• Impressive starting price
    • Genuinely luxurious interior
    • Unique options like barn door tailgate
    • Powertrains still need work
    • Driver assist technology remains a weak point
    • Hybrid tech has proven not overly efficient across GWM range

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    What comes after the Cannon? In the GWM world, it’s the Cannon Alpha.

    Bigger, more luxurious, and more powerful than the existing GWM Ute ‘Cannon’, it sits somewhere between the dual-cab utes Aussies love like the Ford Ranger, and the American pickup trucks they’re rapidly growing to love like the Ram 1500.

    Like a Ram 1500 or Ford F-150, there’s no shortage of swagger about the way it looks. With a big, chrome grille and boxy design, this is a pretty imposing truck on the road.

    Despite its bigger body and more luxurious interior, the Alpha doesn’t come with a price to rival the Ranger, let alone an F-150 or Ram 1500. Instead, it’s rubbing shoulders with the new Mitsubishi Triton and entry-level versions of the Toyota HiLux.

    No matter which way you look at it, the Alpha is pretty impressive value – but there’s still room for improvement here.

    How does the GWM Cannon Alpha compare?
    View a detailed breakdown of the GWM Cannon Alpha against similarly sized vehicles.

    How much does the GWM Cannon Alpha cost?

    No matter which way you spin it, this is incredible value.

    Although it’s priced in line with entry-level Ford Ranger models, the Alpha comes loaded with equipment – more on that further down

    ModelDrive-away pricing
    GWM Cannon Alpha Lux Diesel$51,990 drive-away
    GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Diesel$57,990 drive-away
    GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid$64,990 drive-away

    What is the GWM Cannon Alpha like on the inside?

    This is a seriously luxurious ute, even in base spec.

    Like the Tank 500 with which it shares its bones, the Alpha feels like a much more expensive product behind the wheel, and will no doubt win over plenty of buyers in the showroom.

    This is a ute that’s all day comfortable, with generously padded front seats and acres of space between them. They’re still slightly too flat, but there’s enough space for tall (or chunky) drivers to get comfortable behind the wheel.

    It’ll almost be too luxe for the sort of ute owners who smash an iced coffee, sausage roll, and a dart for breakfast most mornings… but maybe that’s the point.

    The bits you touch are all high quality, and real effort has gone into making it look more special than utes significantly more expensive, let alone those in the same price bracket.

    The Bentley-style analogue clock in the Ultra Hybrid is a particular highlight.

    The technology here is an improvement over what’s currently on offer across the range. The central touchscreen is huge and features polished graphics within the native software, while the Hey GWM voice assistant is incredibly responsive… to the point it’s a bit too keen to jump in when you mention the brand name.

    It’s theoretically able to control everything from the radio to the windows, and at times worked perfectly – but it also got its wires crossed on a few inputs, turning off the head-up display instead of opening the sunroof at one point.

    Apple CarPlay (wireless) is enormous on the screen, with massive icons and bright colours making it essentially idiot proof. Thankfully, it’s also easy to turn the screen off at night using the shortcut menu that pulls down from the top of the screen.

    The digital driver’s display doesn’t look all that clean – the graphics are still a bit fussy, and you can’t mimic old-school analogue dials. But you are able to display a map in the cluster, and it’s easy enough to read on the move.

    It’s also streets ahead of what’s on offer elsewhere in the segment, given the HiLux and Triton have simple analogue dials, while the Ranger’s digital display is best described as utilitarian on all but the Platinum and Raptor.

    Storage up front is decent, with deep central cupholders, a deep central bin, and a cheap-feeling sliding key tray in between the two. The door pockets have space for bigger bottles, and there’s a neat cutout beneath the transmission tunnel backing up the wireless phone charger.

    Rear seat space is better in the Alpha than the smaller Cannon, sitting between a Ranger or HiLux and a proper American truck when it comes to legroom.

    You’ll notice the door opening is bigger here than in some utes, making it easier to load kids into chunky car seats, and the air vents are a win on hot Australian summer days.

    There’s also device power back there, allowing you to charge your phone, and the central rear seat folds down. The rear seats even recline in the Hybrid.

    Top tether points feature on all three rear seats, and there are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats.

    As for the tray? Its dimensions are laid out below – but those numbers won’t tell you about clever split-opening tailgate standard on the Hybrid Ultra.

    It folds down like a regular tailgate, but can also be opened like the doors on an old western saloon.

    Not all owners will benefit, but it does allow you to walk right up to the back of the tray and place whatever it is you’re carrying straight down rather than having to slide it over a lip – similar options are common on pickups in the USA.

    DimensionsGWM Cannon Alpha
    Tub width1520mm
    1110mm between arches
    Tub length1500mm
    Tub height500mm

    What’s under the bonnet?

    Unusually, the hybrid version of the Cannon Alpha is the less efficient option here. GWM says its hybrid technology is designed to deliver better performance, and any efficiency benefits are a bonus beyond that.

    Engine2.4-litre 4cyl turbo-diesel2.0-litre 4cyl turbo-petrol
    Transmission9-speed auto9-speed auto
    Driven wheelsOn-demand 4WD with low-rangeOn-demand 4WD with low-range
    Fuel economy (claim)8.9L/100km9.8L/100km
    Payload821kg (Lux) – 760kg (Ultra)735kg
    Towing capacity (unbraked)750kg 750kg
    Towing capacity (braked)3500kg3500kg

    How does the GWM Cannon Alpha drive?

    Two powertrains are offered in the Cannon Alpha; a diesel and a petrol hybrid.

    But before we get to that, the good stuff – yes, it’s lathered in chrome and leather, but this is a body-on-frame ute.

    That means it’s a bit busy at the rear axle on bumpy roads, and sharper bumps can illicit a shimmy from the car’s structure on the highway – but it’s pretty nicely tied down, with solid body control to stop it bouncing around.

    It’s also impressively refined for the price, with minimal wind and road noise at 100km/h aside from a hint of wind rustle around the mirrors. The diesel engine needs to work hard, though.

    Its peak outputs of 135kW and 480Nm are less than you get in a Ranger Bi-Turbo, and are closely aligned with what’s on offer in the new Mitsubishi Triton.

    In other words, the Alpha isn’t packing what you’d call heavy artillery under the bonnet, although it’s not wading into battle with a pea-shooter either.

    At lower speeds, it’s a smooth enough operator. There’s enough torque on tap to offer a decent shove in the back when you’re in the right gear, and with two people on board it doesn’t need to work too hard.

    But at highway speeds it’s clear the diesel doesn’t have a surplus of grunt. Put your foot down and you get more noise, but not a heap of extra acceleration between 80 and 100km/h, and there’s an awkward lagginess to the way it responds when you catch it at certain speeds, in certain gears.

    It’s noticeable with two people on board, but would likely become impossible to ignore with a full tray or a big trailer hitched up.

    As for the hybrid? GWM says its hybrid system isn’t just focused on economy, and is instead designed to improve performance.

    We’ve experienced versions of the system in a number of cars now, and the combination of petrol and e-assistance makes it immediately unique in the ute segment – you don’t get any diesel clatter through the steering wheel at a standstill, and even on the move it’s impressively quiet and smooth.

    Unlike a Toyota hybrid, it runs through the gears when you accelerate hard, and it feels relatively electric at low speeds.

    There is some lag though as it shuffles between power sources, and off-road it doesn’t respond naturally on the way up hills at times. It’ll be interesting to see how ute buyers, who can be reticent to embrace new ideas, respond.

    Off-road, the Alpha acquits itself well. We explored the same trail in this as the Tank 500, and it did an admirable job clambering up some awkward rocky sections – held back at times by the standard Giti tyres, which didn’t really dig.

    Back on the blacktop, GWM still needs to do something about its hyperactive driver assists if it’s going to convince Australian families to spend long periods of time behind the wheel of its cars, instead of a Toyota or Ford.

    The driver attention monitoring system is determined to tell you to pay attention to the road every couple of minutes, even if your eyes are locked on the horizon, and the emergency lane-keeping just isn’t equipped to deal with country roads with mottled light or gravel shoulders.

    It’s almost belligerent in its determination to get involved, constantly chiming in after the driver has overridden it, forcing you to take your eyes off the road to switch the system off in the touchscreen – safety first.

    What do you get?

    There are three variants in the Cannon Alpha range.

    Cannon Alpha Lux Diesel standard equipment:

    • Automatic LED headlights
    • Automatic high-beam
    • Fixed side steps
    • Electronically locking rear differential
    • Hill ascent control
    • Hill descent control
    • 18-inch alloy wheels
    • Full-sized steel spare
    • Tyre pressure monitoring
    • Spray-on tub liner
    • High-mounted tub light
    • Rear privacy glass
    • Black leatherette-accented interior
    • Dual-zone climate control
    • Light, Comfort and Sport steering modes
    • Standard, Sport, Eco, 4L, 4H drive modes
    • Auto hold
    • 6-way power driver’s seat
    • 6-speaker sound system
    • 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
    • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster

    Cannon Alpha Ultra Diesel adds:

    • 60/40 split tailgate
    • Spray-on tub liner
    • Electronically locking front differential
    • Power-folding exterior mirrors
    • LED front fog lights
    • Panoramic sunroof
    • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
    • Black leather-accented interior
    • Eight-way power driver’s seat
    • 6-way power passenger seat
    • Heated and ventilated front seats
    • Massaging front seats
    • Driver’s seat memory and welcome function
    • Wireless phone charger (front)

    Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid adds:

    • Analogue clock
    • Head-up display
    • Power-folding exterior mirrors with memory
    • 64-colour ambient lighting
    • Heated steering wheel
    • Wireless phone charger (rear)
    • 10-speaker Infinity sound system
    • Two-way power-adjustable rear seats with welcome function
    • Heated and ventilated rear seats
    • Semi-automatic parking assist
    • Auto Reverse Assist

    Is the GWM Cannon Alpha safe?

    The GWM Cannon Alpha has yet to be tested by ANCAP and is therefore currently unrated.

    Standard safety equipment includes:

    • 7 airbags
    • Autonomous emergency braking
      • Pedestrian detection
      • Cyclist detection
    • Adaptive cruise control
    • Blind-spot monitoring
    • Front cross-traffic assist
    • Rear cross-traffic assist
    • Lane-keep assist
    • Lane centring
    • Emergency lane-keeping
    • Traffic sign recognition
    • Surround-view camera with transparent chassis mode
    • Front and rear parking sensors

    Diesels have four parking sensors up front and four at the rear, while the Ultra Hybrid has six up front and six at the back.

    How much does the GWM Cannon Alpha cost to run?

    GWM backs its vehicles with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

    The only ute in Australia with a longer warranty than the GWM Cannon Alpha is the Mitsubishi Triton with its conditional 10-year coverage.

    Service pricing is not yet available.

    CarExpert’s Take on the GWM Cannon Alpha

    The Cannon Alpha shows GWM is listening. It’s a step ahead of where the regular Cannon was when it launched, with an extra degree of polish to its technology and drive.

    There’s still work to be done before we can talk about the Cannon Alpha in the same breath as the class-leading Ford Ranger though.

    Yes, it offers an impressive list of standard equipment from the base level and yes, it’s impressively spacious inside.

    GWM also deserves credit for offering a petrol hybrid in a segment dominated by diesel power, even if it’s not exactly a fuel miser by hybrid standards.

    There’s a but coming, though… and it’s the fact both powertrains still need some fine-tuning.

    The diesel has enough grunt for concrete cowboys and lifestyle users, but it falls short if you need grunt for towing or hauling. The hybrid does pack a punch when it’s all working together, but it’s a bit disjointed – and thirsty, all things considered.

    Don’t get us started on the driver assists either…

    Every GWM we drive is better than the last, and the Cannon Alpha has lots to offer based on its equipment, price, and looks. It’s just still not quite there when it comes to the rough-and-tumble ute stuff like towing yet.

    Click the images for the full gallery

    MORE: Buy a GWM Cannon Alpha
    MORE: Everything GWM Cannon Alpha

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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    Overall Rating
    Cost of Ownership8
    Ride Comfort8
    Fit for Purpose7.5
    Handling Dynamics8
    Interior Practicality and Space8.5
    Fuel Efficiency7
    Value for Money9
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