More than a year ago, in February 2019, my usual morning routine got interesting with an email from Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. The Chinese carmaker was looking for a distributor in the Philippines – and the nature of the previous company I worked for as a car-selling website must have confused the Chinese firm into thinking that it’s a distributor.
While that email was an obvious mix-up, it was a confirmation of the company’s intention to return to the country.
Now, the Chery brand isn’t a stranger to Filipinos. However, familiarity isn’t an assurance of success, especially with this nation that has the knack of selective amnesia. That infamy is the very thing that Chery needs to face for its comeback in the country.
Fast forward to the end of 2019, Chery Auto indeed made a comeback. Now under the management of United Asia Automotive Group Inc. (UAAGI), the same company that imports and distributes the Foton line of commercial and passenger vehicles, Chery wants to prove that it isn’t the same brand it was before.
But can Chery’s new line of crossovers – collectively and globally known under the Tiggo nameplate – has what it takes to erase the impression the brand left with Filipino car buyers? We borrowed one for a full review, starting with the most affordable in the lineup, the Chery Tiggo 2.
The Chery Tiggo 2 is a subcompact crossover. As such, it rivals cars like the Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke, among others. It has a sporty and go-anywhere styling that are apparent to this segment, which means a bevy of thick claddings and a slightly raised height to evoke an SUV stance.
The Tiggo 2 isn’t of SUV size, though. It’s dwarfed in comparison to popular midsize SUVs, but definitely bigger than entry-level hatchbacks. As such, the car benefits from maneuverability in tight city streets and safety from ramp/gutter scrapes, but without the inconvenience of heft.
What I like about the Chery Tiggo 2’s design is its originality. It isn’t trying to look like other established brands out there, nor does it want to fool you that it’s something it’s not. For a Chinese car, that means a lot. Plus, LED taillights and DRLs at this price point are a plus, as are the projector halogens upfront, considering that cars within this range have to make do with just reflector halogens to minimize costs.
Dark-themed, straightforward, with a bit of peculiarity – those are the best words to describe the Tiggo 2’s cabin. I like the black-on-black theme, but I wish the use of durable plastics were done more tastefully. The carbon fiber-esque prints that run across the dashboard and door panels are a bit tacky to my eyes. The orange accents are a good touch, though, plus the leather-wrapped steering wheel is a pleasure to hold.
Cupholders and cubbyholes are abundant up front, but rear passengers are relegated to settling for bottle holders and shallow stowage pockets on either door. As with most crossovers of this size, space is adequate for four average-sized people, but adding a fifth one in the middle would be a compromise. The cargo hold is surprisingly large in relation to this car’s size, plus the removable tonneau and foldable rear backrests make that even more usable and secure.
Technology & Safety
The Tiggo 2’s tech and safety features are a mixed bag, but definitely above average when you consider the price point. First, the large touchscreen infotainment is easy to use but needs improvement with its display. The graphics on the analog gauge clusters look really good, while the trip computer’s display is just so-so. Air-conditioning works really great, even on hot days. The clincher, however, is the presence of cruise control and headlamp height adjuster. At P770,000 for this top-spec 1.5 AT variant, these features surprise me, though Chery could have placed them on areas that are more accessible to short arms. But then again, cruise control on a budget car – who’s complaining?
Safety is likewise taken care of with two airbags, ABS with EBD, Electronic Stability Control, Hill Descent Control, and reverse parking camera. Again, standard features on modern cars but quite surprising to see at a car at this price point.
Driving & Handling
The Tiggo 2’s on-road performance isn’t its best trait, but it’s on the average, at best. The 106hp, 135Nm 1.5-liter gasoline engine makes enough power to pull its laden weight without complaints but spirited drives won’t be without disappointment, even while on default Sport mode – much more so on Eco mode. The four-speed automatic transmission isn’t quick to shift gears, plus there’s a lack of refinement when changing speeds.
The driving position is a tad too high, as well, and you don’t have the option to adjust so. That said, the tall driving position is best for driving visibility but a bit cumbersome if you want quick runs through winding roads because, well, a higher center of gravity means more body roll. Ground feedback can be improved but zipping through city streets is manageable and safe.
The suspension is nice, able to absorb road imperfections easily without transferring the impact to the occupants. The overall ride comfort would have been great if not for the lackluster NVH insulation. But then again, the “you get what you pay for” adage applies in this regard.
Despite the small engine and non-athletic nature of the Tiggo 2, it didn’t register stellar fuel economy figures as expected. At moderate to light traffic at an average speed of around 40 to 50 km/h, I was able to clock in 8.5 km/L, at best. On the highway at 90 km/h, the Tiggo 2 returned 15 km/L.
Admittedly, the 2020 Chery Tiggo 2 is still rough around the edges and warrants improvements in areas. But considering its affordable P770,000 price tag, plus all the features that the car comes with, it’s not bad for a comeback. A notable one, even. If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for a stylish crossover to meet your ferrying demands within the city, the Tiggo 2 fits the bill.
More importantly, UAAGI went all out with the Tiggo line of crossovers with an incredible guarantee – three years free PMS, five years of bumper-to-bumper warranty, and a 10-year powertrain warranty or 1-million kilometers, whichever comes first.
Basically, UAAGI will make sure to take care of your Tiggo’s innards through the course of your ownership. That’s a guarantee that we’ve never seen before and a needed one.