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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

WATCH: Chery hits the sweet spot with the Jaecoo J7 (VIDEO)

This SUV drives a lot smoother and its fuel consumption is encouraging.

Jaecoo, a new urban off-road, Chinese car brand, has blasted onto the South Africa car scene with much fanfare. And the anticipation was off the charts from the celebs and influencers, who trade in looks and champagne, for a car that sure has the glamour part down pat.

Backing this up was the marketing speak, from Tony Liu, Executive Deputy General Manager Chery, Omoda & Jaecoo South Africa, that went along the lines of “the new Jaecoo J7 perfectly embodies the brand’s ‘From Classic, Beyond Classic’ philosophy and is as such the ideal model to introduce the innovative new marque to the country”.

Watch Jaecoo J7 video

The pricing is really good too with the entry level Vortex starting at R549 900. And specification levels are generous across the line-up as expected.

The Vortex has power-adjustable front seats, an electric tailgate, a 13.2-inch touchscreen and 360-degree panoramic camera system. Plus wireless smartphone charging, 18-inch alloy wheels (framing red brake callipers), LED headlamps and front foglamps. It also features automatic windscreen wipers, seven airbags, front radar and several added safety features.

ALSO READ: Wait no more: Jaecoo officially puts price on eagerly awaited J7

Loads of spec

The mid-spec Jaecoo J7 Glacier model gets 19-inch alloys and a 14.8-inch touchscreen. It further benefits from items such as innovative inter-seat airbags, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats. Plus head-up display, an integrated dashcam and a raft of extra driver-assistance features.

The latter includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and traffic-jam assist. It also has lane-departure warning, intelligent high-beam control and rear cross-traffic assist.

The flagship Jaecoo J7 Inferno receives a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel as well as privacy glass.

Jaecoo J7
The Glacier features a panoramic sunroof as standard. Picture: Jaecoo

ALSO READ: Jaecoo J7 stacking-up to be a segment surprise

Familiar powertrain

Then there is the all-new All Road Drive Intelligent System that offers as many as seven driving modes. This allows the Jaecoo J7 to tackle a wide variety of surfaces by electronically adjusting the vehicle’s responses in real time.

All three derivatives in the Jaecoo J7 range are powered by the now somewhat familiar 145kW/290Nm, 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine. The mill is also found in the Chery and Omoda brand products.

A seven-speed dual clutch transmission drives power to the front wheels on the entry level and mid spec models. Power goes to all four-wheels when required on the top of the range Jaecoo J7.

Fuel consumption

Many of the Chinese offerings are shiny, offer lots of tech and spec, and are well priced. But they are flawed in areas of drive calibration and fuel consumption. I was expecting the J7 to be no different. I was wrong!

ALSO READ: Chery showcases Jaecoo J7 SUV ahead of Mzansi launch

Getting straight into it, the AWD Inferno was the model The Citizen Motoring drove first, and immediately I noticed that the accelerator pedal feel and calibration in relation to input was much smoother than I had experienced before on any of the Chery International family of products.

This remained the case for the return drive in the FWD Glacier, and this in turn translated into a very pleasant on-road driving experience. Albeit that the Jaecoo J7 is sprung a little but firmer than need be for a soft-roader.

Jaecoo J7
The interior of the Jaecoo J7. Picture: Jaecoo

Encouraging signs

The only truly annoying thing was the constant beeping and pinging of the active safety systems on board. Perhaps when we get to spend more time in the car when we get it for a proper road test, we will be able to figure out how to switch what on and off and be able travel around in peace.

Another area of massive improvement was in the indicated fuel consumption on the trip computer. They say there had been a lot of work on their products in this area too. From never seeing less than 10-litres per 100km unless travelling down a very long hill with a tail wind behind you with the other family products, getting easily into the 8s for the AWD Jaecoo J7 Inferno was no issue at all. And we are really looking forward to spending some more time in this new offering.

Jaecoo J7 pricing

  • J7 1.6T Vortex FWD 7DCT – R549 900
  • J7 1.6T Glacier FWD 7DCT – R599 900
  • J7 1.6T Inferno AWD 7DCT – R679 900

* Pricing includes five-year / 70 000 km service plan, five-year / 150 000km mechanical warranty and 10-years or 1 million km engine warranty.

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