As a nation China has presented the world with many great gifts. These include the compass, fireworks and Jackie Chan. But when it comes to the automotive realm China’s contributions have been limited, a fact that could be changing. There are currently over one hundred car manufacturers operating in China, a number that should prove too large even for a country of mammoth numbers. As these companies jostle for sales it was inevitable that the keen players would glance toward international markets and ultimately find their way down to NZ. One of the first to travel the waves and attempt to make them here is Great Wall Motors and one of its initial offerings is the X240 SUV. Car and SUV climbed aboard the X240 to see what this new vehicle is all about and just how well it stacks up against Japanese opposition.
The first questions most Kiwis ask about this pioneering Chinese vehicle is: How much does it cost and what do you get? The answers at first seem equally elementary. It costs $28,990, and you get loads of stuff. While that doesn’t tell the whole story, perceived value for money is the key to the Great Wall sales pitch and it’s the X240’s most defining characteristic.
The X240 is a compact 4WD SUV and with sub $30K pricing undercuts smaller 2WD SUV’s and is up to $20,000 cheaper than many rivals offering similar specification levels.
The list of standard kit is impressive and includes, full leather trim, climate control air-con, reversing sensors, electric mirrors and windows, 17-inch alloy wheels with full size spare, front fog lamps and keyless entry. For added peace of mind there is a three-year/100,000km warranty that includes roadside assistance. This brings up the next question: how can Great Wall offer so much for so little and sell a new car at a used car price? The answer is that it’s possible because the X240 isn’t entirely new.
The X240 is based on the Toyota 4Runner chassis and makes use of Mitsubishi’s 4G64 2.4 litre engine. Both Toyota’s chassis and Mitsubishi’s engine are competent enough but neither represents the latest technology. The 4-cylinder petrol engine produces 100kw of power and 200Nm of torque, this sounds acceptable but the motor really struggles to move the 2305kg X240 with any vigour. It needs time to ramp the revs up and is prone to bogging down in second gear which contributes towards a generally sluggish demeanour. Once up to cruising speed there is the occasional engine rattle but the X240 is fairly good, however, generous space is required for overtaking movements. The good news it that fuel economy is acceptable at 10.4l/100km combined and the X240 has a decent 1800kg braked towing capacity.
For now, the only transmission option on offer is a five-speed manual. Like the engine it’s mated to, the gearbox is fairly basic but usable. The gearstick throw is long but clicks into gear well while the clutch takes a little more getting used to. Even with the manual gearbox the X240 is a fairly easy vehicle to drive.
On road the X240 has an agricultural feel that stems from its ute-based underpinnings. There are liberal doses of body roll when navigating twisty roads but a strong level of grip from wide tyres offsets this. The suspension feels generally well set and the independent front system helps absorb bumps and dips while preventing any pitching. Overall ride comfort isn’t bad, some engine noise enters the cabin and the huge wing mirrors create wind noise but it’s at a liveable level.
While the ute-base prevents the X240 from matching the on road dynamics of most competitors it does allow for some more serious off-road credentials. A ground clearance of 20cm is a good start and a high/low 4WD transfer case that allows for on-the-fly changes is an impressive feature in this segment. A traditional ladder-frame and four-link rear suspension reinforce the X240 as more than a soft roader. This still may not be enough to generate a following from hardcore off road enthusiasts but it does mean the X240 is capable if you occasionally leave the tarmac behind.
When it comes to outward appearances the X240 has some good-looking charm. It’s bulky, purposeful has a forward stance and isn’t overtly generic in design. Best of all, it’s outwardly modern, a true 2010 model and the chrome-look grille and matching trim give off the right measure of bling.
Inside the X240 things aren’t so well sorted and what’s first noticed is the restricted seating position. Due to the vehicles ute-underpinnings the floor is quite high resulting in less space and a high-knees driving position. That said, the seat and steering wheel offers good adjustment and the front seats are wide and comfortable but could benefit from greater bolstering. Despite the high floor interior space is generally quite good with a comfortable width between front occupants and ample legroom for three back-seat passengers. Luggage space in the hatch is also impressive and there are handy tie-down hooks for securing large loads.
Controls and switchgear could be placed more prominently but are logically laid out and the instrument cluster is smart and easily read. While the leather wrapped steering wheel has a solid feel to it the remainder of the cabin materials are of mixed quality. The hard plastics feel lightweight and everything that opens and closes doesn’t do so with reassuring accuracy. There are some wide gaps where surfaces join and long-term durability may be compromised by below average fit and finish. There is good space for small storage and plenty of cup holders ready including one mounted in the dash that oddly inhibits the use of the gearstick. Overall, it’s a mixed bag for the X240 interior, it’s spacious and comfortable once you become used to the high floor but is ultimately let down by fit and quality, which can’t match Japanese or even Korean competitors.
While safety is one reason behind the popularity of SUVs the X240 doesn’t have some of the features more expensive SUVs offer as standard. What it does have is four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, two front airbags and side intrusion beams. What is most notably absent is a stability-control system and side airbags. While the X240’s price is impressive it has come at the cost of some safety functions that are now considered standard fare on other SUVs.
Great Wall’s first SUV entry probably won’t set the kiwi market alight but it is an interesting vehicle and a real signal of price-undercutting intent. There are some bright lights in the X240 coming in its smart exterior styling and spacious practical-minded cabin. But the use of a dated, underpowered engine, below par interior quality and compromised safety credentials may put off many who will instead buy a used vehicle. That said, for those determined to buy a new SUV with less than $30k to spend the X240 could prove an attractive option. If you’re in the market, try something different, give it a test drive and judge for yourself.
What we like:
- Equipment level for price
- Exterior styling
- Warranty with roadside assistance
What we don’t like:
- Poor quality interior
- Missing safety features
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Related road tests (click on link to read):
Great Wall X240 (2010) – Specifications
Type 2.4L 4 Cylinder
Bore x Stroke 87×100
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Power 100kw @5250rpm
Torque 200Nm @2500-3000rpm
Towing Capacity (Braked) 1800kg
Towing Capacity (Unbraked) 600kg
Maximum Towball Downweight 180kg
System Petrol MPI
Capacity of Fuel Tank 70L
Fuel Consumption (Combined Litre/100km) 10.4L
Type 5 Speed Manual
Drivetrain 4×4 with Electric Transfer Case
ABS and EBD Standard
Front Ventilated Disc
Rear Solid Disc
Wheels & Suspension
Wheels 17″ Alloy
Front Double wishbone with hydraulic shock absorber and torsion bar
Rear Dependent with hydraulic shock absorber
Steering Rack and Pinion Steering Gear
Power Steering Standard
Turning Circle approx 12m
Min. Ground Clearance full load >175mm
Track – Front 1515mm
Track – Rear 1520mm
Gross Vehicle Mass 2305kg
Kerb Weight 1830kg