Testing the Chery Tiggo 8: Budget luxury with a bit of a trade-off

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You’re probably making face right now upon reading the headline above, and that’s mainly because of three words that don’t seem to connive. Budget? Luxury? Chery?

Budget isn’t a stranger to the Chery brand. Luxury, on the other hand, is a term some car brands loosely use to elevate the status of their cars. That isn’t false with the Tiggo 8 before this review. And the marque’s not-so-pleasant past isn’t working to its favor, sadly.

But as it turns out, over a full week of testing the Chery Tiggo 8 Luxury EX convinced a part of me that this midsize crossover aims to offer premium features to budget-conscious buyers. Of course, there are reservations, so read along to find out what I’m talking about.

Exterior

Bring the Tiggo 8 around the city and you’ll likely see heads turning and checking out the unknown vehicle. Not because it’s exceptionally beautiful; it has interesting looks that call your attention, and ultimately, it has an original design that doesn’t look like any other vehicle in the market today. For a Chinese vehicle, that’s a plus.

On the side, it’s obvious that the Tiggo 8 has a third row, almost hulking like popular ladder-frame SUVs but sits lower thanks to its unibody construction. I like it, as well as the 18-inch dark alloy rims. The rear’s another attention-grabber, especially with the LED lamps that look really attractive at night.

All of these work together to give this crossover a mighty presence on the road, and kudos to Chery for that.

Interior

It’s a mixed bag inside the Tiggo 8. While Chery obviously wants to overwhelm you with nice-looking soft-touch materials at first glance, a good 10 minutes of inspection reveals some hard plastics tucked away from careful eyes. Not enough to spoil the entirety, though, as the overall feeling while seated still feels premium — as are the plenty storage points for those who practically live in their cars.

Space is expectedly aplenty, but the third row’s a bit surprising. You see, crossovers with seven seats don’t usually offer livable space at the third row, but this one’s an exception. Of note, it’s even better than what midsize body-on-frame SUVs can offer. Ingress and egress are best done on the right side with tumbling seats; if you’re a contortionist, you won’t have any issue on the left side.

That said, each of the occupants will have an unlimited headroom when the panoramic moonroof opens up to the rear seats — the sky’s the limit, literally.

Technology & Safety

If I pinpoint each and every tech and safety toy in the Tiggo 8, this segment of the review will look like a spec sheet translated into words. But let me point out some notables, like all the powered adjustments and the combo of the full-color instrument cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment system. The displays and icons look quite crispy on both screens, plus a bonus of Apple CarPlay connectivity. The 360-degree view feed from four cameras, albeit quite useful, could use a better resolution.

Of course, there’s my all-time favorite Auto Brake Hold that’s heaven-sent in stop-and-go situations, and cruise control that’s very useful on highway drives. And before I forget, each Tiggo 8 comes with a smartwatch that doubles as a key. Cool.

Safety-wise, there’s nothing to complain about. Six airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, ABS with EBD, stability control, Hill Descent Control, front and rear sensors, and ISOFIX child seat tethers are all available by default. Nothing to say here but this crossover’s loaded.

Driving & Handling

My primary qualm with the Tiggo 8 would be its on-road behavior. While power wasn’t necessarily lacking — the 145hp and 210Nm torque from the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-pot Acteco engine should have been enough to pull the 1,541-kg curb weight — the six-speed dual-clutch transmission restrains power delivery to the front wheels. This is especially so while in default Eco mode, which makes it a bit cumbersome to drive in slow paces. Switching to Sport mode improves this by a ton, but at the expense of fuel efficiency. On the bright side, there wasn’t a surge in power, so your passengers will thank you for the smooth ride.

Speaking of, the Tiggo 8 performs well in coddling its occupants and isolating them from outside harshness. The McPherson/multi-link setup works well in negating impacts, resulting in a generally pleasant cruise. The steering feels light, numb at times, but you’d appreciate this one if you drive more frequently in the city than in mountain passes. On occasions you need to reach country roads, expect occasional yet manageable body roll.Fuel consumption

A 1.5-liter turbocharged engine pulling a midsize body isn’t the most ideal combination you could ask for, especially if we’re talking about fuel efficiency. Amid moderate to heavy traffic at around 20 km/h, the Tiggo 8 returned 7.8 km/l. Out on open roads, it yielded 14.8 km/h at an average speed of 90 km/h. That’s after an hour of testing with four people aboard and with the driving mode set at Eco.

Verdict

There are several definitions of luxury. But if you define it as having a slew of tech toys, utmost comfort, and easy driving experience, the Chery Tiggo 8 fits the bill — without asking for too much money, mind you.

For P1,340,000, the range-topping Tiggo 8 Luxury EX offers all of those traits, along with the coveted seven seats. Looking beyond the unideal on-road performance, this vehicle is a pretty sweet deal, made even sweeter by incredible after-sales offerings under its new distributor. 

Of note, the midsize crossover comes with preventive maintenance service for three years and, get this, a 10-year or one-million-kilometer engine warranty. Such confidence is much appreciated from a besmirched name and if UAAGI continues to deliver in the years to come, we’re pretty sure that the stigma against Chery vehicles will be buried into oblivion.

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