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New Jaecoo J7 may be a star player

Buoyed by Haval's success among other popular Chinese car brands, Jaecoo J7 is the latest independent (Chinese) car brand to make entry into the South African market. And while it may not be everyone’s favourite Jagermeister tipple, it has plenty to keep one's head spinning well.

The tech-friendly Jaecoo J7 is China’s latest attempt at dominating the South African road.

Buoyed by the Haval’s success, its sister, the Chery, the Jaecoo, as its name suggests, is on the prowl. Not your average cougar, this Jaecoo, in German, means a mixture of hunter and cool.  

It may not be everyone’s favourite Jagermeister tipple, but it has plenty to keep one’s head spinning well.

Over the past week, I sampled the recently launched vehicle, and a few thoughts lingered. It was impressive with its tech-laden cabin, bold exterior cues, and fair pricing. You’re not paying an arm and a leg for all the optional extras, as you would in premium German brands. I like that aspect.

With three models to choose from, the Vortex and middle-grade Glacier, I had my run-of-the-mill Inferno in top-spec guise. It costs a cool R679,900. If you eliminate your blinkers, you will find a lot more bang for your buck, as many would say.

Even I had preconceived notions that the cabin would feel cheap and not provide the same spark as a Benz or Beemer.

But it was delightful and modern and dazzled the heart of passenger Kagiso Mangolele. He was in heaven, to say the least, soaking it in like a kid at a candy store. But snapping back to reality, I put it to the test and gave it the full attention it deserves.

Awesome copycat: while the bold front-end grille (pictured below), almost Jeep Cherokee-like, towards the side very, much like a Ranger Rover with the retractable door handles, some believe – and yours truly – the backend resembles Porsche Macan.
All Jaecoo J7 models will be sold through Omoda and Jaecoo dealerships across South Africa.

Now, bells and whistles are present, like wireless smartphone charging, a 360° panoramic camera system, a head-up display, and an integrated dashcam.

The infotainment screen was the most giant screen I have ever seen in a car, precisely 14.8” hovering in the middle centre console. It was straightforward to use, although sometimes it can be laggy. Nonetheless, I liked the simplicity of the layout, and all configurations, like climate controls, can be accessed from there.

There’s also a handy Android assistant. You activate it by pressing the robot icon at the top of the screen. You can ask it to open Windows or Google search for anything your heart desires.

When I was in the cabin, I relished the comfy seats. There was ample room for rear occupants, too. The high-flying Inferno had a heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel, privacy glass, inter-seat airbags, an automatic tailgate, and all-wheel drive, while the Vortex and Glacier are front-wheel drives.

Visually, when you look at it, it is a charming, attractive SUV. The 19″ alloys were perfectly steel cut; I am tooting the horn a bit, but they looked stunning. A bold front-end grille, almost Jeep Cherokee-like, towards the side very, much like a Ranger Rover with the retractable door handles, and some have pointed out that towards the back, it looked like a Porsche Macan, don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger.

Now, safety systems are impressive, and some include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, lane-departure warning, intelligent high-beam control, rear cross-traffic assist, and more.

All Jaecoo J7 models are powered by a turbocharged 1.6l petrol engine producing 145kW and 290Nm mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The infotainment screen was, according to Prashirwin, the most giant screen he’s ever seen in a car, precisely ‘14.8’ hovering in the middle centre console.

Driving dynamics wasn’t much fanfare for me; it needed refinement as the 1.6l turbo petrol motor tended to bother me with the high revs in the overtaking process on the highway.

However, you can coast and cruise comfortably on the road when it’s not hot and bothered. You also have the luxury of having a driving mode selector: Sport, Eco, Normal, and Off-road. Another qualm was on uneven or unfavourable road conditions; the suspension felt firm.

Fuel-wise, it was fair to achieve 9l/100km in my daily commutes; you can even get it in the early 8l/100km.  

The Jaecco J7 can go off the beaten track. I didn’t have time to take it there, but Chery markets the J7 as the model to buy if your active lifestyle takes you off the main roads and onto gravel paths. This model is afforded an off-road mode, a 21° approach angle, a 29° departure angle, 200mm of ground clearance, and 600mm of wading depth.

Can one say being paired with the Jaecoo J7 was a match made in heaven? I must put it out there: I’ve driven many cars over the last two short years, about one hundred, and I did take a liking to the Jaecoo J7; it was a car that gives a lot for less but needs some more refinement driving-wise to make it a well-rounded contender in this competitive SUV segment.

The Jaecoo J7 competes with the Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Haval H6, and its shared counterpart, the Cherry Tigo Pro 8.

In the words of Depeche Mode, Kagiso was in Heaven. Of course, we return to Earth swiftly when the vehicle is collected.

PRICING

•            Jaecoo J7 1.6T Vortex FWD 7DCT — R549,900

•            Jaecoo J7 1.6T Glacier FWD 7DCT — R599,900

•            Jaecoo J7 1.6T Inferno AWD 7DCT — R679,900

All versions of the Jaecoo J7 come standard with a five-year/70,000km service plan and a five-year/150,000km mechanical warranty. The first owner also receives an additional engine warranty spanning ten years or 1 million kilometres.   


*This article is exclusively written for NOWinSA by motoring contributing writer Prashirwin Naidu.  © Higher Education Media

Prashirwin Naidu
Prashirwin Naidu
Aspiring scribe, Prashirwin Naidu is a writer focusing on cars and the arts.
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