At its much-anticipated re-launch two months ago, Chinese auto giant, Chery, remarked it was ready to offer South Africans the best it had in order to “meet and exceed” demand in a market known for its fierce brand loyalty.
Returning after a quiet exit some three years ago, the brand unveiled three models under the Tiggo nameplate, all a world away from not only the Toyota RAV4-aping original, but also the less than stellar QQ3, J2 and J5 it previously offered.
This past week we had the first chance to simple what its likely to be its most popular offering, the Tiggo 4 Pro South Africans will be able to purchase from any of the 30 Chery dealerships from next month.
What is it?
Aimed at the mostly Indian dominated small SUV segment frequented by the Kia Sonet, Toyota Urban Cruiser and Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Renault Kiger, Hyundai Venue, Nissan Magnite and Ford EcoSport, the Tiggo 4 Pro is billed by Chery as its “most advanced SUV” to date. And one which also be the “most competitively priced in its class”.
While pricing remains an unknown, speculation is that it could retail from R300 000 to R400 000 depending on the specification level and drivetrain, what is certain is that the Tiggo 4 Pro has come a long way since the original batch of frankly horrid offerings from twelve years ago.
Lined-up at the Gerotek Testing Facility outside Pretoria, all of the models provided represented the very top-spec derivative, all powered by Chery’s in-house developed 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine hooked to a CVT.
In spite of the wet and windy conditions that prevailed, the initial observation, excuse the pun, was sweet and anything but damp.
A looker indeed
The first model to sport Chery’s latest styling language, the Tiggo 4 Pro has a profile, especially from the side, not too dissimilar to that of the Sonet while the rear exhibits a number of cues from the Citroën C5 Aircross. Not that these can be seen as bad.
In fact, there was little to moan about as the Tiggo 4 Pro’s overall look is both funky, stylish and sporty thanks to the black 17-inch alloy wheels, red accents and red brake calipers.
Inside, definitely where you want to be
The most impressive aspect though is the interior. Modern and well put together, the materials used felt premium with soft-touch plastics and leather used on most surfaces.
Despite the odd, and very at that, scratchy surface, build quality impressed with the level of tech being especially good. Centre stage, literally, goes to an easy-to-use BMW-style 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system flanked by a seven-inch digital instrument cluster.
Down the centre console, the climate control display resembles the 8.6-inch setup found in current Audi models, though it lack an actual display and comes with physical buttons rather than haptic items.
Of particular interest was the voice recognition system activated by the line, Hey Chery, before being asked for a command. The system is standard with the mentioned infotainment system, which also sports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
A standout of the interior is the amount of space. With the Tiggo 4 Pro measuring 4 318 mm in overall length and its wheelbase coming to 2 610 mm, the cabin feels anything but cramped.
Those seated in the rear benefit the most as legroom is more than sufficient, while headroom, despite the standard sunroof, didn’t elicit any headaches or bangs against the side pillar when getting out.
On the move, the Tiggo 4 Pro was more mixed. Producing 108kW/210Nm, the blown assisted engine felt punchy with a nice flow of power, though it does sport some initial low down lag.
For the most part, the CVT is smooth and well matched to the engine, although it did become flustered and sporadic when pushed or switched from Eco to Sport modes. The latter is however a treat as the improved throttle response highlighted the talents of the engine, which will also be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
For entry-level models, the sixth ratio will be dropped and the turbocharger jettison with outputs dropping to 85kW/141Nm. The CVT will remain as the self-shifting option.
During the drive held within the confines of Gerotek, the Tiggo 4 Pro proved its worth on a grass and muddy “off-road” section, as well as having its traction control and ABS put to the test on the soaked skidpan.
A trek up one of the facility’s daunting “passes” with its tight hairpins and brake punishing descents, while a lot of fun, revealed another a surprise.
With input from Lotus, the Tiggo 4 Pro, unsurprisingly, handles well as tyre sequel only occurred when really pushed hard, while the steering felt sharp and well weighted. In fact, the main issue was the Hill Descent Control, which sounded like a series of gears being grinded together and anything but confidence inspiring or pleasant.
For all its arguably minor gripes, the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro is an otherwise well devised and formidable package that appeals from an aesthetic as well as a technological standpoint, aided by a perky engine and a largely acceptable in the case of the CVT, transmission.
All that remains now is the price which, if calculated correctly, will translate into a sure winner right from the get-go.