As a motoring enthusiast first and a journalist after, I’ve driven, ridden, and evaluated hundreds of vehicles. I’ve seen the transition from carburetors to electronic fuel injection, the digitalization of formerly analog automotive components, the rise and proliferation of electronic driving aids, and the gradually changing direction towards electro-mobilization. With 12 years in the auto industry and 20 years in the motoring media, I can honestly say that I’ve seen it all.
My extensive experience and my background as a mechanical engineer allows me to see through the marketing hype that some press relations people distribute to my colleagues in the local motoring media. Some PRs try to paint an image of a common car as one with “European pedigree” even though the only link to the brand’s glorious past is the resurrected nameplate. I get peeved when they try to “oversell” a mundane model and pass it off as a “descendant” of a once-great car marque that’s been obscure for decades.
A Refreshing Approach
When United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI) decided to reintroduce the Chery automotive brand back into the Philippines in 2019, they knew that they had a gargantuan task ahead of them. They carefully studied the market and the brand’s past reputation, and then opted to initially focus on Chery’s sport utility/crossover vehicle model line-up to attract buyers back. Instead of heralding Chery as a major Chinese car brand, especially in its home province of Wu Hu, they simply focused on the needs and preferences of the Filipino buyers.
After establishing Chery Auto Philippines, UAAGI started sharing their confidence for the revitalized Chery brand by lending test units for the local motoring media to evaluate and write about. Instead of a lengthy PR, the test units came with a 6-page factual printout that enumerated the vehicle’s key features and technical specifications without using flowery adjectives. I find this honesty and truthfulness refreshing in today’s society where exaggerated claims and lies seemed commonplace.
First Impressions Last
Last July, I enjoyed a drive with the Chery Tiggo 5X Lux, which surprised me with its performance, features, and value-for-money. This time around, I got to drive a 2020 Chery Tiggo 7, which is a notch above the 5X Lux in size and amenities. Likewise, my expectations were up a notch when I started fiddling with its Smart Keyless Entry system, which, aside from locking and unlocking the doors, can also open and close the windows as well as start the car and cool the interior using the remote key fob.
At first glance, this Chery looks like any other 5-door compact SUV but upon closer inspection, the Tiggo 7 showed a lot of thought behind its design and engineering. The front end featured a multi-plane angular design that’s quite uncommon among compact SUVs. The bumper extends further forward, which adds a bit more protection to the radiator, condenser and other forward engine parts in case of a front collision. The headlights are mounted much closer to the sides to provide a wider swath of light while serving as side markers for the front.
Turbocharged Euro 5 Civility
Under the hood is a Euro 5-compliant turbocharged 1.5-liter SQRE4T15 inline 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that churns out 145 horses at 5,500 rpm and takes this front-drive Tiggo 7 to top speeds exceeding 185 km/h. Power is routed through a 6-speed double clutch automatic transmission (DCT) that sometimes feels like it is overwhelmed by the engine’s 201 Newton-meters of torque. However, acceleration is brisk for this 1,440-kilogram Chery compact crossover.
Under the skin of the Tiggo 7 is a front McPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension system attached to its monocoque chassis and a slightly longer 2,670-millimeter wheelbase that work together to provide a softer and more compliant ride compared to its 5X Lux sibling. Its wider 1,550 mm front and rear track helps stability and makes it corner better while front and rear disc brakes provide fade-free stopping power. 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels shod in meaty 225/60R18 tires provide the necessary grip.
Advanced Safety Features and Driver Aids
Chery emphasizes the safety of the vehicle’s occupants and equipped the Tiggo 7 with a myriad passive and active safety features aside from the six airbags and ISOFIX anchors. The alphabet soup of safety features include ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution), ESP (Electronic Stability Program), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist), BOS (Brake Override System), BAS (Brake Assist System), HDC (Hill Decent Control), HHC (Hill Hold Control), TCS (Traction Control System), and ESS (Emergency Signal System).
To further improve safety, Chery installed several real-time driving aid and information systems such as cruise control, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), rear camera, front and rear sensors, LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and automatic headlamps. The driver can monitor vital engine information through a 4.8-inch color liquid crystal display (LCD) multi-function instrument panel.
The Aroma of Rich Soft-Grain Leather
I felt my senses contradict each other the minute I sat down inside the Tiggo 7. My eyes were telling me that I’m in a compact crossover vehicle while my body and my nose were together in chorusing that I’m in a high-end limousine. The front sports seats, which are amply padded, bolstered, and covered with double-stitched soft leather, felt so luxuriously comfortable and emitted an equally luxuriously rich aroma that one can only experience inside ultra-expensive top-of-the-line luxury cars. I didn’t expect this level of luxury from Chery.
The entire interior feels fairly spacious despite the coziness suggested by its black color. The ergonomic cockpit features a 3-spoke steering wheel with multi-function control buttons while the aforementioned 4.8-inch LCD instrument panel hides in a binnacle behind the wheel. The 9-inch true-color touch screen monitor displays a pictograph of the climate control system and the infotainment system, which has Mirror Link function that connects to my smartphone, Bluetooth and dual USB connectivity, and doubles as the reverse camera monitor.
Let the Sunshine In
The piece de resistance of the Tiggo 7 is its huge panoramic sunroof that occupies a large chunk of the roof. I can simply press a button to open the power interior cover panel half-way or all the way to let the sunshine (or moon glow) in. I can press a button to lift just the trailing edge of the glass sunroof to let the interior heat escape OR I can let the glass sunroof slide fully open to let the wind in as I drive. I highly recommend driving al fresco on light, cool days. There’s something about the wind running through your hair that you’ll find so refreshing.
This may sound cliché but, here’s the cherry on the top of this Chery: Priced at P1,195,000, the 2020 Chery Tiggo 7 is more affordable compared to similarly-sized American, European, Japanese, or Korean compact crossover vehicles. Add a 5-year, 100,000-kilometer warranty and a 10-year 1,000,000 km warranty for the powertrain and it becomes an even more attractive proposition. And the part that I like best is that Chery Auto Philippines markets the Tiggo 7 as it really is – an honest-to-goodness compact crossover with a lot of features and an attractive price. It’s the honesty that I find really refreshing.
Classification: 5-door compact crossover vehicle
Engine type: Liquid-cooled inline-4 DOHC 16V
Capacity: 1498 cc
Maximum power: 145 hp @ 5500 rpm
Maximum torque: 210 Nm @ 1750-4400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed DCT
Length: 4505 mm
Width: 1837 mm
Height: 1670 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Ground clearance: 210 mm
Curb weight: 1440 kg
Fuel tank capacity: 51 liters
Maximum load space volume behind 1st row – 1100 liters
Maximum load space volume behind 2nd row – 414 liters
Chery Auto Philippines
United Asia Automotive Group, Inc. (UAAGI)
728 A. Bonifacio Avenue, Balintawak, Quezon City
Tel. Nos.: (+632) 8442 4076 to78