Great Wall Coolbear
About a month ago, one of our commenters mentioned the Great Wall Coolbear. "Great Wall Coolbear" sounds like it should be a wall-mounted air conditioner decorated with Winnie the Pooh graphics, but, no, it's actually a car.
The Coolbear is built by Great Wall Motors of Baoding, Heibei, China, which builds just under half a million vehicles per year and has a 2% share of the rapidly expanding Chinese automobile market. As Car Lust's designated "guy that posts about funky cars you've never heard of," writing about the Great Wall Coolbear is my bear to cross. If you'll bear with me, we'll retire to the den and get our paws around the grizzly details.
If I hadn't already told you that today's subject was the Great Wall Coolbear, and you had only the photos to go on, you might think it was a first generation Scion xB badge-engineered into a Chrysler captive import. Chinese auto companies are often accused of copying the designs of non-Chinese manufacturers in brazen disregard of intellectual property rights--an accusation backed by considerable supporting evidence, including the Coolbear. The 'Bear isn't an exact copy of the xB (or the home-market Toyota bB on which the xB is based) but look at them side by side and you'd swear the doors would interchange. The wheelbases are identical, and the exterior dimensions are awfully close--the Coolbear is only an inch longer, a quarter inch wider, and half an inch shorter than the Gen-1 xB.
Of course, if you're gonna steal someone else's ideas, you should at least have sense enough to steal their good ideas. The Gen-1 xB is a lovely design; clean and simple, but with a distinct personality. It doesn't have character lines scribbled all over it or goofy "flame surfaced" sheetmetal, and it doesn't sacrifice outward visibility for the sake of a trendy rising beltline. (When Toyota developed the current version of the xB, they, um, not to put too fine a point on it, messed the styling up big time.) The Coolbear keeps what was good about the first xB's styling, and I actually find myself liking the 'Bear's front end better than the Scion's jut-jawed bumper.
Under the sheetmetal, Great Wall's flattery of Toyota continues: the suspensions are similar, struts up front and a semi-independent beam axle in the back. The Coolbear's 1.5 L four-banger produces 103 HP at 6000 RPM, and 101 foot-pounds of torque at 4200 RPM, just four horsepower and two foot-pounds different from the Toyota's specs. The transmission is a five-speed in the "bear necessities" model, a CVT automatic in the higher trim levels.
So what's it like to drive a Coolbear? Is the ride comfortable, or unbearably harsh? How does it bear up to daily use? A South African blogger came away favorably impressed from a test drive of the "CB150" version sold there:
Ugly but cute, well equipped, comfortable, easy to park and drive, with enough room to lug the rowdiest of small families, it looks like a fine little people mover or small business machine. It might not be perfect, but what car is?
I also found this video review, which is also mostly positive...I think. (Russian isn't one of my languages.) If nothing else, it gives you a pretty thorough look at the car, inside and out.
The 'Bear is on sale in Europe and Russia (Great Wall has a "transplant" factory in Bulgaria), Australia, and much of Asia, but has not yet crossed the Bear-ing Straits into North America. I sort of hope it does. Think of the fun the marketing people could have with a car called "Coolbear": available colors called "Polar White" and "Grizzly Brown;" cross-promotions with Klondike ice cream bars and Cold Bear Wine; a Mike Ditka Designer Edition exclusive to the greater Chicago area--the possibilities are endless.
--Cookie the Dog's Owner
All photos are official GWM advertising images.