GWM C20R: Chinese…but not what you might expect


Had you told me a couple of years ago that I would be driving a GWM for the week, I would in all honesty have declined. Recently however, I have read more promising reports of the Chinese manufacturer. And having never driven one of their products and a desire to find out for myself just how far they have come, I eagerly awaited delivery of the Great Wall Motors C20R. After all presumption is the mother of all…well, you know how that ends.

Considering that probably half of the items in my house — from the technological marvel that is the iPhone in my hand to the shoes on my feet — are manufactured in China, it is somewhat strange then that China has lagged so far behind in car design and manufacture on the world stage. It would seem though that China has a steep engineering learning curve.

So, C20R? Not the sexiest name for a car is it?
Not quite no, but then China has never really been one to pride itself on naming products have they? Ranging from the strange to the just plain hilarious. GWM however has simplified things a little by referring to its entry level hatchback as the C10 and the slightly bigger, slightly higher one you see here, the C20R.

GWM C20R night shot

What does the ‘R’ stand for?
Having driven it for a week I can inform you that it certainly doesn’t stand for Race, but expecting racey performance would be silly. Raised would be a better description as this GWM sits on a slightly higher ride height (172mm) than your average hatchback (think Suzuki SX4…and if you look closely it kind of resembles one too). Take a walk around the C20R and you’ll notice flush panel gaps that fit, metallic paint, halogen headlamps, roof rails, 16-inch alloys and plastic moulded wheel arches. The C20R is actually a good looking hatchback.

Value for money?
I think the best way to answer that question is with another question: In relation to what? The C20R costs about as much as a Kia Rio or a decently specced Polo Vivo and I guarantee if I had to ask all of you who are reading this if you were presented with the following transportation options; walking, a bicycle, a bus, a taxi or the GWM C20R you’d choose the car every time. Why? Because cars represent personal freedom. And consider the burgeoning low to middle class income bracket in this country who are used to any one of those other forms of transportation and who are yearning for the freedom of a motorcar then you start appreciate the positioning of the GWM C20R.

Ok, so it’s low on tech, it has to be?
The biggest surprise has to be that the interior is actually not as technologically spartan and budget orientated as you might expect and standard spec may raise an eyebrow or two. The driver’s seat is adjustable for height and so is the steering wheel, combined with large glass area makes for a comfortable confident seating position. Air-conditioning, electric power steering, electric window and mirror adjustment, remote audio controls on the steering wheel, height-adjustable headlamps, rear-park assist and a radio/CD/MP3 sound system with auxiliary and USB inputs are all part of the standard specification. Better than a Hi-Ace? You bet!

GWM C20R interior

OK, so it doesn’t look half bad, is pretty good value for money and has a reasonable amount of tech. Would you buy one?
I probably would actually, chief reason being that the C20R comes with a three year/45 000km service plan (a first for a GWM vehicle). It actually drives quite nicely too, sure the 1.5-litre (77kW and a lowly 138Nm of torque) needs to be thrashed within an inch of its life to get going, but once you hit 4000rpm there’s a decent little kick from the engine, it doesn’t half shriek all the way there I might add.

But you know what, I enjoyed my time with the plucky C20R, it cut a bright profile in my driveway with its dapper red paintwork and it did everything I asked of it over the week I had it. Will it stand up to the test of time? That’s something you’d have ponder. But ponder this, a Suzuki SX4 which is a very similar car to the C20R starts at R247 900 that makes the C20R almost a full R100k cheaper — and you said it, it has a decent spec level, drives quite well, and comes with a service plan. What is there to lose?



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