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The SA motoring reality is of a need for affordable cars and fuel to use on the much-loved seaside or rural journeys we drive. When the new five-seat Tiggo 7 Pro 1.5T Executive arrived for testing it coincided with an itch to discover what treasures lay in the mining town of Kuruman in the Northern Cape. We wanted to see how the seemingly popular Chinese brands fare on a 1,000km journey.
This Chinese crossover is a juicy hook, being sized and specified competitively against more established brands such as the Toyota Rav4 and Hyundai Sportage in this cut-throat niche, but costing many thousands less. The Tiggo 7 Pro is the middle offering in the Chinese Chery SUV line-up which includes the smaller Tiggo 3 Pro and the larger Tiggo 8 Pro. It has features aplenty, including digital displays, powered seats and the all-important journey feature — active cruise control.
With a sense of adventure, anticipation and a touch of trepidation we pointed its big-grilled nose westwards via the N14. The anxiety was brought on by a night-time drive on a road we were not accustomed to.
As we discovered, the N14 is a hectic hive of mining truck activity throughout the night, and the Tiggo 7 Pro’s LED headlamps are good but not fantastic. To make matters worse it does not have an automatic high-beam assist feature.
The ride is smooth and refined on the flat, semi-desert scenery that never changes and good on smooth tarmac.
On the road the Tiggo 7 Pro never feels like a big car given its length, though there wasn’t a single twisty section encountered during this leg to determine its poise and grip. That said, it feels assured through typically sweeping bends, and the body control is decent even over poor surfaces.
The steering feel is suitably responsive for fast and slow turns while the brakes, though not feeling as strong as I’d have liked, were sufficiently adept at stopping the car from any speed.
It’s ill-advised to drive fast at night and the constant flow of traffic ensured we maintained the 120km/h highway code. The Tiggo 7 Pro’s turbocharged 1.5I four-cylinder, 108kW and 210Nm engine that’s mated to a nine-step CVT gearbox gives a strong performance and doesn’t need to be worked hard for overtaking.
All TiggoPro models are petrol powered and the outlay to fill its 51l tank came to R1,200. It consumed at best 8.9l/100km on the down run, effectively using the entire fuel tank to cover 500km. There’s no hiding this is a bad score and it used a higher 9.3l/100km on the up-run home stretch.
During downtime exploring Kuruman, which has arid but stunning views towards the manganese and iron ore mining town of Hotazel, the Tiggo 7 Pro fitted into the small town life effectively.
Under stop, turn and go conditions the cameras and sensors of the Tiggo 7 Pro come to life, beaming the front and sides as an animated picture of the car draws turn lines onto streets.
The sound system is crisp enough but of low volume while the ergonomics are great and the boot with a powered tailgate is deep enough for a family of five and can be increased through folding down the rear seats. Another convenient feature is how the Tiggo 7 Pro remotely recognises its key on approach and primes the car for keyless entry and self-locks on departure.
We’ve driven a fair number of Chinese brands to realise they have been refined in record time, and are now at a level where they can match established brands in certain areas, especially in the digital wizardry stakes and value pricing.
Now we also know they travel well enough over long distances and a 30km gravel drive confirmed that the vehicle maintained a steady flow, and the cabin wasn't infiltrated by dust.
The only worry came with encountering dried up mud patches. The Tiggo7Pro is front-wheel drive and rainy days can present unwelcome challenges under these conditions.
It’s only the lighting and fuel consumption that were flies in the ointment in a largely snag-free journey. The car is practical as well as stylish and comes with lots of kit as standard.
Though outgunned by many opponents in the segment on power output it presents a good enough buy for its lowly price. We are only left with the question of the longevity of its mechanicals that come with a 1,000,000km engine warranty for the first owner but I’m happy to admit that I'm close to being a convert.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Automatic continuously variable transmission
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 6/8l/100km (claimed), 8.9l/100km (as tested)
Six airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, sunroof, electric seat adjustment (driver), LED headlights, leatherette upholstery, voice control, active cruise control, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking camera, driving modes, touchscreen infotainment system, USB ports, electric mirrors, trip computer, remote central locking, electric windows, auto on/off lights, rain sensor wipers, panoramic sunroof
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Five years/150,000km (Ten years/1,000,000km engine warranty for first owner)
Service plan: Five years/60,000km
Lease*: R9,759 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Chery Tiggo 7 1.5T Executive
WE LIKE: Price, features, styling
WE DISLIKE: Fuel consumption
VERDICT: An enticing bargain with plenty of features
Motor News star rating
Design * * * * *
Performance * * * *
Economy * * *
Ride * * * *
Handling * * * *
Safety * * * *
Value For Money * * * *
Overall * * * *
Haval Jolion 1.5T Super Luxury, 105kW/210Nm — R437,900
Citroën C5 Aircross 1.6T Feel, 121kW/240Nm — R584,900
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 2.0 GLS auto, 110kW/198Nm R471,995
Kia Sportage 1.6GDI Ignite, 97kW/161Nm — R489,995
Renault Koleos 2.5 Expression, 126kW/233Nm — R504,900
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Active Auto, 121kW/213Nm — R515,400
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium, 115kW/192Nm — R524,900
Opel Grandland X 1.6T Turbo Enjoy auto, 121kW/240Nm — R531,900
Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI, 110kW/250Nm — R558,900
Peugeot 3008 1.6T Active, 121kW/240Nm — R559,900
Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort, 113kW/189Nm — R573,900
Toyota Rav4 2.0 GX-R AWD 127kW/203Nm — R624,800
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.