation from what's on offer with the best of the current crop of light commercials from the established names. Greater steering precision and more brake feel would also have been welcome on the test car.

What seems like a big performance and refinement chasm closes markedly when you look at price. The V-series range opens at just $21,900 for the single-cab petrol 2WD and even the flagship bells-and-whistles double-cab diesel 4WD as tested lists at just $30,990. Try to pick up a 4WD double-cab version of New Zealand's best-selling ute - the Hilux - for similar money and you'll be looking at a five- or six-year-old example with something more than 120,000km on the clock.