It’s no secret – the bakkie, SUV and compact city SUV market segments are where most of the vehicle buying activity takes place. And, competition, given the current inventory situation, or lack thereof, makes market conditions difficult.

Chery is back home. Armed with a new vision, a completely revised and significantly improved product offering and already having 30 dealerships, it is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

I just took the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro 1.5 Liter Turbo for a short drive and well, the surprise was upon me. To say I’m impressed is an understatement.

Outside

It is dynamic, elegant, energetic and in your face. The large grille with its air intake under the bumper and its protective plate exudes dynamic sportiness. This is reinforced by the design of the headlight and fog light clusters. Design lines on the hood add an element of power and tie in well with the shoulder line and wheel arches.

The rear is cheeky, square and well teased. The high ground clearance confirms its claim to SUV status and overall the Tiggo presents one of the best looking compact city SUVs on the market.

Interior

The interior will surprise you. It’s a lot bigger than you’d expect based on the car’s exterior. Although the seats are not that wide, it is surprisingly comfortable.

Steering feel exhibits confidence. It’s confirmed when I stop to join the traffic. The car is planted and solid (I think – and I’m not kidding – Subaru).

Entry-level models have a 3.5-inch TFT color display in place of a traditional analog dash, while higher spec models increase in size to a full 7-inch screen. This color display ensures visibility in all conditions and a high level of personalization with different sources of information from both the vehicle and the driver’s mobile phone.

In the center of the cabin is the second large color screen. This screen is a 10.25″ capacitive touchscreen which incorporates the essentials of the vehicle controls and is fitted – across the range and offering Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and a DVD player.

All models also have air conditioning, power windows all around and automatic headlights, to name a few luxury features. Luxury trims add even more specs, including a power sunroof, intelligent voice control system, and air conditioning. And no, I haven’t spoken to Chery (the voice). I prefer not to be distracted by features when testing a car.

I love the full center console but I won’t dwell on that now. One small complaint though. The top edge finish is square and hard. For us, the big ones, putting our left knee on it is not comfortable. Maybe Chery should consider replacing those sharp edges with a soft touch border.

Performance

All Tiggos are equipped with a 1.5 liter engine. Entry-level models are normally aspirated with 85 kW and 141 Nm. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or CVT.

My test drive was the 1.5-Turbo delivering 108kW and 210Nm and fitted with the six-speed CVT. The engine offers an engine setting in Eco or Sport mode.

Now the Tiggo is not a performance car and does not claim to be one. But – even in Eco mode, the engine is surprisingly responsive. This applies both when starting and when you force the throttle through slower traffic. Switch to Sport mode and it’s even better.

When you consider that, in combination with its planted nature and quiet ride, the Turbo version will provide more than enough excitement for most owners – whether they have a fiery itch or not!

The Tiggo also exhibits cornering confidence. I climbed from Sabie to the Lydenburg T-junction! I was smiling the whole time.

A CVT gearbox dictates a slightly different or tuned driving style to reduce engine noise. This one is exceptionally smooth, and the engineers did well to inhibit the often distracting noise that is so characteristic of CVT gearboxes.

Conclusion

The Tiggo has a list of safety and luxury features as long as my arm. The Mbombela dealership team can tell you all about it.

I conclude – if Chery can match (and I believe they intend to) the levels of after-sales service of Suzuki, Toyota and others, the Tiggo will prove to be the cat among the pigeons.

Go drive it!

Photos: QuickPic