JOHANNESBURG - The Chery automotive brand is set to return to South Africa later this year and judging by our initial impressions at the pre-launch event on Wednesday, it’s nothing like the Chinese brand that you might remember.
Chery vehicles were originally introduced to South Africa in 2008 under the Imperial banner, but by 2018 sales had dwindled and the brand was quietly discontinued. But now Chery is returning to the country as an entity fully owned by its Chinese parent company, and with a range of products that appear to be far more sophisticated than the somewhat rudimentary offerings of before. Chery has appointed 30 dealerships in South Africa, with plans to expand on that further along, and the first vehicles are expected to go on sale around November 2021.
First to arrive will be the Tiggo 4 Pro compact SUV as the first of a whole family of Tiggo-badged vehicles that will be coming our way. Next in line will be the larger Tiggo 7 Pro and the premium Tiggo 8 Pro.
Chery has not released local pricing or specifications as yet, but the importer promises that the models will be positioned very competitively within the market. Although the media didn’t get to drive the vehicles at the pre-launch event in Johannesburg, we were able to take a brief look at the three model ranges at the venue. We were impressed by the surprisingly premium look and feel inside all three. We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve tested the vehicles, but first impressions were certainly positive.
Chery Tiggo 4 Pro
The Chery Tiggo 4 Pro will be the first model to hit local showrooms. Measuring 4298mm in length, the compact SUV is similar in size to the Peugeot 2008.
The Chinese-market Tiggo 4 Pro is powered by a 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine that produces 85kW and 143Nm, with manual and CVT transmissions offered. The Tiggo 4 is also offered with a 108kW 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine in some countries, although at this stage it’s unclear which engines will be offered in South Africa.
Cabin highlights include a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while higher-spec models are fitted with a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and 360-degree around view monitor.
Chery Tiggo 7 Pro
Next up is the Tiggo 7 Pro, which is a similar size to the Kia Sportage. While the aforementioned 1.5T engine is offered in some markets, the Chinese-market version comes with the company’s new 1.6-litre Actecto direct injection turbopetrol engine, which produces 145kW and 290Nm.
Cabin highlights include a 12-inch full LCD digital instrument display as well as two central touchscreens, with the upper infotainment system joined by a Land Rover-style lower screen for the climate controls, which incorporates rotary knobs.
Chery Tiggo 8 Pro
The seven-seat Tiggo 8 Pro will be Chery’s flagship model and this one is also powered by Chery’s new 1.6-litre turbopetrol motor.
Like the Tiggo 7, the vehicle is fitted with multi-link rear suspension and it’s also available with an electrically-operated tailgate that allows pre-set opening heights.
Keep in mind that South African specifications could differ to the international specs that we’ve provided here.
Tested for local conditions
As mentioned, the first vehicles are expected to arrive during the fourth quarter of 2021 and the company says it has been “hard at work” testing the vehicles for local conditions.
Chery says it will back its 30-strong dealer network with a large parts warehouse, and buyers can also look forward to a competitive warranty as well as service plans and comprehensive 24-hour roadside assistance.
“South Africa is a very important market for us. Customers have high expectations, and we want to
meet and exceed them,” said Chery SA’s Executive Deputy GM Tony Liu.
“In 2010, our chairman, Yin Tongyue, shared with the world our change from a company that was focused on sales, speed and scale to one that is fanatical about quality, brand and long-term returns. This is most evident in our new range of products, and we cannot wait to show them to South African customers,” Liu added.
Following its reintroduction to SA, Chery also plans to use the experience gained in our market to expand into the rest of Africa.