6 March 2024

Chery with a car on top

| Paul Gover
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Chery Tiggo 7

The Tiggo 7 offers plenty of room for a family. Photo: Supplied.

The Chery Tiggo 7 looks good. For $39,990 it actually looks very good in the cabin and the body styling is fine once you get past the unfamiliar badge hogging the grille space. It also comes with a seven-year warranty, which provides the all-important ‘permission to buy’ for anyone considering a Chinese car and wondering if it will be reliable to own.

The Tiggo 7, despite a name which suggests seven seats for big families, also makes a strong case for five-seater, mid-sized SUV families. It gets along pretty well – the fuel economy is about right for the class, and it’s quiet at highway cruising speeds.

So it gets The Tick, then? Well, no. Although Chery has the broad-brush stuff done well, once you get into the details it runs into problems. The driver-assist systems are coarse and intrusive, the ride and handling is pedestrian, and there are questions – as we have with MG and Haval – about the long-term quality in the harsh Australian conditions that include gnarly roads and super high levels of ultraviolet light to damage paint and impact on plastics.

Once again, as Hyundai and Kia learned the hard way, Chery needs to get some local engineering input to polish the basics. The first of the Chinese brands to go all-in for Australia, recognising it needs local experience and quality engineering, will be a surefire winner and a brand with the kudos to tackle the USA and Europe with confidence.

So, for now, the Tiggo 7 is a midfield runner in the super crowded mid-sized SUV space. There is plenty of space for a family of five and the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine is nicely perky with good overtaking punch. The fuel economy is acceptable at around 9 litres/100 km and the seven-speed DSG gearbox is smooth and responsive.

Inside, Chery has created a cabin which matches the showroom impact of Audi. It looks good and is fully loaded, including a big and bold infotainment screen in the smooth dash layout. But scratch the surface, literally and figuratively, and you find cheapie plastic finishes, switches which feel clunky and slightly cheap, and a mismatch of the overall design and quality. So it’s nice, but again raises questions about the future.

Interestingly, there is a slightly Chinese accent to the satnav announcements and everyone at the other end of the hands-free telephone connection complained about a tinny sound and a difficulty in picking up some words.

The test car insisted there was an obstacle at the left front corner every time I started, when there was nothing there. It also insisted I was ‘distracted for a long time’ when I was not.

So Chery ticks the boxes for the driver-assist systems needed for a 5-star ANCAP safety rating but, in reality, they need far more finessing to do the job properly. That’s proven when the Tiggo 7 spins its front wheels on a slightly uphill gradient from a stop sign.

So Chery is doing well, and setting the bar for its Chinese rivals, but the Tiggo 7 is only affordable and not truly cheap which means buyers should also consider the affordable South Korean and Japanese contenders before falling for the bright and shiny stuff in the showroom.

Chery Tiggo 7

  • Position: Mid-sized SUV
  • Price: From $39,990
  • Engine: 1.6-litre petrol turbo
  • Power: 137kW/275Nm
  • Transmission: 7-speed DSG auto, front-wheel drive
  • Plus: Stylish, affordable, best of the Chinese
  • Minus: Not really cheap, not really polished
  • THE TICK: not yet
  • Score: 6.5/10

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