People of a certain age will remember Chery, and maybe not for the right reasons. Over the course of just 12 years, the brand has changed hands no less than three times before ending up with United Asia Automotive Group or UAAGI. Now, if this company sounds familiar, it should be — they’re responsible for making another Chinese car brand, Foton, into a commercial vehicle powerhouse. The question now in everyone’s mind is, can they replicate the same success with Chery?
Well, there’s no better model to see how far Chery’s gone with this: the 2020 Chery Tiggo 5x. Positioned as their entry into the subcompact crossover segment, the Tiggo 5x is going against pretty hefty competition all from the Middle Kingdom.
For starters, it looks pretty solid. The design itself is clean, if a bit generic. Nonetheless, proportions are all good, and the form factor, particularly its generous 1.83-meter width makes it one of the biggest in its class. Topping out at P950,000, this Luxury trim is well-spec’d too with 17-inch wheels, power folding mirrors, and a sunroof.
With a ground clearance nearing 200mm and high-mounted seats, getting aboard the Tiggo 5X requires more of a slight hop than simply sliding the butt into the seat. Inside, the cabin is reasonably well-built. Except for the soft topper on the dash and near the transmission console, the materials used here are generally hard to the touch; but surprisingly enough, it’s less scratchy than typical Korean plastics.
The Tiggo 5X’s horizontal dashboard motif is supposedly reminiscent of something European-inspired, and for the most part, it pulls it off. The large digital LCD instrument cluster in front of the driver, and the 10-inch LED touchscreen infotainment system are both nice touches in this price range, and so are features like the push-button start/stop and electronic parking brake. However, there are some minor bits that could use some work. For example, the use of digital screens looks great, but they wash out in direct sunlight. Then, there’s the climate control system itself. Adjusting the fan speed or temperature makes use of physical knobs, but since the display is a pop-up screen in the laggy infotainment system, it can cause the driver to second-guess whether his command to up the fan speed, or lower the temperature was actually received or processed by the car. It’s a minor inconvenience for sure, but one that’s a source of irritancy as well.
In terms of room, there’s nothing to complain about too. Thanks to its generous width, the Tiggo 5x’s shoulder room is more compact SUV than subcompact, while the head- and legroom are certainly agreeable for both front and rear passengers. The rear passengers too are treated fairly well with three three-point seatbelts, and something rather uncommon in this class — a center armrest.
As a subcompact crossover, the Tiggo 5x is positioned more as a city runabout, yet its performance suffers in the urban confines due to one thing: its portly weight. Tipping the scales at 1,321 kgs, it taxes the 1.5-liter engine. With just 114hp and 141Nm of torque, pulling all that mass requires lots of effort. The initial throttle response is strong, but it loses steam fairly quickly. What’s more, the CVT gearbox neuters whatever remaining performance is left. That said, as the speeds build up, the tables are turned. Overtaking must be carefully planned and executed for sure, but this is one subcompact crossover that can eat countless miles with little difficulty.
The Tiggo 5x’s ride and handling story is near parallel to that of the powertrain. This isn’t a corner carver; instead, it’s a cruiser with a quiet, cushy ride. With a relaxed steering and some copious amounts of body roll, it behaves much bigger than its size suggests. It trades some of that agility, for a plush, controlled ride. The suspension tuning is soft, enabling it to glide through rough roads, and hushed on the highways.
Overall, the Chery Tiggo 5x still lacks the polish of the more established subcompact crossovers in the market. Nonetheless, it proves how far this Chinese brand has come in the past 12 years. Not only have they managed to shed the last bit of facsimile design and engineering that plagued them before, but they’ve come up with a solid, reputable choice that’s fitted with a long list of standard equipment that makes it a great value. That, together with a confidence-inspiring warranty program, could be what Chery needs to finally make a dent in the local automotive scene.