Chery South Africa recently sent us a Tiggo 4 Pro 1,5 Elite SE to drive. We took the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with a brand we have first-hand experience with from many years ago.

When reviewing a new vehicle in the SA market it is important to keep an open mind. I.e. don’t judge it based on the sentiment of others or widely criticised aspects such as design. The latest BMW M4 is a good example of this. In addition, it is also important to have some frame of reference. E.g. you need to have some experience of the previous generation of the same model to understand if any improvement has been made.

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No basis for the Chery Tiggo

In the case of the Chery Tiggo 4 the former was pretty easy to adhere to, the latter was impossible. Our last experience with any product from the Chinese automaker was over a decade ago. We drove the (then) cheapest new vehicle sold in SA, called the QQ. The tinny little hatchback did not leave a good impression, and before long Chery disappeared from the local listings.

Now the brand is back with plans to stay a bit longer. Its first foray into the local market may still be on the minds of some, but the automaker plans to raise its game with new products such as the Tiggo 4 Pro and the recently launched Tiggo 8 Pro.

Cashing in

The Tiggo 4 Pro is a small SUV in the same club as the Toyota Urban Cruiser, VW T-Cross, Suzuki Brezza and Hyundai Venue, among others. This is a smart move on the part of the returning brand as this segment is extremely popular and grows with each passing month. 

Tiggo 4 Pro (we haven’t worked out if there is a Tiggo 4 Amateur yet) measures a bit over four metres long. It’s styling is quite mainstream. That is to say, it is inoffensive and would easily blend in if it had a badge from one of its more established rivals on its nose. We’d go as far as saying it could pass for a smaller version of a Ford SUV. 

Special edition

The test unit on loan to us was the range-leading Chery Tiggo 4 Pro 1,5 Elite SE (Special Edition). Those letters mean this unit has a number of touches that distinguish it from its siblings. Among the model-specific touches are red brake calipers, red detailing on the body and inside as well as puddle lights that cast down from the exterior mirrors. 

Click here for the full breakdown of the range with pricing.

(Near) Class-leading interior

Chery has really stepped up its game from when we last encountered any of its products. The interior treatment of the Tiggo 4 Pro is a quantum leap ahead. In fact, the impression it left on us far outweighs some of its competitors. Most importantly, gone is the odd odour that plagued many new cars from China.

The facia boasts two colour screens, one ahead of the driver in place of traditional analogue dials and the other in the centre of the dashboard. The latter, which is standard fitment, serves as the infotainment interface. 

One can interact with this system through the touchscreen to access a multitude of functions, including Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity. Incidentally, there are also hard keys for vital controls of the infotainment system. These include buttons for system volume, power, phone access and a ‘home’ key.

Below the touchscreen is a glossy panel that houses the controls for the ventilation system. In the case of the Elite derivative this means a dual-zone climate control system. Having physical controls for this is handy as it means one does not have to dive into the infotainment system to make quick changes.

Space and luxury

Leather upholstery is standard. The same material is applied to the door cards, steering and gear lever boot. The steering has a flat bottom section, a sporty touch that doesn’t really belong in a vehicle of this type. The driver’s chair is electrically adjustable. There are plenty of storage areas including a convenient rubber pad just ahead of the cupholders to house one’s mobile phone.

There seems to be space aplenty in the cabin, even on the rear bench. We thought that the rear seats feel a bit insubstantial, as though they lack a bit of padding. This may be a small gripe but it could be an issue with a few years worth of use. 

Powertrains

Chery SA offers the Tiggo 4 Pro range with two engines. Both inline fours displace 1,5-litres. The engine is naturally aspirated in variants called Urban and Comfort. Peak power from this unit is 83 kW/138 N.m. This engine can be mated with either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Higher spec Elite versions solely feature a turbocharged powerplant. Peak outputs are 108 kW and 210 N.m and the sole transmission option is a CVT.

On the road

We had an Elite SE derivative on loan, which means we got to experience the turbo engine. In the first few trips we found that the torque delivery really ramps up from pull off, so one needs a gentle touch on the gas pedal. It is a willing little unit that pulls well. However, it can sound a bit strained in the higher reaches of the rev range. 

The CVT must be commended though. It performs its duties without the ‘clutch slip/droning’ sensation that this type of transmission is usually known for. When the mood strikes you can also flick the gear lever towards you and use the nine preset steps within the transmission’s programming. We tried this for a bit but the TCU’s electronic brain does a good enough job to make manual control unnecessary.

Soft ride

The Chery Tiggo 4 Pro really impressed with its ride quality. We traversed various road conditions around the Cape and found the car has a well-resolved ride quality. The suspension can feel a bit fidgety over sharp ridges at low speed. We thought the high profile tyres would do a better job in that scenario, but it is a small issue.

And it is one we are quick to forgive after we drove down a section of gravel track. On this rutted section, the Tiggo remained surefooted and was able to maintain a pace that we have not achieved with other cars from the segment. Oh, one last thing, if you are a keen driver then you may want to change the budget footwear. They tend to relinquish grip easily under hard cornering though they squeal quite a lot to warn you ahead of time.

Summary

We received the Chery Tiggo 4 Pro with very little to go on. Few preconceived notions except for its place in the market and its older counterparts meant we were faced with an interesting prospect. When we returned the car a few days later we were quite impressed. The company has really lifted its game to a whole new level, one that makes it a serious threat to others in the same space.

In addition, Chery is keen to underline the quality of its new product and create buyer loyalty. To do so the local subsidiary is offering an industry-leading ten-year or one million km engine warranty. The contract comprises a standard five-year/150 000 km factory warranty that applies to all new Tiggo 4 Pro models. This warranty remains with the vehicle if it changes ownership. The second, a free extension for a further five years and a 850 000 km on the engine, is added automatically at the end of the first warranty, provided that the vehicle is still owned by the original owner.   

These sort of numbers have been unheard of in SA until now and should go a long way to convince potential owners of the confidence Chery has in its product.

Chery Tiggo 4 Pro 1,5 Elite SE Specs

Model: Chery Tiggo 4 Pro 1,5 Elite SE (CVT)

Price: R364 900

Engine: 1,5-litre inline four, turbocharged

Transmission: CVT, FWD

Max power: 108 kW

Max torque: 210 N.m

Top speed: n/a

Fuel consumption: 6,8 L/100 km