With its tag line of “Now everyone can afford to be sexy”, Chery’s latest model for South Africa is new hatchback it believes can hold its own in the highly-competitive AB segment – the J2.Image galleryWheels24's SERGIO DAVIDS got to grips with the latest Chery in Gauteng. There’s only one spec and engine choice (a 1.5 TX) and the model is priced at a competitive R129 000.DESIGNI’m not sure about the “sexy” tag as I’m torn between “meh” and “adequate” in terms of its design. Hard plastics in a traditional black-on-grey colour scheme can be found throughout its interior…just like rivals Ford Figo, Toyota Etios and VW Polo Vivo. Not exactly inspiring stuff but then again in comparison to its rivals it’s on par.DRIVING ITIn short, it’s about as vanilla as a vehicle can be. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering, like any vehicle, its job is to take you from A-B without any issues. In this respect the J2 gets a passing grade. Powering the new hatchback is a four-cylinder 1.5 petrol capable of 72kW/140Nm and mated to a five-speed manual. The model has 0-100km/h sprint in 15 seconds to a top speed of 171km/h. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.4 litres/100km with emissions of 176gm/km.Driving it around Gauteng, the Chery J2 fared suitably well; the gearbox was tolerable, power available on demand and apart from minor body roll, the ride was comfortable.INSIDEStandard kit includes power front, rear and side mirrors, aircon, radio/CD player with USB port, dual airbags and foglights. In terms of safety the J2 is equipped with side impact protection bars, anti skid brakes with electronic brake distribution.The audio unit and speedometer are areas where Chery could improve. The Radio/CD unit looks like an afterthought and the dials are a tad too small. The ample head and leg room is a plus as well as the chunky steering wheel.OVERALL I’ve used the phrase adequate throughout this article and yes, that was deliberate. Chery’s biggest criticisms stem from being seemingly inferior to its rivals. The J2 won’t give its rivals cause for concern but at the very least, its made par for the entry-level hatchback course, so to speak. It has loads of kit, handles adequately and while it won’t turn heads, it’s not an eyesore. Compared to its siblings the J1, J3 and QQ, the J2 may just be the Chery on top.Chery South Africa’s managing director, Brett Soso, said: “TheJ2 is an ingredient for Chery’s success but a lot still has to be done in SA.”“We hope it sales will be 100 – 200 units for the next year. The J2 has features, quality and overall it’s a good product. It should do very well for us.”RIVALSChery positions it J2 to take on the likes of B-segment competitors (Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio) but looking at its price and what’s on offer it’s better suited to go up against A – AB rivals such as the Polo Vivo, Figo and Etios. WHAT ABOUT PARTS AND WARRANTY?The automaker planned to launch its J2 in 2012 but decided to delay it due to switching production to its new factory in China. Curiously, the automaker went ahead with the parts supply and as a result, it claims it has launched the J2 with a “complete parts supply.”The hatchback is sold with a two year or 30 000km service plan and a five year or 120 000 warranty. Road assistance is offered for two years or 150 000km.At 5000km customers will receive an oil change and thereafter service intervals are at the 15 000km and 30 000km mark. Soso said: “We aredelighted with the announcement of a factory-backed warranty covering the new J2 hatchback model for five years or 120 000km, which will be a further boost to our brand building efforts locally.”“This is the longest factory warranty offered on any vehicle from a Chinese automaker in South Africa. I’m sure this additional peace of mind will be much appreciated by buyers of the new Chery J2.”MORE FROM CHERY Look out for an enhanced QQ range later in 2013 along with a facelifted Tiggo. The SA vehicle market has grown over the past five years yet Chery, which arrived locally in 2008, reported an 8% drop in sales from 2011 to 2013.Sosso said: “The market has grown but our sales have decreased. The reason for this is simple – our products haven’t really changed since 2008. Despite the improvements we’ve made in quality and features, from a consumers perspective we’ve remained the same.Wheels24: So how will you improve?Sosso: “We will improve on those numbers with new models and enhancing our current line-up. From a model point of view, we’ve stagnated and buyers constantly want something new. So they can expect more from us such as an enhanced QQ and upcoming facelifted Tiggo.” Chery isn’t ready by any means to throw in the towel, in fact the group plans to continue to grow its model line-up globally. “If you can’t beat them…have them join you” appears to the be automaker’s strategy as it has snapped up lead designers and engineers from rivals including BMW, Ford and Porsche.Earlier in 2013, Wheels24 reported on former Porsche designer Hakan Saracoglu joining Chery. Saracoglu, who has previously worked at Ford, leads a team of 30 at Chery's Shanghai-based design centre and is tasked with designing new models for the automaker.