Pretoria - The Chery J3 hatch, introduced locally in November 2012, has had a midlife upgrade that really is an upgrade. We're not talking about new plastic mudguard mouldings or two-tone upholstery fabric - the 2014 J3 has a significantly more powerful engine and a raft of new gizmotronics.
Let's start with the nut and bolts: Chery called in Austrian powertrain development specialist AVL - whose regular customers include Audi, Citroen and Renault - to give the J3's 1.6-litre a beef injection and, reading between the lines, we suspect the Chinese got more than they bargained for.
VARIABLE VALVE TIMING
Rather than remapping the electronic control unit, which usually yields decent results without too much expensive new hardware, AVL reworked the cylinder head to accommodate variable valve timing, giving it an extra 6kW (was 87, now 93kW at 6150 revs) and 13Nm - up from 147 to 160Nm at 3900rpm - driving the front wheels as before through a five-speed manual 'box.
The bad news is quoted at 8.3 litres per 100km and 194g/km and, while Chery SA doesn't publicise performance figures, we'll take it for granted that it now does what it does with less huffing and puffing, especially at altitude.
It certainly does it more safely; standard kit now includes an electronic stability programme that uses the antilock braking and traction control sensors, among others, to detect if the car is not moving in the direction that its grille and/or the front wheels are pointing and brake the appropriate wheels until it does
Also new is a multi-function central touch screen, which is now Bluetooth and DVD compatible, with satellite navigation, softer, more comfortable seats, rear parking sensors and reverse camera.
Oh, and one purely cosmetic change: restyled alloy rims.
THE REALLY BAD NEWS
The extra features added to the 2014 Chery J3 and the weak rand have pushed the price up from R189 900 to R209 900, which includes a three-year or 100 000km warranty, a three-year or 75 000lkm service plan and three years' roadside assistance.
The first service is due at 5000km and thereafter at 15 000km and then onwards with 15 000km or annual service intervals, whichever comes first.