CHERY, the leading Chinese passenger vehicle exporter, launched the J2 1.5-litre hatchback last week in one of most keenly contested places of the local market, the AB segment.
The managing director of Chery SA, Brett Soso, said its main competitors are the Hyundai i20, VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris. Soso quoted some staggering numbers which not even seasoned motoring hacks were aware of.
For instance, Soso claimed that Hyundai coughed up R28-million on adspend for one model only, the Hyundai i20, in a 12-month period. Market leader Volkswagen, in comparison, only spent R7.5-million in the same period.
Priced at R129900, the Chery J2 hatch is pitched against the Volkswagen 1.4 Polo Vivo (R147000), 1.5 Toyota Etios (R126800), Kia Rio (R155995) and Hyundai i20 (R152900).
For the first time at a launch (that I know of) a motor company was brave enough to go out and buy the competitors for journalists to drive and compare with the J2. Alongside the Chery was a Vivo, Etios, Rio and that Hyundai i20.
A very bold move by Soso and it paid dividends. After first driving the J2, the hacks were allowed to drive the competitors' cars, and many came away impressed with the Chery.
So what's under the J2 bonnet?
The car is a five-door, front-wheel drive hatchback powered by a 1.5-litre engine developing 72kW of power and 140Nm of torque and driving the wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. It has a claimed maximum speed of 171km/h with acceleration from 0-100km/h in 15.1 sec with fuel consumption of 7.4l/ 100km for the combined cycle with emissions of 176gm/km.
There's enough power to keep most motorists happy but I found that the brakes (discs at the front and drums at the rear) needed a lot of pressure to bring the vehicle to a stop.
There is only one model, the very well-equipped TX. The windows and exterior rear view mirrors are electrically-operated, while air conditioning, with easy to use controls, is standard, as is a six-speaker audio system with radio, front loader CD player and USB port. The seats are covered in cloth, with the rear seat backrest folding forward to extend load capability of the already large luggage space.
The attractively styled dashboard has instruments and controls placed ergonomically and all controls are light and easy to operate.
Safety is a high priority with Chery and the J2 has achieved a four-star rating under the Chinese N-Cap system (similar to Euro N-Cap). Standard features include anti-skid brakes, height-adjustable halogen headlights and heated rear window with wiper.
With the launch of the Chery J2 hatch, cash-strapped motorists have yet another option to consider. The more the merrier – the more competitive the market – I say.