Helene Griffiths attended the recent launch of the new Chery range, the QQ3, J5 and Tiggo, and was most impressed with the quality of these affordable vehicles.

Chery range offers quality and affordability

I am one hundred percent behind anyone trying to introduce affordable cars to South Africa, as long as these cars are of a standard acceptable to the motoring public. As sceptical as I was about McCarthy’s second attempt, I was pleasantly surprised with the Chery range from their new Chinese partners, launched a few days ago.

Extensive endurance testing by McCarthy

What is very encouraging is that the Chery brand, although a relatively young motor manufacturer, has achieved international standards for the quality of its manufacturing process. According to Brett Soso, Managing Director of McCarthy’s Vehicle Imports division, McCarthy has done extensive local endurance testing on these cars on top of the testing in China. Also current Chinese emission standards are Euro 3 whilst in South Africa only Euro 2 is mandated.

Interesting though – the first Chery car came off the production line in December 1999, the 10 000th in June 2001, the 500 000th in March 2006 and the 1 000 000th in August 2007.

Three Chery models on the local market

Initially there will be three Chery models on the local market – the QQ3 ‘minicar’ with a choice of 0.8- and 1.1-litre engines, the J5 sedan and the Tiggo SUV – both with a 2-litre engine, developed by Chery in conjunction with the Austrian power train company, AVL-List.

Chery vehicle parts will be readily available

McCarthy is aiming to provide customers with a good value proposition, not just in terms of the initial purchase, but also in the overall ownership experience with the Chery brand. In addition to their well-established dealer network, McCarthy has established a strong technical support structure, which includes Chery specialists.

They also have a centralised Chery parts warehouse that is stocked with all the necessary parts to support customers from the outset. All parts are priced to contribute to overall vehicle affordability.

All three models come standard with a 3-year/100 000km warranty. A service plan is optional and service intervals are at 15 000km

At R59 900, Chery QQ3 is lowest priced new car

The QQ3 base model, a 3-cylinder, 0.8-litre engine, front-wheel drive, five-speed manual, with split fold rear seats, child lock rear doors and power steering as standard, comes in at R59 900.

The top of the range, the 4-cylinder, 1.1-litre TXE has an impressive standard feature list and includes ABS, dual front airbags, 13 inch aluminium rims, air-conditioning, audio system with a mini MP3 player port, central locking, alarm system, electric windows and mirrors as well as a manual sunroof. The QQ3 has a fuel tank capacity of 35 litres. It’s recommended retail price is R79 900.

Well priced compared to closest competitor

In my opinion, whether it is the base model or the top of the range, the QQ3 is really well priced especially if one looks at it’s closest competitor, the Chev Spark, at R66 560 for their base model and R89 290 for their top of the range, the 1-litre LT. – One cannot help but smile when you see the similarity of the QQ3 to the Spark – a real ‘cloned’ look!

Chery QQ3 – a practical urban minicar

I enjoyed driving the QQ3 as it is extremely manoeuvrable and has everything a one would expect from a littlely urban ‘minicar’. The only niggly things are perhaps a little too much play in the steering wheel and the fact that I had to move the seat back from my driving position to get the gear lever into reverse.

Two-litre sedan for under R150 000 – the Chery J5

The J5 has a look of it’s own – a chrome plated grille, diamond-shaped headlights and a sleekly styled bonnet – yet it has a very square looking rear.

There is enough vooma from the 2-litre in-line four cylinder engine that produces 95kW of power at 5 500rpm and delivers a maximum torque of 180Nm at 4 500rpm. Power is transferred to the front wheels by a five-speed manual transmission.

The two J5 models both boast advanced braking technology with disk brakes in the front and rear, enhanced by ABS and EBD. They come standard with power steering, dual airbags, an adjustable steering column, electric windows, central locking, air-conditioning with ventilation outlets for passengers in the rear and front loader CD player.

The rear seats have a 60/40 split that extends the already generous luggage space. The top of the range TX’s standard features list also include a reverse park distance control, foldable electric mirrors with demisters and leather trim.

Chery motto is ‘more car, more life’

As the Chery motto says – ‘more car – more life’ – you certainly get a whole lot for your money – a 2-litre with a price tag similar to that of other 1.5 and 1.6 vehicles – R139 900 for the TE model and R149 900 for the TX model.

Although I was very impressed with the J5, I really did not like the pedal lay-out. The gaps between the pedals are huge – my foot fitted through without touching. To crown it all, the clutch pedal is altogether on the left where you would normally find a foot rest. But I’m sure that one could live with this especially because of the 2-litre affordability!

The Chery on top – the 2-litre Tiggo, a compact SUV

Of the three Chery models, the Tiggo is my favourite! – A great looking compact SUV with a roof rack and spare wheel mounted on the outside of the rear door, thus providing more luggage space inside. This space can be expanded when the rear seats are folded down.

It is available in two models – the TX and TXE with recommended retail prices of R159 900 and R169 900 respectively with the same engine and standard features similar to that of the J5 models.
The Tiggo range has spacious dimensions for a compact SUV and boasts an overall length of 4 285mm, a width of 7 765mm and height of 1 705mm. It has a wheelbase of 2510mm and a good minimum ground clearance of 132mm.