Chinese carmaker Chery poses an interesting proposition with the launch of its new J2 five-door hatch in South Africa.
In terms of size the car competes against the likes of the Hyundai i20, VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris – all of which fit into the A/B segment and accounted for 83 217 of the 662 737 cars sold in SA last year.
Drill that number down further and you’ll find that most of those A/B segment sales were five-door hatches, and this is where Chery is hoping to steal some market share.
But if you look at pricing, at R129 900 the J2 competes more with smaller A-segment players like the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, Ford Figo, Kia Picanto and Toyota Etios – making it quite a keen value proposition, as most Chinese-built cars are.
At launch Imperial and Bidvest, the joint shareholders of Chery SA, are putting their eggs in just one basket, a 1.5-litre hatch pushing 72kW and 140Nm through its front wheels. Mated to a five-speed manual ‘box the J2 has a claimed consumption figure of 7.4l/100km, will get to 100km/h from standstill in around 15 seconds, will top out at 171km/h, and has an emissions rating of 176g/km.
The single TX spec-level comes with electric windows and side mirrors, aircon, and six-speaker CD audio with USB port. Seats are finished in cloth (with rear backrests able to fold down for additional loading space); while fog lamps front and rear, heated rear window with wiper, high-level braking light, and height-adjustable headlights are all standard.
On the safety front Chery has included driver and passenger airbags, ABS with EBD, side-impact protection bars, and seatbelts with pre-tensioners.
The J2 has a four-star Chinese N-cap rating, but we were assured that it would be undergoing Euro-Ncap testing soon – with the manufacturer confident of a similar, or possibly even better, rating.
At the Joburg-based media launch last week we were presented with a modern-looking hatch, which we were told conforms to the maker’s 4S design philosophy – Sporty, Science (technology), Space and Safety. Look a little more closely though and you should see some familiar design cues from its direct competitors.
The J2 seems reasonably well-built, with the car we drove showing no signs of significant wind noise or cabin rattles. Fit and finish seemed acceptable, with none of the dashboard gaps we’ve seen in some other Chinese cars. The seats are comfortable and the controls all feel of a good quality (the dials could be bigger though).
Under the skin things are not as peachy, though.
On smooth tar and in a straight line the J2 feels convincing – but the engine is a bit of a wheezer, requiring down-changes for minor inclines. The suspension seems to soak up humps and bumps without fuss, but doesn’t appreciate sudden directional changes, with body roll specifically a concern.
In terms of peace of mind Chery SA has included a five-year/120 000km factory warranty, two-year/30 000km service plan, and five years of roadside assistance.
The local operation has also confirmed a full stock holding of replacement parts at its warehouse, and 36 dealers now operating countrywide, with four more imminent.
Going forward we can expect a facelift to the Chery QQ3 range later this month, followed by a Tiggo facelift early next year. -Star Motoring
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