The new Jaecoo J7 is turning heads in SA, these are the five SUVs it must beat to compete

The Jaecoo J7 is priced from R549,900 in South Africa. Pictures: Supplied.

The Jaecoo J7 is priced from R549,900 in South Africa. Pictures: Supplied.

Published Apr 15, 2024


Yet another new Chinese SUV brand has launched in Mzansi, and this one adds a dash of class to the mid-size segment. Jaecoo falls under the Chery umbrella but swims slightly upstream of the company’s core brand, with the newly launched J7 hitting the market in three versions priced between R549,900 and R679,900.

Its smooth but purposeful lines, which many people have compared to a Range Rover, have so far received positive comments among local media and other keyboard warriors.

Although it’s not a “rugged 4x4” like GWM’s Tank, the Jaecoo J7 was designed to be a touch more capable than your average unibody SUV, boasting a ground clearance of 200mm, wading depth of 600mm and and respective approach and departure angles of 21° and 29°.

The range-topping Inferno variant has all-wheel drive, while the Vortex and Glacier models are front-wheel driven.

2024 Jaecoo J7 rear view. Notice any Range Rover influence?

All are powered by a 1.6-litre turbopetrol engine, good for 145kW and 290Nm and paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Specification is nothing sort of generous, with even the entry version sporting 18-inch alloys, electric tailgate, power-adjustable seats, 13.2-inch touchscreen, 360° panoramic camera system, wireless phone charger and seven airbags.

The mid-spec Glacier at R599,900, adds items such as 19-inch alloys, 14.8” touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, head-up display and additional driver assistance gizmos like adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.

The Inferno flagship at R679,900, apart from the aforementioned AWD system with seven-mode ARDIS intelligent off-roading system, also gains a heated steering wheel and privacy glass.

Where does the Jaecoo J7 fit in

In terms of its positioning, the J7 straddles the segments slightly with its overall length of exactly 4.5 metres making it slightly larger than a Toyota Corolla Cross but smaller than a Rav4.

But which SUVs will it compete with in its price category? Let’s take a quick look at what it’s up against:

Ford Territory

Set to launch at the end of April, the Ford Territory is also sourced from China, and brings the Blue Oval back into the midsize SUV segment.

It’s offered in front-wheel drive format only, with power coming from a 1.8-litre turbopetrol engine, pounding out 138kW and 318Nm and pairing with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Ford will offer it in three flavours, with the Ambiente kicking things off at R576,000 and the Trend (R632,000) and Titanium (R707,000) offering more luxury. See full specifications here.

The 4.63 metre long Territory is likely to offer a great deal of practicality for the price and should be a compelling all-rounder, but keep in mind that you will have to pay extra for a service plan.

Chery Tiggo 7

The new Jaecoo will also have to face some internal competition, as the similarly sized Chery Tiggo 7 Pro offers a comprehensive line-up starting at a lower price point.

The 1.5-litre turbo versions are priced from R442,900 to R477,900, while the 1.6T GDI Tiggos that share their powerplant with the Jaecoo J7 are nestled between R499,900 and R609,900, with Premium, Distinction and Executive spec flavours and a choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

Inside buyers can look forward to 12.3-inch dual screens, an eight-inch Sony sound system and intelligent voice command fitted as standard to all 1.6-litre ‘Max’ models.

Click here for our Chery Tiggo 7 Pro Max driving impressions.

Haval H6

The Jaecoo’s other Chinese foe, the Haval H6, is the one to beat where it counts, having been SA’s best-selling midsize SUV in 2023. See our top 30 sales list here.

It’s currently priced from R492,050 to R610,750 in 2-litre turbopetrol guise (150kW), and there’s also a powerful (179kW) 1.5T Hybrid model available at R679,950.

The Haval H6 is spacious and well-equipped, available in Premium, Luxury and Super Luxury variants, or Ultra Luxury in the case of the aforementioned hybrid, while all-wheel drive is also available in the 2.0T models.

The cabin is modern and luxurious, featuring dual screens, although the functionality can take a little getting used to.

On the road the H6 cruises comfortably and quietly, but fuel consumption in the AWD models is a little on the high side. Read our review here.

Mazda CX-5

And now we get to the traditional players, which are increasingly having to give up market share to the Chinese newcomers.

The Mazda CX-5 was traditionally a popular choice in the segment and it’s still among the better priced, currently stickered between R551,000 and R664,800.

The second generation model, introduced in 2017, is getting on in life, but its design has aged well and it still offers a refined driving experience and a solidly built cabin that isn’t overly digital.

Sadly the diesel version has been axed, meaning the only motor of choice is Mazda’s normally aspirated 2-litre petrol unit, pushing 121kW through the front wheels via a six-speed autobox.

While it lacks the turbo-charged advantage that most rivals now enjoy, the CX-5 remains the cheapest non-Chinese entrant in its class, assuming you insist on sticking with a legacy car brand. Read our review here.

Volkswagen Tiguan

It is perhaps a little unfair to include the current-generation Tiguan given that the all-new third-generation model is due in the second half of this year.

But given that it’s positioned as one of the classier alternatives in the segment, and that it remains a strong seller, Jaecoo surely has it on the radar as a rival to the new J7.

The Tiguan is quite pricey, starting from R628,300 and topping out at R1.08 million for the high-performance R version but it does offer a wide range of derivatives, including 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TSI turbopetrol models and a 2.0 TDI turbodiesel.

ALSO READ: Discovering the charms of Kaapsehoop in our Volkswagen Tiguan TSI

Specification is a little skimpy in the base versions though, and potential buyers will possibly look to the new Jaecoo as a better equipped alternative.

Nonetheless, if you can bag a big enough discount on the outgoing Tiguan, it is still a very compelling and refined alternative that’s pleasant to drive, classy inside and as practical as you could expect.

The other alternatives

The thing with this segment is that most of the traditional players have priced themselves out of contention, and it shows in their often dismal sales figures.

The Kia Sportage, starting at R662,995, is arguably the best of the rest, sporting a brilliant turbodiesel engine as standard. The Hyundai Tucson kicks off at R589,900 in 2-litre normally aspirated guise, with a diesel from 800 grand, and even the cheapest Toyota Rav4 will set you back by R705,500, but it also lacks a turbo.

But perhaps the most far-fetched offering in the segment is the new Honda CR-V, which looks like a fantastic package until you see its starting price of R961,300.

Does the Jaecoo J7 have what it takes?

We have yet to test the new Chinese model, but at face value it makes a compelling argument for itself.

While its upmarket looks and generous specification will no doubt prove the main drawcard for buyers in this segment, it has other aces up its sleeve, offering an intelligent all-wheel drive system at a price point where most rivals are exclusively front driven.

Expect to see more than just a few of these on the roads in the coming year.

IOL Motoring