There is no doubt that bakkies rule the roost in the South African context. Whether they are used on the farm, by businesses or for leisure and off-road enjoyment, sales continue to show that our love for the bakkie is strong.
With increased interest in Chinese cars due to their sharp looks, impressive tech and competitive pricing, it is unsurprising to see the P-Series make its mark on sales charts. At first glance, its straightforward design and aggressive front end fulfil the criteria for an attractive bakkie.
The LTD, being the top-of-the-range P-Series, comes with all the bells and whistles. Its off-road-focused extras paint an impressive picture, featuring a front-mounted 4.2-tonne winch, a dedicated off-road bumper, a snorkel, and all-terrain tyres that cover the 18-inch gloss black sports alloy wheels.
When considering a leisure bakkie, the interior is essential. On this front, the P-Series impressed me. The diamond stitching on the door panels and seats provides a luxurious cabin feel and a comfortable place to sit. The leg room is good, able to fit taller individuals without issue in the second row and good headroom.
GWM ensured generous tech with the LTD featuring a 9" infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support alongside the traditional Bluetooth and radio options. Wireless charging is also available, and you have an aesthetically pleasing 7" digital driver information cluster for the driver. A feature I liked was the climate control unit's functionality. Unlike most other Chinese models, this unit is user-friendly, offering dials to make heating and cooling the cabin on the fly a breeze.
Driving a P-series LTD puts you in a great spot, perched high above other road users, and the reassurance of having a large steel front bumper creates a comforting mindset. The on-road feel is satisfactory, with a smooth ride on the highway and little road noise, despite the add-ons. Unfortunately, the snorkel produced measurable wind noise at highway speeds that pierced the cabin, but ultimately, the decision to live with it is yours since it's an optional extra.
The P-Series is powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that delivers a healthy 120kW with 400Nm of torque paired to a trusty 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox. It's a pleasant unit with enough power for stress-free overtaking and a predictable gearbox despite the occasional unwarranted downshift.
The load capacity is also a strong suit of the P-series with a deeper load bed than most comparable pick-ups. It has a retractable and folding step incorporated in the tailgate for easy loading.
The main issue with the P-Series became apparent when hitting the trails. Ground clearance was the primary concern as various components hung beneath the undercarriage, decreasing the bakkie's ability to tackle rockier and more articulated obstacles. At least it has a bevvy of off-road assistance systems, including 2-High, 4-High, sand, mud and snow modes and 4-Low. The low-range gearbox, although practical, was reluctant to change gears when left to its own devices and battled to engage predictably when a slow approach was needed.
The off-road hiccups are relatively minor since the typical bakkie driver seldom tackles truck-breaking off-road trails. The LTD is more tailored to gravel roads, workhorse needs, and road trips. Even with the snorkel and winch, I wouldn't be surprised if they're never used.
The price is a significant selling point for most Chinese cars, which holds true for the P-Series LTD. Coming in at R695,950 with all the gadgets, it squares off against the Peugeot Landtrek at R669,900. Despite feeling similar on the roads and sharing similar ground clearance concerns, the abundance of extras fitted to the P-Series makes it a more enticing proposition.
I also found the cabin environment of the P-Series to be more appealing than that of the Landtrek. The attention to detail, such as the diamond-stitched door panels and the simplistic yet pleasant interior, lends the GWM a more sophisticated interior.
Considering South Africa's traditional preference for Toyotas and Fords, the price of the GWM P-Series raises questions about which alternatives could offer a similar experience for less. The P-series is a good leisure bakkie; however, it's unrealistic to expect similar capabilities to the Hilux, Ranger or even the Amarok from a bakkie that costs significantly less.
That said, you will get your money's worth with this bakkie. It will tackle some rough roads, and if you need to call in the services of the load bed, it has you covered. Just don't expect to keep up with the Jeep Wranglers at your local 4x4 trail.