Chinese Chery could blossom in Europe with new SUV

Exeed TX could rival Audi and BMW, while Suzuki gets back to basics

Chery Exeed TX seems to lift design elements from various Lexus, Land Rover, and even Renault products

Chery Exeed TX seems to lift design elements from various Lexus, Land Rover, and even Renault products

 

The halls of many a motor show for the past decade have rung to the warning that the Chinese are coming. China, with its huge market for cars, its production capacity, and its low cost base, has long seemed like a sword of Damocles strung over the heads of American, European, and Japanese car makers. The home-grown Chinese brands have always been held back though, by a combination of a desire to supply home sales first, and an apparent lack of quality, dynamic ability, and fetching design.

That may no longer be the case. We’ll have to wait to see on the dynamic front, but the Chery Exeed TX, made by one of China’s largest producers of cars (700,000 sales last year alone) could well be the first China-made car to really put it up to the mainstream competition.

The Exeed (and no, we don’t know what Kia’s copyright lawyers will make of that either) is a compact, premium-looking SUV that should compete in size terms with the likes of an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but on price terms with a Honda CR-V or Nissan X-Trail. Built on an all-new platform, it uses a plugin hybrid powertrain to amp up its eco credentials.

“In just a few years we intend to start selling a family of vehicles in European markets across multiple segments, with power supplied by a range of electrified powertrains,” explains Chery chief execuitve Dr. Anning Chen. “Our brand will target open-minded, relatively younger customers in particular, with a product rollout strategy that focuses on quality, low- and zero-emissions powertrains, and emotional engagement with customers. All Chery vehicles that are intended to be sold in Europe will feature class-leading connectivity, be fun to drive, offer flexible and spacious interiors and will provide comprehensive personalisation, all of which are aligned with our high standards of product quality and aftersales support.”

The Exeed TX, which seems to lift design elements from various Lexus, Land Rover, and even Renault products, manages to take those disparate elements and meld them into an actually quite harmonious whole. By any standards, it’s handsome. By Chinese car maker standards, it’s both handsome and not a blatant ripoff of any one vehicle.

Inside, there is a big ten-inch infotainment screen, a wifi hotspot, and even tiny touchscreen displays built into the air vent controls, rather like those on an Audi TT. In a touch that seems especially in tune with the eco-zeitgeist, there’s also an LED light strip that glows different colours depending on the quality of the air entering the cabin. Wonder if it blows up if you take it into downtown Shanghai on a warm Friday afternoon?

The Exeed will be offered as a hybrid, a plugin hybrid, and a fully-electric vehicle. The hybrid and plugin hybrid use a 155hp 1.5-litre petrol engine, backed up by a 113hp electric motor. Fuel consumption for the plugin hybrid is a claimed 156mpg, and the Exeed has a top speed of 200kmh. It’ll go for a claimed 70km on a fully-charged battery.

While Chery could well be a spearhead for Chinese car makers in Europe, the company has been savvy enough to turn to existing European experts for many of the car’s systems. Bosch supplies the interior displays and touchscreens, for instance, while Continental has designed the car’s electronic architecture.

As for the all-electric version, Chery isn’t giving any specifics yet, but it is showing a Tiggo Coupé Concept, based around the same mechanical package as the Exeed, which uses an all-electric powertrain with a claimed 500km one-charge range.

Suzuki’s sport 

Less technologically advanced than the Chery, but from a rather more familiar manufacturer, is the Suzuki Swift Sport. The new Swift has been very warmly received by critics so far this year, and keeps safe Suzuki’s tradition of making small, fun, affordable cars.

Suzuki’s new Swift Sport
Suzuki’s new Swift Sport

The Swift Sport ramps up the fun element, with lower sports suspension, wider track, less weight (80kg down on the old Swift Sport) and a subtle bodykit. It even gets specially-made Monroe suspension dampers. The only thing we don’t know now is the power output. Suzuki has told us that the car uses the 1.4 Bossterjet petrol turbo engine, which normally has 140hp, but hasn’t confirmed the car’s output, other than that it has a torque figure of 230Nm.

“We know that our customers value a dynamic driving experience above everything else, so for the third-generation Swift Sport our development concept was “Ultimate driving excitement” says chief engineer Masao Kobori. “It’s lighter, sharper, quicker. It’s more aggressive and emotive, but we’ve also refined the elements that make it practical to use every day—the clutch feel, the manual transmission shift throw, the seats and steering wheel. Everything that puts the driver at the heart of the experience.”