Johannesburg – The second-coming of Chery to the South African new-car market sees its first new-generation model launched to a chorus of approval for both the quality of the new Tiggo 4 Pro compact SUV and a pricing structure that will grab your attention. The official reveal at the Sandton Convention Centre this Wednesday was preceded by a drive for select media members to the Hartbeespoort Dam area. This first jaunt on real roads (we sampled the new Tiggo 4 Pro at the Gerotek testing facility a few weeks back) confirmed that, astoundingly, Chery have a car that can realistically compete against the top offerings in this segment.
The cheap and dynamically indifferent offerings from Chery when it first entered the market here over a decade ago are consigned firmly to the memory banks by the new Tiggo. By any standards this is a good-looking car. And after spending a couple of hours behind the wheel on a variety of tar road surfaces and in traffic, the feeling is one of surprise at just how enjoyable this new Chinese model is.
The launch drive was actually the third time I had been exposed to the car. The first occasion was at a static viewing on the East Rand a few months back, and this was followed by a brief sampling at Gerotek. Enclosed test track facilities are all well and good, but nothing beats driving a car in a real-world environment, especially on familiar roads.
Appearance-wise, it has to be said that Chery, China’s largest exporter of motor vehicles, has pretty much nailed it with the Tiggo 4. There is none of the chintzy, add-on glitz that affects some vehicles from relative newcomers to the world of serious motor manufacturing.
The Tiggo 4 Pro is very striking, thanks to its bold hexagonal grille with a restrained diamond pattern, and light clusters that give the car a modern but retsrained look. The rest of the car has a chunky, solid appearance, punctuated by muscular flanks and stylish rear light clusters, and, in the case of the model we sampled, very attractive17-inch alloy wheels finished in gloss black and shod with substantial 225/60 R17 rubber. The media launch saw us only exposed to the top model in the range, this being a turbocharged 1,5-litre petrol model, fitted with a CVT with nine “steps” to simulate conventional gear ratios.
The Tiggo 4 pro range consists of five models and these are as follows: The entry-level 1.6 Urban 5-speed manual at R269 900, the 1.5 Comfort 9-speed CVT at R299 900, the 1.5 T Elite 6-speed manual at R319 900, the 1.5 T Elite Auto at R349 900 and the 1.5 T Elite SE at R359 900.
The naturally-aspirated 1.5 models employ a four-cylinder petrol engine producing 83 kW and 138 Nm of torque, and these are available with a five-speed manual gearbox or a 9-speed CVT. The turbocharged 1,5-litre petrol models enjoy an output of 108 kW and 210 Nm of torque, and these come with a 6-speed manual gearbox in the Elite version or a 9-speed CVT in the Elite and Elite SE models. All the Tiggo 4 Pros are front-wheel-drive models.
Climbing aboard the SE Elite model one is struck by the array of soft-touch finishes in what is a very well-laid-out interior. I particularly like the way Chery has integrated the 10,25-inch touch screen into the dashboard, so that it doesn’t have the feeling of being simply plonked on as an afterthought. Tellingly, this screen is also fitted to the entry-level models. The Elite models, however, get a larger digital display cluster ahead of the driver. Mobile phone compatibility is a feature on all the Tiggo 4 Pro models, but on the Elite SE we were impressed with the voce command system that boasts a wide range of functions. Opening and closing windows, adjusting climate control temperature, fan-speed, sun roof and audio controls are all part of the voice-command package. What’s more, by simply activating the command button and saying ” Hi Chery”, the response you get from the digital voice and subsequent action is more reliable than many other systems we have experienced on much more expensive European-designed cars!
Leather upholstery is a feature on both Elite models, but the SE has red contrasting stitching that complements the red detailing to be found on the exterior of the flagship model, on the side skirts, and above the front and rear skid plates. It would have been all-too easy for Chery to go the garish route on this sort of endeavour, and it is to the Chinese company’s credit that the red detailing seems to work aesthetically on the whole range of colours on offer.
So, the big question we needed answering this week on the first pucker launch drive was how does the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro behave in traffic, on quiet back roads, on the freeway?
The answer is, quite impressively. For a car weighing over 1 300 kg, the 108 kW engine gets things underway with a fair amount of zest, thanks in part to the nine-steps in the CVT transmssion that keeps revs well above the 5 000 rpm mark when you mash the accelerator pedal. A slight lift on the pedal sees the CVT cone-and-belt device react quickly to this signal of intent and “up-shifts” quite smartly, dropping the revs accordingly. It was only on one long uphill on the N14 freeway that I experienced a touch of the drawn-out droning that seems to be part and parcel of any CVT-equipped car, but a quick lift on the throttle, and then a re-application of power, saw the transmission “step” drop the revs quite smartly and restore audial well-being in the cab,
The ride quality on this Tiggo 4 Pro is impressive. It handles poor tarmac surfaces extremely well, and deals with big bumps and dips admirably, with commendable wheel-movement control. It was only on one back-road near Hartbeespoort that I noted some slight jiggling over a rippled surface, but not having any comparable rival model to measure this by, I would say that the fault here was more with a road surface that had been badly ripped by heavy trucks, a feature of roads in the Hartbeespoort area.
The steering initially feels very overpowered at parking speeds, but this tightens up nicely on the move, and I found it very easy to place the Tiggo 4 accurately on the road. The steering wheel, squared off at the lower edge, loads up nicely in corners to give a good sense of communication bwteen the front wheels and the tar.
Build-quality-wise, overall I was impressed with the Tiggo4 Pro. Only once did we experience a slight rattle in the dashboard in the infotainment screen area, but this was not something that reared its head again. Overall, the feeling in the cabin is one of very good quality and very usable space. With the seat ajjusted for my 1,83 metre frame, there was still plenty of leg room for rear seat passengers. And as for the boot, it appears quite generously sized, although Chery have not yet supplied any dimensions for the boot in its specifications.
Fuel consumption on the Tiggo 4 Pro Elite models should vary between 7,5 litres/100 and 10,5 litres/100 km, depending on how you drive it. Media launch drives tend to be of the brisk variety, and canvassing other media colleagues, these are the kind of figures we can report on for now. Chery have not yet released any official performance or fuel consumption figures for the Tiggo 4 Pro, but we can confirm that in the turbo model it is all too easy to cruise at speeds of well above the national limit.
The other big news at the launch was the announcement of a 10-year/ 1-million km warranty on the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro’s engine, Apparently this applies only to the original purchaser of the car, and is also subject to various servicing criteria. But it certainly indicates Chery’s confidence in its engineering acumen. More realistically, however, Chery South Africa offers a 5-year/150 000 km warranty and a 5-year/60 000 km service plan as part of the purchase price.
Price: R349 900
Engine: 1,5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol
Transmission: 9-speed CVT
Power: 108 kW
Torque: 210 N.m
0-100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Fuel consumption: N/A
CO2: 161 g/km
Maintenance plan: 5 years/ 60 000 km
Warranty: 5 years for vehicle and 10 years for engine engine (for 1st owner)
By Stuart Johnson