Chery is about to launch a slew of new products in South Africa. Their 2024 model offensive will kick off with the Jaecoo J7, a retro-styled compact SUV with all-wheel drive. CAR Road Test editor Kyle Kock got behind the wheel to drive the newcomer in its native Wuhu, China.
Jaecoo J7 Fast Facts
- Price: TBC
- Engine: 1,6-litre, 4-cylinder, turbopetrol
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
- Power: 145 kW
- Torque: 290 N.m
- Driven wheels: AWD
- Fuel consumption: n/a
- CO2 emissions: n/a
- Rivals: VW Tiguan; Hyundai Tucson
What are we driving?
While on assignment to have a look at what exciting new products Chery and its sub-brands (Omoda, Jaecoo, Exeed) may or may not bring to South Africa, a handful of South African motoring media members were shepherded away from the Fangte Paradise Amusement Parking parking lot, where we’d just driven some models like the Chery Arizzo 390T (which unfortunately won’t be sent to South Africa) and into private staff vehicles to be chauffeur driven to another facility owned by Chery International.
We’d signed consent forms to drive a new vehicle on an off-road course, but we weren’t exactly sure what was in store for us. Were we to end up behind a top-secret new prototype? Or some bonkers new EV? Actually, it turned out that the vehicle parked at a campsite owned by Chery International was none other than the Jaecoo J7, which I’d walked past at least 20 times during the previous two days.
Why is the Jaecoo J7 significant?
The J7 will enter the hotly contested midsize SUV when it arrives in the first quarter of 2024, but it brings retro styling to the fray. Think of It was the Toyota FJ Cruiser of little SUVs. It’s also packing a proper all-wheel drive system. There’s a 1,6-litre turbopetrol unit up front that is shared with the likes of the Tiggo 8 Pro, which we’ve already experienced here in South Africa.
What is new on the updated Jaecoo J7?
There are exposed metal panels on the doors made to look like they’re held in place with screws. It’s an intentional design element and I think it lifts the relatively dark finish to everything. The faux metal is continued on the vents, pedals, and some other trim. The facia is neat and simple; you’re greeted by a rectangular digital instrument panel and a premium-looking steering wheel with minimal satellite controls and there’s no missing the portrait infotainment tablet that houses most of the functions you’d want to access during the drive, like climate control and audio.
Below the tablet, there’s a wireless charging pad that we’ve seen before in the Omoda C5, and behind it is a shifter with drive selector just ahead of it – both fall within the driver’s grasp easily.
What are the Jaecoo J7’s rivals?
The Hyundai Tucson 2,0D AWD N-Line (R799 900) and Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line 4Motion 2,0 TDI and TSI twins (R829 200 and R830 50) are some of CAR’s Top 12 contenders. Toyota’s RAV4 2,5 VX AWD (R809 600) is also worthy of mention here, and so are others with all-wheel drive.
What is the Jaecoo J7 like to drive?
We were limited to an off-road course that couldn’t have been more than one kilometre in length, and then to just one lap. It was more akin to a rallycross circuit than the Rubicon trail, but the J7 nevertheless displayed an excellent level of NVH suppression and a little less of the lag between depressing the throttle and surge of torque that models like the Tiggo have suffered from recently.
The all-wheel-drive system pulled the J7 out of slides on the loose surface without too much effort, but there were so many unanswered questions I had, like what the lap in the J7 would have been like with the traction control deactivated. Or in any one of the other modes available (like mud, snow, and sport). The 1,6-litre turbopetrol, shared with the likes of Tiggo 7 and Tiggo 8 felt as strong as ever, even though for the J7, Chery says that it has been detuned slightly.
When is the Jaecoo J7 arriving in South Africa?
The J7 should arrive on local shores before the end of March 2024. Of the utmost importance is that they get the pricing right so that it doesn’t compete with its siblings (it’ll be close to the Tiggo 8 Pro Max), and put it in a position to upstage some of its established rivals.