The motoring world has undergone a complete transformation over the past few years with the emergence of the subcompact SUV. In this time, Chery has become somewhat anonymous with introducing new vehicles to the market, selling their last new car as long ago as 2018. Instead of rushing a lacklustre option into our market (which has been done in bygone times) to appease the demand of this new segment, the Chinese manufacturer has taken its time to refine its offerings for an affordable yet premium experience. Say hello to the rebirth of Chery in South Africa with their launch of the new Tiggo 4 Pro.
Over the past month or two, Chery has been gearing up for this day. Providing the motoring press and their marketing teams with snippets and teasers of the cards they hold in their hand. We attended the performance testing of the Tiggo 4 Pro at Gerotek recently and now we have been afforded the grand opportunity to be a part of this extravagant experience of essentially witnessing the rebirth of their automotive brand into the South African market.
While our time before was considerably fleeting, we spent the better part of the day getting to know the top spec Tiggo 4 Pro 1.5T Elite SE CVT which is China’s real Great Leap Forward.
From the outside, the silhouette of just about all subcompact crossovers are easily interchangeable to the untrained eye. They all share similar lines, lighting designs, overall dimensions and the Tiggo 4 Pro is no different with a design language that mimics those of their Korean and Japanese counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bad-looking car. It has good proportions, an array of different exterior textures and materials and it utilizes a logical but safe design approach which will appeal to those shopping in the segment.
Where the new Tiggo 4 Pro really excels is with its plush interior. It is almost impossible to believe that the brand that was responsible for the sub-par QQ (which was in essence based on a Daewoo Matiz) has now produced something more attractive and pleasant to be inside than any VW offering in the segment.
You are met with an array of soft touch plastics, leather surfaces, piano black finishes and commodious seats while the tech side of things is equally as noteworthy.
A digital 7” TFT dashboard display is recessed behind the steering wheel while a 10.25” central infotainment screen compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth sits above the air conditioning vents and minimal instrument buttons. A voice command system that actually works is equipped in the range and select models include a sunroof which sits above the first row of seats. The reassuring message which was echoed during the presentation of improved quality resonates strongly in the cabin. Everything feels sturdy and well assembled while driving produces a rattle free experience.
You have your choice of either a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine producing a maximum of 85kW and 141Nm or a turbocharged derivative of the same displacement with 108kW and 210Nm. The naturally-aspirated motor is coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission or CVT while the turbocharged motor is paired to either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 9-step CVT.
We only sampled the turbocharged CVT Elite model and the motor was sufficient in its use and the transmission was comfortable, quiet and seamless which is not always the case with a CVT. After learning that the Tiggo 4 Pro weighs in just under 1800kg we can speculatively say that the figures produced by the naturally-aspirated motor may not cut lugging the sizable body around as comfortably as the turbocharged motor. For such a compact yet heavy car, the roadholding warrants a stable drive while the suspension setup comfortably soaks up any road imperfections and dirt roads.
Throughout the route which was dominated by sedate open road driving, our test unit was displaying an unusually high fuel economy which averaged between 11-13l/100km. This can be partially accredited due to the fact that all of the vehicles had come straight off the showroom floor with less than 100km on the clock and still needed to be run before revealing their true performance and economy. Chery claims that the Tiggo 4 Pro equipped with the 1.5T motor can achieve as low as 7l/100km but Chinese manufacturers have a knack of greatly understating their fuel consumption. Take these numbers with a grain of salt since motoring journalists tend to have a heavy foot but the true figures might lie around 9l/100km.
This is still a massive discrepancy between the Tiggo 4 Pro and chief rivals like the Kia Sonet, VW T-Cross and Suzuki Vitara Brezza/Toyota Urban Cruiser which average between 5.5 and 6.5l/100km. This can possibly be accredited to the Tiggo 4 Pro’s sizable weight which is almost 600kg more than its competitors.
While economy numbers may not be impressive the pricing and after-sales figures are. The Tiggo 4 Pro pricing ranges from R269 900 and tops out at R359 900 which places it exactly in the middle of the segment. Chery are so confident in their R&D that every Tiggo 4 Pro sold will include a 5 year/60 000km warranty with a 5 year/150 000km warranty while the engine will include a 10 year/1 million km warranty. While there are many terms and conditions that accompany this bold claim, this should provide potential buyers with assurance that the Chinese brands’ quality has been improved and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
In conclusion, Chery have made the right decision returning to our market full time with the Tiggo 4 Pro. While the next 2-3 years will see their model portfolio grow with larger SUV’s and even a bakkie, their 30 dealer strong national network and opening of a Gauteng parts distribution center have provided the brand with the correct foundations for their rebirth.
In a saturated market where youthful and aspirational buyers are spoiled for choice, the Tiggo 4 Pro simply can’t be ignored. While more trusted brands like Renault’s Kiger and Nissan’s Magnite can be had for slightly less money, the Chery seems to be punching above its weight in terms of quality and refinement.