Chery has set its sights on becoming an automotive powerhouse and ups the ante in the South African budget city car market with its J1 city car.
The range consists of two models: the J1 1.3 TE and the higher specced J1 1.3TX. Starting at R109 900, the J1 should appeal to those looking for a budget car in the current cash-strapped environment.
The words "budget car" may conjure images of uninspiring design and liberal use of tacky plastics for some. It’s refreshing to see that Chery has broken the mould of budget car design to produce a vehicle that is as different from anything on the market as it is pleasing to look at.
The five-seater J1 has something of a crossover look, with its sporty presence and high boxy profile. J1 targets that crucial city car buyer, but could still have appeal for those who need a Mom’s Taxi.
Stepping into the confines of the J1 you’re greeted to a vehicle that is deceivingly spacious on the inside. Designed to provide maximum interior and luggage space (loads of head room and cabin space is always a plus and the rear seats fold forward. Many may also love the high ride height when sitting behind the wheel.
The instrumentation has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing while also being fashionable giving a more upmarket feel to the cabin. A CD-playing audio system with USB port is also standard on both models.
The two-tone design of the
seats and facia is a great touch and the seats have been ergonomically
designed to provide maximum comfort for all passengers.
The Chery J1 features a fuel injected 1.3-litre petrol engine to deliver 61kW at 6 000r/min and 114Nm of torque between 3 800 and 4 500r/min. The quoted fuel consumption is 6.7/100km.
The 1.3l engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. In an effort to stand out, Chery even went so far as to change the standard phallic handbrake design to look more like a flat movable panel - it's different to say the least.
Driving the J1 couldn’t be easier and although you wont be going anywhere fast, you’ll at least arrive at your destination in comfort. The engine, while woefully underpowered, is adequate for day-to-day driving.
The drive is pleasant enough with the soft suspension able to handle twists and undulations. The steering is responsive and should allow you to quickly negate those all-too-common potholes. A tight turning radius will make short work of squeezing into parking bays, too.
For its price, the J1 is stacked with features. Electric windows, power steering and air-con, along with an MP3 player, are standard in both the TE and TX models.TX derivative adds rear park assist, power windows all round and power mirrors.
The instrumentation is aesthetically pleasing with a controls being backlit by a soft blue light. The practical layout of the controls more than makes up for the generous amount of plastic used.
A three-year warranty and service plan is standard on both models. Chery says that it has no plans to launch an automatic version of the J1 yet.
The J1 proves that cheap doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality or features. With stiff competition from the likes of the Chevrolet Aveo, Opel Corsa and Hyundai’s i20, the J1 will have its work cut out for it in an already saturated market.
Chery J1 1.3 TE R109 900
Chery J1 1.3 TX R116 900