Fledgling Chery SA is on an upward trajectory and, on the back of the successful market introduction of the Tiggo 4 Pro small crossover last year and an ever-increasing dealership footprint (the network now includes 50 outlets countrywide), the Chinese brand has introduced its second model in Mzansi. It’s quite a leap forward – and a big step up – for the brand to venture into the medium-SUV space.
This popular segment of the new-vehicle market is inhabited by well-established models such as the Kia Sportage, Haval H6, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan (to name just a few offerings). Competition is tough, but if Chery can steal more than a few sales from the established players in the entry-SUV segment, then why can’t it replicate its success in the medium-SUV market? While official sales stats are yet to be verified, about 500 units of the Tiggo 4 Pro found new homes in Mzansi in January 2022 and the sales outlook for February looks promising.
What’s on offer?
The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro is a 7-seater and only the Tiguan Allspace offers a similar cabin configuration in this segment. There are two grades (Distinctive and Executive), both of which are powered by a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol engine paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (sourced from German firm Getrag). On-paper outputs are credible – 145 kW and 290 Nm drive the front wheels.
The key differences between the derivatives lie in their specification lists. The top-end Executive commands a R50 000 premium over its Distinctive sibling by virtue of the additional goodies it offers, such as specific colour trim, rear privacy glass, 4-way electric adjustment for the front passenger seat, a panoramic sunroof and 3rd-row ventilation controls, but not least a host of semi-autonomous safety features.
Speaking of spec, the Tiggo 8 Pro comes packed with every conceivable convenience feature that one could reasonably expect to find in a medium SUV. Even in the more affordable Distinctive derivative, the standard kit is all-encompassing. You get nice-to-haves such as a wireless charging pad, a digital instrument cluster, a crisp touchscreen infotainment array with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility, a digital climate control panel, voice control, an 8-speaker Sony audio system, 360-degree camera system, front/rear parking sensors, plus auto wipers and -LED headlamps with daytime running lights.
Chery’s newcomer rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and comes standard with an array of safety features, including (but not limited to) half a dozen airbags, traction control, roll stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, ISOfix child seat mounts, tyre-pressure monitoring, hill-start assist and downhill-descent control.
The Executive derivative, in turn, additionally features Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Automatic Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Traffic Sign Recognition (TSC), Intelligent High-beam Control (IHC), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSD), Front Collision Warning (FCW), emergency Brake Override System (BOS), as well as a Door-Open Warning and Prevention (DOW) system.
First impressions count for a lot and, to the Tiggo 8 Pro’s credit, the luxurious Chinese medium SUV looks – and feels – expensive. Unlike its Tiggo 4 Pro sibling, this is no compact-sized offering, but rather a fully-fledged family-ready 7-seater SUV. Inside, you’re greeted by a plush cabin that’s positively bathed in upmarket trims and finishes. The perceived build quality and finer detailing are excellent too. From our perspective, it’s clear that Chery is hellbent on taking on the established players with a product that effortlessly outguns them in terms of interior fit-and-finish, as well as value for money.
What is it like to drive?
Our launch route took us from Melrose Arch to the Vaal River and back, and included a variety of road surfaces – from awful pothole-infested back roads to national highways – and everything in between. The suspension setup’s firm enough to relay most small imperfections, but offers sufficient damping to cope with bigger bumps. The interior is well insulated – little outside noise makes its way into the cabin.
There are various drive modes, which adjust, inter alia, the Tiggo 8 Pro’s steering feel, transmission shift pattern and throttle response. The Chery’s steering setup is not the sharpest or the most involving (which is par for the course for vehicles in this segment), but there’s a reassuring heft to remind you that you’re driving a large SUV. With Sport mode engaged, the ‘wheel’s action firms up nicely, however.
The powertrain’s performance is reasonably good; the Chery’s forced-induction engine serves up its grunt willingly (without too much exertion), but it sounds a bit strained towards the top of the rev range (under full acceleration). Our test unit was brand new, with less than 1 000 km on the odo’, so we’re prepared to cut it a bit of slack in terms of refinement. The 7-speed DCT, meanwhile, shifts effortlessly.
We’re in two minds about the engine. We’re impressed that a 1.6 litre has enough shove (based on its outputs) to propel something as substantial as a 7-seater family vehicle with little fuss, but, on the other hand, there’s likely to be a fuel consumption penalty for all that “get-up-and-go”. Car companies are usually overly optimistic with their stated efficiency figures – Chery claims 10 L/100 km for its model.
We saw an indicated average consumption figure of around 11 L/100 km on the test unit’s trip computer after a stint of driving in mixed conditions (on urban and regional roads) and, with the fuel price about to increase yet again, efficiency is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the Tiggo 8 Pro is not a fuel-sipper. A tank capacity was not stated, but based on overseas markets, it holds either 51- or 57 litres.
Another issue we encountered was uneven throttle mapping in the Sport and Eco drive modes. When you’re leaving an intersection, the powertrain is inclined to baulk briefly, which will entice you to step on the accelerator pedal harder. That will prompt the engine to suddenly deliver a wad of torque, which will cause the front tyres to chirp as they struggle for grip. It’s a minor thing, but perhaps worth noting.
How much does the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro cost in SA?
The new 7-seater medium SUV from Chery comes with a 10-year/1-million-kilometre engine warranty (valid only for the original owner if they service their vehicles at Chery dealers’ workshops) and a 5-year/150 000 km general warranty, 5-year comprehensive roadside assistance plan, as well as a 5-year/60 000 km service plan.
|Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Distinctive||R496 900|
|Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Executive||R546 900|
Despite its less-than-thrifty fuel consumption and eccentric throttle mapping, the Tiggo 8 Pro is a compelling value-for-money package. To undercut the competition by approximately R100k (in a particularly price-sensitive segment of the market) is no mean feat. Suffice to say, the generous spec and build quality presented by Chery’s newcomer between about R500k and R550k almost defies belief.
Oh, and before we forget to mention it, unlike some 7-seaters, the Tiggo 8 Pro offers a genuinely useable 3rd row of (2) seats – one of our colleagues easily sat in the rear-most row on the way to the airport.
So, in a way, the Chinese brand’s latest addition has higher aspirations than the Medium SUV segment… A Hyundai Santa Fe 7-seater is priced from R792k and a Toyota Fortuner 4×2 comes in at R605k – and the latter feels ancient and unrefined by comparison. Chery’s ascent in the marketplace is remarkable (especially given the brand’s checkered past in SA)… Both its models are modern, extremely well priced and come loaded with almost all features you’d ever need. Then there’s that substantial warranty. If we worked for a legacy brand, we’d be concerned about the rising popularity of Haval and Chery!
Source: David Taylor (www.cars.co.za)