Chinese cars keep evolving, but can improve further

REVIEW | Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Max AWD has premium feel – and some quirks

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
The Tiggo 8 Pro Max has an upmarket aesthetic.
The Tiggo 8 Pro Max has an upmarket aesthetic.
Image: Supplied

While driving the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Max this week, I spotted a red example of the old Chery QQ3.

This product was not the brand’s finest hour, launched at a time when Chery was still a fledgling, with outdated technologies and designs that the local market did not take seriously.

Products like the original Tiggo compact sport-utility vehicle, J2 hatchback and dinky QQ3 were the butt of many jokes.

Fast-forward about a decade and a bit and today, the relaunched Chery brand has made waves in Mzansi. This is evidenced by their performance on the new car sales charts.

Of course, it helps that their new generation of products have upped the ante in terms of style, substance and overall value.

The Tiggo 4 Pro range seems to be a compelling option for younger buyers who would have otherwise bought a B-segment hatchback for similar money.

Style-conscious shoppers will find the Tiggo 7 Pro appealing, with its tapered lines and Teutonic-inspired frontal styling.

Consumers with larger family requirements have taken to the Tiggo 8 Pro. The top-tier Pro Max derivative brings a luxurious feel, with its richly-trimmed cabin, feature-laden specification and standard three-row seating.

Recently the model received a boost with an all-wheel drive version. Its official handle is a lengthy one: Tiggo 8 Pro Max 2.0TGDI 390T Executive AWD. It costs R731,900 – quite a step up from the basic version that costs R609,900. The all-wheel drive model is the flagship of the Chery range.

As with all new Chery models, it boasts a 10-year/1,000,000km warranty for the first owner, in addition to the standard five-year/150,000km warranty. Seems like a gimmick – but perhaps in coming years we will see an actual first owner putting the million-kilometre warranty to the test. The assurance carries certain terms and conditions, of course. The service plan is seven years or 90,000km in duration.

Generous rear proportions, third-row seating standard.
Generous rear proportions, third-row seating standard.
Image: Supplied

Now before getting down to the positives of our Tiggo 8 Pro Max 2.0TGDI 390T Executive AWD appraisal, let me get my frustrations out of the way.

Firstly, our car’s driver seat seemed to have a mind of its own. Despite locking my chosen seating position into the memory settings more than once, it insisted on re-adjusting automatically every single time the vehicle was started up.

The fatigue detection system also appeared to have errant ways. Every few seconds it would flash a stern “You have been distracted” on the instrument cluster. Perhaps the system is not properly calibrated for the unique nuances of Johannesburg roads – and was mistaking swerving for potholes and faint road markings as driver distraction.

Lastly, the next-track button on the steering wheel of our test unit seemed poorly-fitted. It creaked and required harder depression than any of the other buttons in order to perform its function.

And while I am in rant mode, this is a rather thirsty motor vehicle. The 2.0-litre, turbocharged-petrol unit is massaged to produce 187kW and 390Nm. Acceleration feels strong – and there is no struggle for grip off the line as with the front-wheel drive version.

But even when driven sedately, seeing an average under 10l/100km is tricky. The long-term average over 900km of driving was 10.7l/100km. There was also the jerky nature of the dual-clutch transmission to be mindful of on take-off.

Now, the positives. That cabin is a truly wonderful place to be in. The upholstery exudes a sumptuous feel, with its quilted centre patterns and warm toffee hue.

The front seats are comfortable, supportive, benefitting from heating and ventilation. Just about every touchpoint inside the Tiggo 8 has a premium sense – while the overall design of the fascia and door panels could be described as modern, sophisticated.

Road manners are good. Although the ride errs on the firm side, it is generally not unpleasant. The Tiggo 8 was an enjoyable companion over nearly 1,000km of testing, a good portion of which involved freeway stints.

Richly-trimmed interior is a pleasant place to be.
Richly-trimmed interior is a pleasant place to be.
Image: Supplied

On the standard equipment front, there is nothing left to be desired. You can understand why the model makes a strong proposition to buyers who might be considering vehicles from premium brands, in a smaller category. For the same money as a C-segment German option with fewer features, the Chinese car gives you larger dimensions and a full suite of amenities.

In the Chery that includes a panoramic sunroof, semi-autonomous driver assistance functions, a handy 360-degree camera function, keyless-entry, remote starting and 10 airbags.

We put the rear compartment to the test, folding down both rows to accommodate 1,930l. With the third row up, the capacity is a paltry 117l. The rear seats are quite easy to shift and manoeuvre.

While not completely free of quirks, the flagship Chery is still a rather enticing proposition that offers plenty for the money.

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