Driven: GWM C50 takes on the Corolla

By Miles Downard *GWM C50 (Quickpic)

Great Wall Motors (GWM) has launched a number of cars in the last year or so; the C20R cross-over, an H6 SUV, the M4 hatchback, a small sedan in the C30 and the Steed 6 bakkie. All of these point to the company’s intent of shifting to upper segments of the market-place, a target which they’ve looked to drive home with the recent launch of the GWM C50 – a C segment family car set to take on the likes of Toyota’s Corolla.

On the outside

The GWM’s of yesteryear gave the distinct impression that the company had bought old tooling and moulds from Toyota, Honda, or anyone who was selling for that matter. Those days seem to be behind the Chinese manufacturer now, as the C50 takes on a modern and quite contemporary look all of its own.

On the inside

If it holds true that occupant comfort starts with spaciousness, then the C50 impresses immediately. The long wheelbase translates into stretch-out rear legroom, without sacrificing boot space. Other than offering space, the GWM C50 is quite well equipped; with air-conditioning, power steering, height and rake adjustable steering, electric windows, cruise control and park distance control.

Fit and finish is better than we’ve seen before from GWM, but could still do with a bit more refining given the extent of hard scratchy plastics used throughout the cabin. That said, those plastics don’t look half as bad as they feel, creating an air of quality in the cabin, provided the occupants look and don’t touch.

Behind the wheelGWM C50 (Quickpic)

The C50 boasts GWM’s own, in-house developed 1.5 litre turbo charged motor. It’s got some reasonably fancy tech going on, like variable valve timing, and delivers 93kW to the front wheels via a five speed manual gearbox.

GWM claims a sub-10-second 0-100km/h sprint time, 185km/h top speed and combined fuel consumption of 7.4 litres per 100km.

Despite all the fancy stuff, power delivery lacks refinement – even if the unit provides a marvellous turbo noise on lift off, at just over 3000rpm. I honestly spent most of my time messing about, trying to swap cogs at just the right moment so I could enjoy the whirring, whistling sound of a turbo-charger at work. In general though it’s a little too gruff and doesn’t really feel like it delivers the power stats stated on the spec sheet.

To achieve an amicable balance between ride comfort and cornering ability, GMW opted for a fully independent multi-link suspension set-up, something that many of its rivals can’t claim. And it shows too; the C50 is quite compliant across our ‘proudly South African’ roads and holds on to the tarmac well when thrown enthusiastically into the twisties.

Verdict

GWM has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The new range offers a decent level of kit for the money and aside from one or two refinement issues, build quality is definitely on the up. There’s also the added benefit of after sales support in the form of a 5 year, 60 000km service plan.

The issue really comes down to pricing; which I feel could have been more competitive given the brands relative status. At R249 999 there is a lot of strong competition from Toyota, Honda, Kia and the list doesn’t end there. I fear it would take a lot for a buyer in this market to stray from tried and trusted names given equal pricing; and I’m just not sure that the C50 is that compelling.

Price: R249 999
Engine: 1497cc four cylinder turbo charged petrol
Power: 93 kW
Torque: 188 Nm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 10.0 (claimed)
Top Speed (km/h): 185
Consumption (l/100km): 7.4 (claimed)
Service: 5yr/60 000km service plan

* Miles Downard is the editor of Biznews Motoring.