Johannesburg - Chery has officially launched its new Omoda brand in South Africa, and first out the starting blocks is this striking crossover called the C5 - which bears no relation to anything Citroen makes, by the way.
The Omoda C5 is available in three model flavours, priced from R447 900 to R509 900, and they all get their motivation in life from a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that makes 115kW and 230Nm. Power goes to the front wheels through a CVT gearbox.
More of a coupe-inspired crossover than an SUV, the Omoda C5 has sharp, striking lines and is particularly attractive from the side and rear, although you might say there’s a bit too much grille going on at the front end. Some have even likened it to a braai grid.
On the inside it’s clear that Omoda has upmarket ambitions and on the brief launch event my driving partner and I were generally impressed with the overall quality of the materials. Keeping in mind that this is not quite a Toyota to Lexus transformation - there’s still Chery lettering on the steering wheel for crying out loud!
The cockpit has a modern, dual screen layout and the wireless phone charging pad is positioned at an incline for easy access to your device. The car’s controls and infotainment system do take a little getting used to however. For instance, the trip functions use the same steering wheel buttons as the cruise control and can only be operated when the car is stationary.
But how practical is the C5? It’s 4.4-metres long, making it larger than a Mitsubishi ASX but smaller than a Corolla Cross or Haval Jolion. Despite its outlandish design, interior space is fairly decent. There’s a 378 litre boot, and sitting behind my driving position in the back, I didn’t feel at all squashed, although there wasn’t a great deal of stretching space either.
I took the Omoda C5 for a quick drive from Johannesburg to Hartebeespoort Dam, and couldn’t find too much fault with its overall road manners, keeping in mind that this is not the dynamic, sporty SUV that its looks might lead you to believe.
The 1.5T engine cruises comfortably on the open road, and there’s enough power to overtake safely, although the engine will have to be worked hard at times.
Flatten the right pedal in this car and you ultimately get more noise, and CVT whine, than outright performance. It’s not exactly agile through the bends either and the steering doesn’t offer much feedback, but let me get straight back down to earth here because I can’t imagine that any of this is going to be a deal breaker for the average Omoda buyer - especially given its price positioning.
Ultimately this is a great city slicker that can handle country excursions too, but it’s not as dynamic as the looks suggest.
Our launch drive wasn’t really conducive to a proper economy test, but our car did average over 10 litres per 100km, albeit after some relatively hard driving at times.
What features do you get?
Being a Chinese product, you can be sure that it’s packed with standard specifications, but you’ll have to go for the Elegance or Elegance S, priced at R507 900 and R509 900 respectively, to get the really cool stuff.
Let’s do a quick grade walk, starting with the ‘Tech’ base model.
Here you get 17-inch alloy wheels and sports seats with a vinyl and cloth upholstery combination. Cabin features include dual-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel, wireless charging, push-button start, 10.25 inch (26cm) digital instrument cluster and an identically sized infotainment system with wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and intelligent voice command that responds to “Hello Chery”. You can even get it to open the windows for you or play your favourite tracks.
Driver assist features on the base model include front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera and cruise control
But you’ll have to opt for the Elegance models to get the full suite of advanced safety features, including Adaptive Cruise Control with traffic assist, Blind-Spot Detection, Forward-Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane-Departure Warning and Prevention.
However on our drive out to Harties the lane feature proved to be ridiculously sensitive, even trying to steer me across a solid barrier while overtaking another vehicle on a dual-lane road with plenty of space to spare. Thankfully you can adjust the sensitivity to ‘Low’.
In addition to all the spec already listed, the C5 Elegance models also gain 18-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, Sony sound system, powered tailgate and leather seat upholstery, with ventilation for the front occupants and electric adjustment for the driver.
You must admit, that’s a heck of a lot of spec for 500 grand.
The Omoda C5 will be available through 30 dealers nationwide and the brand is also launching various lifestyle initiatives under the “O-Universe” label.
“In South Africa, as in other countries that have introduced Omoda, we have employed an entirely new team with new ideas to build the Omoda brand and community. Nothing is off the table, and anything goes, as long as our Omoda customers feel the benefit,” Chery SA executive Tony Liu explained.
Customers can also look forward to some significant after-sales back-up, in the form of a service plan that’s valid for five years or 70 000km, and a five-year or 150 000km general warranty. The first owner of the vehicle also gets a 10-year, one-million-kilometre engine warranty.
Chery Omoda C5 Pricing (April 2023)
Omoda C5 1.5 Tech - R447 900
Omoda C5 1.5 Elegance - R507 900