South African drivers have become used to seeing Chinese-built FAW trucks on the country's highway over the past two decades but now the Imperial Group is launching a range of FAW cars and light commercials.
The first to arrive are the Sirius seven-seater peopler carrier and panel van, priced at R159 995 and R149 995 respectively, each with a 1.3-litre petrol engine, with a 1.5-litre version to joining the range later.
The FAW group has joint ventures in China with Volkswagen, Mazda, GM and Toyota - which may explain the uncanny resemblance between the Sirius and the previous-generation Toyota Avanza - the side and rear three-quarter views, and the dashboard, look almost identical.
When asked about the similarity by IOL Motoring, FAW brand manager for cars and LCVs, Pedro Pereira, confirmed that there had been a tie-up between FAW and Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu and the Sirius was a product of that previous venture.
Second-hand styling or no, standard kit on both the seven-seater and the van includes alloy rims (including the spare), power steering, aircon, dual front airbags, anti-lock braking, remote central locking with keyless entry, power windows, a radio/MP3 player with a USB port, front and rear foglights, alarm/immobiliser, auto headlight levelling, child locks for the rear doors of the seven-seater and LED indicator repeaters in the front and in the side mirrors.
The 1.3-litre is rated for 67kW at 6000rpm and 120Nm at 4000rpm, driving the rear wheels through a five-speed manual 'box; Pereira claims average fuel consumption of 7.4 litres per 100km.
Front suspension is independent with Macpherson struts, with a live rear axle on coil-sprung multi-link suspension. The seven-seater can carry 525kg (passengers and cargo) while the panel van, which comes with an aluminium load-bay floor, can pack 545kg into a load bay 1670mm long, 1270mm wide and 1070mm high.
That's 2.27 cubic metres, to save you doing the sums.
Both versions are covered by a three-year or 100 000km factory warranty, a four-year or 60 000km service plan and one year's roadside assistance.
Up to now the Sirius has been exported only to the Middle East and North Africa; South Africa is the first right-hand drive market to get them, after some changes to the seven-seater for the local market, such as a retractable cover for the luggage compartment and hooks to hold the third-row seatbelts when they're not in use.
The two Sirius models will be available through 13 existing AMH multi-franchise dealers and an independent dealer in Witbank, but Pereira said he planned to extend that to 22 dealers, covering all major centres.
The FAW range will be extended early in 2013 to include a small hatchback called the V2 (also with a choice of 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol power) and a B-segment sedan by mid-year.