Chery's new C-segment hatchback – the J3 – claims its styling origin from 'Pininfarina' of Italy. The car marks the beginning of a new era for the Chinese automaker who, in a move to adapt to the tastes of a more Western clientele, have improved the interior quality and look and feel of their new cars. Currently there are three Chery models available on our local market, namely the QQ3 hatch, the Tiggo sports utility vehicle and the J1 hatch. Forthcoming J3 and (later arriving) J2 models differ markedly from previous Chery models. Even Chery's futuristic and recently showcased concept car, the Z5, suggests a more provocative design direction for the company.
Initially South Africa will be getting the J3 five-door hatch, with a four door sedan version following suit. Three specification levels will be available, namely TE, TX and TXE. The vehicle is similar in size to the Toyota Yaris and its tidy little package comes with: aerodynamic looking smooth lines, front fog lights, dusk sensing headlights, rain sensing wipers, a high mounted stop light at the back, electric side mirrors and 16 inch alloy wheels including the spare. The Chery J3 is easy on the eye, in some ways resembling a Ford Focus particularly from the rear with its neatly curving roofline ending in a pair of feline-looking tail lights.
Of all cars for sale in this class the Chery J3 boasts leather seats and a design that is simple and elegant. Some cars in the higher price brackets would find it hard to offer the same level of trim and included specifications as one finds in the Chery J3. The car comes with 6 speakers, power steering, electric windows all round, remote keyless entry, central locking, security indicator light, MP3 compatibility, AM/FM Radio, internal fuel door release, passenger vanity mirror with light, steering-mounted audio controls, 60/40 rear split seats, climate control air conditioning, reversing sensors, a cup holder, CD player, and a 12V socket. Additionally there is a decent size boot and adequate rear seat head and legroom inside.
The Chery J3 is fitted with a 1.6-litre petrol engine developing at 87 kW of power at 6150 rpm and a total of 147 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm. Power is pushed to the wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. Fuel consumption is quoted at 8.9 litres/100 km.
The Chery J3 includes both active and passive safety specifications which come as standard. There are six airbags including front, side and curtain airbags, a reversing sensor with distance display, auto sensing lights, an antilock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). The high rear mounted stoplight signals boldly to traffic following behind to slow down if you meet an emergency situation that causes you to have to brake severely. Reversing sensors are standard, and these are a welcome addition if you need to park in tight spaces around town. With security in mind there is an engine immobiliser and remote central locking with keyless entry.
There is much to consider when buying a car in this segment, pricing often being mostly a deciding factor in today's times. Competitors to the Chery J3 would be the Honda Jazz, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio and the Nissan Tiida. With Chery's focus having shifted considerably from mass production to rather offering better quality and after-sales service, the J3 certainly can count itself a viable contender in this class. Pricing has yet to be finalised, however, it can be assumed that Chery will aggressively price the J3 against its rivals. Having said that, if you are shopping purely on purchase price, then the J3 may be the car for you. If you are considering other factors like resale, reliability, performance and tried-and-tested quality then look carefully at all factors involved before making your purchase. (Prices are subject to change according to various factors so please consult your dealer for the latest price.)