• ON THE MARKET: GWM SA chose a rather strange grille configuration for the new C10

  • The interior has good specification with acceptable finishes

  • The old Toyota Yaris looks are undeniable, particularly from the rear

GWM has added another model to its product portfolio with the C10, essentially a B-segment hatch that competes squarely with the Ford Figo, Toyota Etios and the Volkswagen Polo Vivo.

The new model, which will sell alongside the Florid and Florid Cross, has more than an uncanny resemblance to the previous generation Toyota Yaris, right down to the interior architecture, which is perhaps a little disconcerting for those looking to buy a new product on the market.

Perhaps the bone of contention here is the front grille, which is a little garish to say the least, with chrome finished vertical slats. According to a company spokesman, there were two grille options on offer and, due to the profound look of this one pictured, a unanimous decision was made and this is the model destined for South African consumption.

In a segment where value and features are the overbearing factor in the buying decision, it would seem that with the C10, GWM is intent on making the model noticeable. However, it remains to be seen if the model will find universal appeal.

That aside, the rest of the design is actually a better proposition than we have come to expect of Chinese models, with this particular one boasting more than acceptable exterior and interior finishes. Sure, the previous Yaris theme continues in the cabin with both a similar steering wheel and seats, but the conventional instrument cluster behind the helm works better in my opinion.

In terms of motivation, only one engine is available in the form of the 1.5l VVT, which is said to push out 77kW at 6,000r/min and 138Nm at 4,200r/min via a five-speed manual transmission.

On-paper performance suggests that the engine punches above its weight with comparable outputs to rivals with bigger engines. Driving the vehicle on the Highveld this past week suggested otherwise, with the engine feeling wheezy with performance perhaps more on a par with some 1.3l engines. To keep it on the boil, judicious use of the gearbox is called upon, but the engine does become coarse and raucous at lofty revs.

In its defence, however, the model comes with a comprehensive list of standard equipment, including power steering, electric windows, radio/CD with MP3, USB and auxiliary inputs, ABS with EBD, dual front airbags and rear park distance control.

So the C10 is the company’s foray into this hotly contested market with pricing and features on a par with its aforementioned competitors. The Florid has up to now been more of a value proposition than an outright competitor to the stalwarts of the segment. According to GWM SA chairman, Tony Pinfold, the company’s sales forecast of its new baby is around the 200 units per month mark, which is perhaps not too outlandish when considering that many of its more established rivals are mustering between 400 and 2,000 units per month.

He says the company is well geared to offer after sales and support through its 71 dealer network with further expansion on the cards in the foreseeable future.

That said, though, the C10 will be in the crosshairs of the Etios and Figo, both of which are snapping at the heels of the VW Polo Vivo. For a manufacturer that entered the market with the Steed bakkie, playing in the passenger segment is indeed a different ball game. Nonetheless, it would seem that the move into the mainstream fold could put the manufacturer in good stead, as it is likely to spark a further influx of East Asian brands to dabble in this sector.

As we previously reported, GWM is arguably the more established of the Chinese manufacturers, with slightly better tactile quality than its compatriots. It is a conclusion I drew with the introduction of the H5 SUV last year and I feel the trend will continue with the launch of the C10.

However, I hasten to say that in this price bracket the C10 will be compared to its major rivals and as such will have to prove its mettle in order to dissuade the market from looking elsewhere.

The model will be somewhat of a hard sell in a market where pre-owned Toyota Yaris models are still likely to be more popular. If I was in the market, I would most likely look at the Figo, Hyundai Getz — albeit pre-owned — or the proven duo of the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10. At the asking price of R134,900 for the C10, which includes a three-year/100,000km warranty, there are many alternatives to consider.

In this price bracket the C10 will be compared to its major rivals and as such will have to prove its mettle