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Chery puts new models to Aussie test

Bigger and better: The Chinese-made Chery Tiggo 5 is set to replace the Chery J11 in Australia next year.

New-generation Chery SUV and small sedan to re-launch Chinese brand in 2015

12 Mar 2014

CHINA’S Chery is on a countdown to a new-model renaissance in Australia in 2015, with replacements for its J3 small car and J11 compact SUV on shakedown testing in this country ahead of right-hand drive production.

The all-new J11 – which is believed to be based on the Tiggo 5 SUV launched in China in October – is expected to land in Australian showrooms by about April or May next year.

The J3 hatch replacement – based on a bigger, sleeker sedan called Arrizo 7 that was launched in China last July – is set to follow later in 2015, perhaps in the third quarter.

This time around, both cars are said to have been engineered to comfortably comply with all the latest safety and emissions rules in Australia, while also being designed to appeal to western audiences from the outset.

Chery – imported by independent distributor Ateco Automotive for Australia – has found the going tough since its Australian launch in February 2012, criticised for crash test performances and forced to withdraw its smallest model, the J1 light hatchback, due to lack of ESC compliance.

62 center imageFrom top: Chery J1, J11 and J3.

The J1 is Australia’s cheapest car at $9990 driveaway, but only a handful of remnant cars are still on sale in Queensland and Western Australia. Once they are gone, the J1 will not be replaced.

The Chery QQ mini hatch launched at last year’s Shanghai motor show had been mooted as a replacement for the J1, but Ateco chairman Neville Crichton told GoAuto last week at the Geneva motor show that the Chery range would not include any car smaller than the J3 in the foreseeable future.

He confirmed that J3 and J11 replacements were in the pipeline, with test cars currently going through the motions on Australian roads.

The new models can’t come quickly enough for Chery dealers, including the growing number of Victorian dealerships where Chery models without ESC were outlawed from day one.

Last year, Chery dealers sold just 903 vehicles in Australia, representing just 0.1 per cent of the Australian market and down 20 per cent on 2012.

If, as expected, the current J3 is replaced by the Arrizo 7 – a small sedan that was previewed as the Alpha 7 concept at last year’s Shanghai show ahead of its Chinese market launch in mid 2013 – then the J3 can be expected to grow to almost medium car proportions.

At 4652mm long and 1825mm wide, the Arrizo 7 is almost exactly the same size as Suzuki’s Kizashi, which slots neatly in between most small and medium sedans sold in Australia.

The Arrizo 7 was launched in China with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine producing 93kW and 160Nm, matched with a choice of five-speed manual gearbox or continuously variable transmission (CVT).

However, Chinese reports suggest other engines are becoming available, including a 1.5-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine that sounds likely for the Australian market.

This engine might also be applied to the J11 replacement – the Tiggo 5 – which is reportedly seen in the Chinese market as a close new-generation sibling to the Arrizo 7.

The five-seat Tiggo 5 gets a 102kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in China, driving only the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox or seven-step CVT.

At 4406mm long and 1841mm wide, the Tiggo 5 is slightly longer and a few millimetres narrower than Kia’s Sportage, which will be one of the products in its sights when it lands in Australia under J11 badges in 2015.

The Tiggo 5 was the 20th best-selling SUV in China last month, outpacing Mazda’ s CX-5.

It is said to be further down the engineering route towards right-hand drive production than the J3, hence the earlier launch timing for the SUV in Australia and New Zealand.

While pricing will not be set until much closer to launch, expect the Chery J11 and J3 to be priced under South Korean rivals.

It is unclear if a five-door hatchback version of the J3 is in the pipeline to replace the current hatch, but next month’s Beijing motor show might hold the clue.

The Chery dealer network is set to be expanded ahead of the new-model roll out, with the current four Victorian dealers growing to at least 10 by next year – and possibly more.

More than 40 dealerships will handle the brand nationwide.

Apart from Chery, Ateco also handles Chinese brands Great Wall utes and SUVs and Foton trucks. As GoAuto reported from the Geneva motor show, Ateco has not ruled out putting up its hand for upmarket Chinese brand Qorus, and perhaps one other unnamed brand from the world’s biggest motor market.

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