Chinese crossover looks the part, but has its flaws

REVIEW | 2024 Omoda C5 GT is more show than go

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
Extroverted styling kit echoes racy character.
Extroverted styling kit echoes racy character.
Image: Supplied

More than a decade ago, Chinese car brand launches were few and far between. They were also generally met with derision by the motoring press, because the products were far off from the standards set by long-standing rivals.

Fast-forward to 2024 and we almost cannot keep up with the assault from Far East manufacturers. Another week, another Chinese car launch. From a critical perspective, most of them are quite good – upping expectations in most regards. And judging from the sales figures, Mzansi consumers are nurturing steady relationships with the imports from China.

Be that as it may, we would not be your trusted motoring source if we glossed-over certain aspects. The fact remains that Chinese brands still need to prove their long-term equity in the market, including extended reliability of powertrains, durability of overall build, as well as customer satisfaction beyond the expiration of the warranty and service plans.

And perhaps South African shoppers will need a bit more time to accept certain prospects. Like, is the notion of a Chinese product with a high-performance slant something to be taken seriously? Could you imagine a world where Chinese monikers are referenced in company of acronyms like GTI, for instance?

Well, Omoda is off to a start with the GT derivative of its C5, launched a year ago. It is no secret that our market appreciates vehicles that: make a noise, can accelerate fairly quickly and look track-ready. At the very least, the C5 GT offers the relatively convincing impression that it offers these hallmarks.

Interior design has a thoroughly modern feel.
Interior design has a thoroughly modern feel.
Image: Supplied

But you should manage your expectations. Rather than an out-and-out performance crossover (like a Hyundai Kona N), this is more of a lukewarm expression with greater emphasis on show, instead of go.

If you were eyeing products like the Volkswagen Taigo R-Line or Peugeot 2008 GT-Line, this could be for you.

Its official designation is the 1.6 TGDI 290T GT and pricing starts at R589,990. The model takes position at the top of the range, while the most accessible derivative is the 1.5 T 230T Tech, costing R447,900.

Like with sister division Chery, Omoda also benefits from a five-year/150,000km warranty. The first owner gets a 10-year/1,000,000km engine warranty (which comes with its own terms and conditions). A five-year/70,000km service plan is included.

You can have the GT in an expressive styling package comprising 18-inch gold wheels like an old Subaru rally car, as well as a serious-looking rear spoiler. But the more conservative buyer could opt for a toned-down execution as well, with black wheels and accents. Observers with sharp eyes will spot the subtle GT badges on the fenders.

The biggest talking point is the power source under the hood. Unlike its stablemates, the GT employs a 1.6-litre engine. This turbocharged-petrol with four cylinders delivers 145kW and 290Nm. Drive is to the front wheels and transmission is handled by a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Its claimed 0-100km/h sprint time is 7.8 seconds.

This sounds fine on paper, but in the real world, the GT feels less inclined to hustle. Despite the punting of an electronically-actuated, low-inertia turbocharger, lag on take-off is significant. Couple that with the slow-witted transmission and you have a result that often makes for clunky progression, particularly in traffic and urban driving.

From a ride quality and handling perspective, the GT is hardly a model of cohesion either, hampered by a damping system that amplifies road imperfections. Average fuel consumption after the test period was 10.2l/100km.

Aggressive aerodynamic spoiler stands out.
Aggressive aerodynamic spoiler stands out.
Image: Supplied

In all, the GT experience compounded many of the gripes we had when we drove drove the lesser version of the C5 last year. It does not feel like a vehicle properly calibrated for the nuances of South African motoring conditions. The hyper-sensitive autonomous emergency braking system left me uneasy after wanting to deploy full anchors on more than one occasion.

On a more superficial level, however, it does packs a fair amount of dazzle. The aesthetics of the vehicle turned heads without fail. People admired the elaborate grille pattern, sleek shape and edgy black colour scheme of our test unit.

Inside, the C5 has a veneer of premium quality, with delicate materials on the immediate touch surfaces that feel rich to the touch. The glutton of piano black plastics is unfortunate though.

Specification-wise, there is absolutely nothing more you would want. From leatherette-clad seats with a sumptuous grain, to a panoramic sunroof, fully digitised cockpit, remote starting and more.

One can understand the appeal of the C5 as a stylish, well-equipped prospect with left-field flavour. But the GT is probably not the one to have, given that it falls short of its sporting mandate, in addition to the price premium it carries over the 1.5-litre derivatives.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.