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New Chery J2 is a subtle step forward


ONE OF the strange things about testing a Chinese car is that I do so with a different mindset than with other cars.

Now this isn’t on purpose by any means. It’s just the way we  have become conditioned, I think, because up until now the Chinese haven’t built any cars that are considered rivals to the established brands on the market. There are a few exceptions, like the strides GWM is making on some of its models, as well as my sentimental favourite, Foton’s Tunland, but that actually only offers proper competition to its countrymen.

That is what this mindset really is then: you compare Chinese cars against other Chinese cars, whether they compete in the same segment or not. Or to take it even further, we sometimes just compare them to… well, nothing.

Here then is Chery latest offering, the J2.

The first thing Chery did here was rather smart and refreshing - it followed some its contemporaries’ cues and designed a good-looking car. I know it sounds patronising, but Chinese cars in general don’t ooze curb appeal. From the front it looks a tad previous-generation Kia Cerato mixed with a little Toyota Auris, but isn’t worse off for it.

It’s easy to write up a half-page review when you can rant and rave about what you don’t like or go all hyperchatterbox about stuff that blow you away. 
This is where the J2 proves problematic though, because it is simply just… okay.

Everything about it is simply just okay. Nothing possesses a wow factor, although I suppose that in this type of car having one really isn’t a priority. On the other hand, Chinese cars have a lot to prove and while the J2 does score points with its looks and general perceived quality, I just can’t help but think that Chery really could have done more. There are only two positives and two negatives that stand out of its okayness.

The first plus is the interior ergonomics. Finding a comfy seating position is easy and all buttons are clearly marked and very easy to use. I won’t call it overkill, but the dials for the air conditioner are so big, a person that is probably too blind to drive will be able to operate them. They luckily don’t look as silly as I make it sound and blends perfectly with the rest of the hangdown. The second big plus is the boot, which can swallow much more that the exterior will have you believe. If Chery can utilise space so well, it makes me wonder what went wrong with the J3…

On the flipside, the two negatives kind of outweigh the above-mentioned pluses: the headlights and brakes.

I’m not sure what Chery used as head lamps in the J2, but it might just as well have been energy savers. You would be strongly advised to stay away from areas with no street lights, because the headlights really don’t do much.

Worse are the brakes, which wouldn’t even be acceptable in the oldest and most unsophisticated of vehicles out there. I almost rear-ended someone twice and it wasn’t because I wasn’t paying attention, it’s just because I timed the brakes to be more effective than they actually were.

For the rest of the car though, it depends how interesting you like your cars and what your budget allows. At this price (R129 900), it’s pretty good value and as far as Chinese cars go, it’s general okayness almost brings it to the top the their pile.

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