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GWM starts hitting sixes with C20R


THIS WEEK marks a momentous occasion in my life, because I’ve finally found a Chinese car that I’m not only willing to recommend, but that I’d be happy to live with myself.

It’s taken a while, but it seems the first Chinese product is finally there. By ‘there’ I mean the place where we were all hoping they’d go. And by that I mean the regular use of the phrase ‘the products keep getting better, but they’re just not there yet.’ I should know; I’ve used it before.

Now I don’t know where ‘there’ is, but I’m assuming it’s a place with style, nice engines and decent interiors that don’t overpower you with the smell of melted-down horseshoes. An affordable price tag is also something people appreciate over ‘there.’

The GWM C20R is ‘there,’ wherever that is. It has all of the above and it’s not even that expensive. At this point I’d like to congratulate GWM, but I also have to admit that I’ve suspected for a while that this manufacturer would be responsible for building the first Chinese product that I actually wouldn’t mind to own.

Sure, there are a number of decent products from rival companies and some of them I’d also recommend (the Foton Tunland springs to mind), but they’ve never featured very high on my list of stuff I’d like to park in my garage. GWM slowly but surely changed my outlook. It started with the Hover, which wasn’t all that bad. In 2010 it moved on to the not-so-horrid Florid. Last year I drove the C10, which turned out to be a viable option in its segment. And now this C20R.

The C20R makes a really good first impression. I’ve seen it in photographs, but a 2D image simply doesn’t do this car justice. In the flesh it’s a nice mix of funky, chunky and spunky. I don’t want to hover on this subjective topic for too long, but it’s fair to say that the C20R not only looks good, but it looks better than a lot of other cars you can have for the same price.

Engine-wise you get a pleasant 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with 77kW and 138Nm on tap. It does an amicable job of lugging the C20R’s 1 120kg body around town and on the highway. I spent a few hours behind the wheel in a number of different driving situations and the engine never felt underpowered. It’s far from being spirited, but that’s not exactly the point, is it? Let’s rather focus on GWM’s impressive claimed combined fuel-consumption figure of 7.7 litres/100km, not bad for a windgat pseudo-SUV.

Then we get to the part that has been the downfall of many Chinese products - the interior. The C20R’s interior is by far the best one I’ve come across. Quality is perfectly acceptable and the plastics seem like they’d survive anything the average South African can throw at them. Even more importantly, it looks good in there. I like the funky layout of the centre console, but I love the red and black leather seats. They go a long way in making the C20R’s interior a very nice place to spend time in.

GWM has also ensured that spending a significant amount of time in the C20R wouldn’t be a burden. As standard you get air conditioning, reverse park assist, electric windows all-round, remote central locking, ABS, EBD, power steering, dual front airbags and a radio/CD/MP3 player with USB and auxiliary inputs. It’s worth mentioning that the sound system is exceptional at this price point. It coped fairly easily with my music of the angrier variety, which is something I don’t often come across in a car of this ilk.

Before I start sounding too much like a GWM salesman, I’d like to point out a fault or two. The boot is a bit on the small side and the upwards adjustment on the steering wheel isn’t enough. In my driving position the steering wheel obscured the top of the dials and a centimetre or two extra would have sorted the problem.

Otherwise it really is a properly good little quasi-SUV. It hasn’t been collected yet, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m actually going to miss it when it’s gone.
So, finally we have a Chinese manufacturer that’s ‘there.’ I still have no idea where ‘there’ is, but I do know it’s GWM that got there first.

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