Pretoria - Forget everything you may have heard about Chery and their first foray into South Africa. The Chinese car manufacturer has learnt from their previous cheap and nasty offering and seems set to throw the cat among the pigeons with their latest range.
The first to be launched is the compact SUV Tiggo 4 Pro which goes on sale at the end of November after the opening of the first 30 dealerships. South Africa is also the first country to launch the right-hand drive version.
We got to spend a little time behind the wheel of the Tiggo 4 Pro at the Gerotek testing facility outside Pretoria.
First impressions were impressive showing off a large grille, integrated LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights. It’s well sculptured too with the front, side and rear flowing together nicely and in black with a dash of red (including red brake calipers) behind 17-inch alloys on the top spec car it makes a bold statement for a compact SUV.
It comes with two engine options both with the 1.5-litre petrol mill in either naturally aspirated for the entry level or turbo charged for the higher specced Tiggo 4 Pro.
It’s connected to either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) sending power to the front wheels.
Without the turbo you get 85kW and 141Nm of power while with the gas blower it’s good for 108kW and 210Nm of torque.
But it’s the inside that really impresses with soft touch surfaces, comfortable seats and pleasing ergonomics. Gone are the days of dodgy unaligned stitching and hard surfaces, the interior giving the impression of premium quality and a place you wouldn’t mind spending time.
Rear passenger space is very generous and with the front seats all the way back there was ample legroom for my tall frame.
It has a ton of tech including a seven-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
During our brief encounter the screen responded rapidly to touch and showed no lag at all.
It’s also got an Audi-type vibe in the centre console with the air conditioning settings adjusted using touch only.
All models come with electric windows and automatic headlamps while the luxury versions get a sunroof, an intelligent voice command system and climate control.
Our drive with the odometer on only 180km included a gymkhana on the skidpan which showcased the traction control and braking and a drive on the undulating mountain handling track with sharp turns and gentle bends with the turbo-charged option.
The engine had a slight turbo lag especially in eco mode but once sport mode was engaged and it got up to speed it was responsive and the CVT actually felt more like an automatic.
We drove the track in convoy so there wasn’t much opportunity to give it a hard drive but in short spurts it handled well showcasing its wide-placed wheels and independent rear suspension that was tuned with the help of the Lotus Group.
We also got to try out the downhill descent control which sounded a bit like nails being scratched across a blackboard as the ABS gripped the four disks. As a crossover/SUV the Tiggo 4 Pro is unlikely to be doing any serious off-roading and like the CD player it’s probably more a nice to have rather than something to be used regularly.
Once the car is launched officially next month and we get to spend more time with it under normal driving conditions we’ll be able to give proper driving impressions, but on the face of it, if priced right and with a competitive service plan and warranty, Chery has a winner here.