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.