Jude Morte / Jude Morte | February 02, 2009 00:00
China crisisThe Chery QQ has been a source of fascination for many a motorist, considering its variants, size, price and the somewhat negative reputation that comes with China-made vehicles. Combine that with seemingly never-ending oil price hikes, and you have a car that can serve as a strictly urban mover. But is it worth looking past competition such as the Kia Picanto, the Chevrolet Spark and the Suzuki Alto?
The exterior is similar to the Daewoo Matiz, with striking similarities at the headlights, front fascia and tailights. Not surprisingly, Chery got into some sort of copyright brouhaha not long ago over its alleged "copying" of the Daewoo Matiz exterior shape (thus earning the ire of the Korean automaker), and the latter coming out with a super subcompact with nearly the exact same design. Nevertheless the QQ attracts attention wherever it goes, with bystanders giving an occasional curious stare at the bug-eyed front fascia.
The interior can be considered as adequate, but the phrase caveat emptor really applies to this particular vehicle, especially with regard to its features. The cabin is expansive for two and tight for three, but very much packed for four. Seating can be hard on the lumbar area, despite the comfortable fabric wrapping the seats. There's one touch down power assist for all four windows, and unlike its Chana Benni rival there's power assist for adjusting the side mirrors. There's only one interior lamp, and it's between the front sun visors, just like in the Suzuki Alto. It may not be as distracting to the driver at night, but the location of the lamp makes it tough looking for lost items in the rear when the sun goes down. Nigglesome too is the radio; there's no frequency locking feature and the sound can be compared to the Promac audio entertainment systems found in a bevy of taxicabs.
Storage is small given the dimensions, but can frustrating. There are only two cupholders; they're in front, but can hold a large McDonald's softdrink cup. The rear seats don't fold flat to handle odd-shaped loads. There's no rear door hatch handle on the outside; you have to open the driver's side door and pull on the lever near the driver's seat door sill to pop up the trunk. Now imagine if you're lugging groceries in both hands, it's raining and you have a lot of stuff already in the rear row, giving you no choice but to open the rear hatch. You might as well whistle a few bars from BJ Thomas' Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head right after you get soaked in the rain - and with your groceries too - from trying to locate the trunk lever. Just pray your groceries aren't consisting of food items that can easily spoil should that inevitability occur.
Getting into the narrow powerband (3750 rpm onwards) takes almost forever with the P 373,000 800cc AMT QQ, but a given considering the displacement. Surprisingly, despite a 900 kg curb weight, the QQ can reach up to 145 kph yet go 14.28 km/l on four days city driving. The gearing is even, but the unruly a/t has a mind of its own, be it on level or incline tarmac. For example, it downshifts if you're 100 meters from the apex of a crest. Irksome too, is a lot of shift shock during gear transition and shifting to neutral. You practically have to slam the a/t stick all the way to the right put it in neutral; doing it gently just makes the car remain in first gear.
Normally super subcompact hatchbacks display little body roll due to their low ground clearance. The QQ is the exception to the said rule, listing and understeering frequently on turns like Jacky Chan in Drunken Master, and traction from the Wingro GT Radial 155/65 78Hs breaking at 75-80 kph. The ride is hard but tolerable enough to get shut-eye, should you become a lucky passenger. There's lots of steering wheel wander and little steering feedback, but steering feel is light though. The brakes and handbrake provide good bite, but using the headlights is an experience. You turn on the headlights via the foglight switch below leftmost a/c vent, thus negating the use of the headlight switch stalk at the steering column's left side until you push the said stalk forward to use the headlights' bright setting.
The Chery QQ comes at a time when increasing fuel prices and cramped city parking lots make the SUV obsolete and motorists look for fuel efficient vehicles. Unfortunately this China car must overcome a significant crisis of serious transmission, handling, safety, and loading issues for it to become a serious super subcompact segment contender.