FAW might not be a well-known name in the passenger car market just yet but the Chinese carmaker is certainly counting on a growing presence at our end of the world.

For starters, the company is erecting a factory in the new Coega industrial zone near Port Elizabeth and while it'll initially churn out trucks, passenger vehicles and LCVs are part of the long-term manufacturing plan.

Back to the here and now, FAW is looking for a bigger slice of the affordable MPV market with an upgraded version its recently-introduced Sirius MPV.

It's not by coincidence that the Sirius has a familiar look about it - it is in fact based on the previous-generation Toyota Avanza.

That said, FAW has lent some of its own flavour to the Sirius, particularly at the front end, and now they've added a 1.5-litre petrol engine option.

While the existing 1.3-litre unit, good for 67kW and 120Nm, remains as a more affordable option, the new 1.5 serves as a brawnier alternative with 75kW and 140Nm on command. In both cases, power is channelled to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.

Like the Avanza it's based on, the Sirius offers seating for seven, although there's not too much of a boot to speak of when the third row is in place.

As is the norm with Chinese contenders, standard specification is generous and the list includes air conditioning, remote central locking, USB/MP3 audio player, alarm, dual front airbags, ABS and alloy wheels.

The range-topping 1.5 'Comfortable' model adds a roof-mounted aircon and a protection shield beneath the engine.

PRICES

1.3 Panel-van - R149 995

1.3 Comfort - R159 995

1.5 Standard - R179 995

1.5 Comfort - R189 995

All models are covered by a three-year/100 000km warranty and four-year/60 000km service plan and customers can rely on one of 20 dealerships across the country.

Yet while the pricing is keen in light of the amount of space you're getting - and the standard features count - this FAW's biggest challenge will be the presence of the newer-generation Toyota Avanza, which costs between R165 600 and R207 500.