A HUNKY pick-up that galloped over the horizon recently is almost certainly to lead a cavalry charge of Chinese models that could have a profound effect on the UK's motoring choices.
The Great Wall Steed is a large double-cab pick-up which offers a potent challenge to the likes of Mitsubishi and Nissan in the lifestyle load-carrier marketplace.
The reason being that in its S specification it hits the dealers at only £13,998 (ex VAT) and offers an opportunity to those drivers who have always wanted a macho pick-up but have never been able to afford one.
Most pundits were of the opinion that China would enter the UK fray with something like a city car or a supermini to give the sort of small start the Koreans did when their first cars entered the UK some years ago.
But the Chinese took the innovative approach of leading with some muscle and the Steed is certainly a compelling vehicle. It was chosen, I believe because the company, which produces 800,000 cars a year has impressive credentials in the world of pick-ups.
It has manufactured the best-selling pick-up in China every year since 1998 and the Steed attracts 120,000 customers in its domestic market every year.
More than 700,000 have been sold to date and the company has ambitious plans to export 40,000 Steeds this year.
The company is well experienced in exports selling cars, SUVs and pick-ups in more than 120 countries, including South Africa, Italy and Australia and is now establishing itself in the UK - one of the world's most demanding markets for pick-ups.
In the UK the Steed's appeal is two-fold. Firstly the workaday market for businesses and the other the lifestyle arena where carrying capacity for camping gear and bikes, plus the ability to tow a caravan are to the fore.
And in my view the Steeds has something to offer in both areas.
It is comfortable, has part-time 4x4 capability with the options of two-wheel-drive or 4H and 4L settings at the touch of a button and is very solidly built. Obviously you do not get the bells and whistles as on some more expensive lifestyle pick-ups but it makes a lot of sense on the price front.
Under the bonnet is a newly developed 2.0 16-valve turbocharged diesel which employs high-pressure common rail injection and features a charged air intercooler system.
On the economy front the Steed claims 34mpg on the combined cycle. Performance falls into the adequate category with a top speed of 87mph and a 0-60mph sprint of 17 seconds.
On the road it drives well enough but I was disappointed with the lack of road feel through the steering and felt that the system could have been better weighted.
But all in all this is a creditable first effort in the UK from China and poses the question 'What next?'