The Hype is real and more
In a very short span of time, we've noticed that Chinese brands are having a hit-or-miss affair in the Philippine market. Some are well-received, and some have a lot of homework to do.
As for Changan's case, well they've recently hit the restart button. Before we fully saw how the brand could perform under the former distributors of Hyundai, things took a turn as management changed hands. Changan is now under Inchcape - the distributor of premium brands such as Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar Land Rover.
It's rather interesting how it will turn out as this will be Inchcape's first attempt on the volume sector. But what we do know is that Changan has got some promising vehicles - particularly the CS55 Plus that a lot of our readers and YouTube subscribers have been curious about.
On a recent trip to my hometown, Davao City, I was surprised to see numerous Changan vehicles mainly the CS35 and CS55. In this part of the country, the Changan brand already has quite a good following. This is why when I got back, this made me even more excited to test out the CS55 Plus Hype. My colleague Jamil already had a lot of good things to say about it as he went on a drive with the previous distributor to Baguio. Time to experience it for myself.
At first glance, the CS55 Plus is indeed an attractive-looking crossover. In Changan's words, the imposing front grill is called the "light and shadow touch". But as a big Star Wars fan, it reminds me more of a starship from Naboo or an Imperial Destroyer.
The design smoothly transitions to the side with well-defined curves and character lines, while the color combination of this unit I had with the Fantasy Grey and the black and red accents fits its stealthy demeanor. It comes with black side mirrors as well and sits on 19-inch alloy wheels which I believe is just right for this size.
Moving on the rear, the sci-fi theme continues as it has a third (and fourth?) brake light. The wing though is a very welcoming addition that adds to its aggressive stature and sportiness. The rear still looks very futuristic with the continuing theme of grey, black, and red all the way to the taillights. However, there's one thing that rather spoils the good looks for me at the back - it's the pair of faux tailpipes sticking out below.
When you pop open the trunk, it does have ample cargo space in the rear and comes with a 60-40 folding 2nd-row configuration. It comes with a 17-inch space-saver spare tire, but to access it is quite an ordeal. If ever you get a flat, the spare tire is tucked underneath the board with quite a bulky molded styro that takes time to remove.
Stepping inside the CS55 Plus Hype, you are greeted with an interior that has a proper fit and finish, unlike Chinese-made vehicles of the past. Even though there's still quite a lot of plastic, the gaps are consistent and the materials look and feel good. There are bucket-like seats in front wrapped in leather which has thick bolsters, so it hugs you quite well. Cushioning is also good and very comfortable.
Personally, the compact steering wheel still reminds me of a modern Peugeot with the i-Cockpit. There's a similar fighter jet-style vibe along with the styling cues on the dashboard, but the good thing about the CS55 is that the steering wheel does not block the view of the 10-inch digital instrument cluster. I also like the buttons for the climate control and the overall placement of the controls. This is quite surprising for this segment and a vehicle in this price range.
The second row fits three and is quite spacious. I am about 5’11” in height and legroom was not a problem at all. Overall the interior is indeed well thought out and is laden with high-quality materials, a far cry from other Chinese automakers.
The infotainment system is controlled via a 12.3-inch touchscreen monitor that comes equipped with Apple Car Play although Android Auto was not functioning or is not really available for this model.
I must admit it was surprising, and it feels nostalgic with Changan's choice for the CS55's sound system. They equipped the crossover with premium speakers from Pioneer. It kind of brought me back to the 90s when I used to set up my old rides with this brand.
The CS55 Plus is also equipped with a panoramic camera with an HD Driving Recorder that gives a 540-degree virtual view of the surroundings. The HD Driving Recorder is basically a built-in dashcam, as it also records and captures 30 seconds automatically (15 seconds before and 15 seconds after) when untoward incidents happen to the vehicle such as sudden brake or collision.
The CS55 Plus Hype also is equipped with plenty of advanced safety features. From the standard ABS, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Hill Hold and Hill Descent Controls, Brake Assist, Traction Control, and Roll Over Mitigation, the crossover comes with things like Forward Collision Warning, Integrated Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning, among many others.
Powering the CS55 Plus Hype is a capable and efficient 1.5L turbocharged engine. The BlueCore NE15 TGDI powerplant gives out 188 PS and 300 Nm of torque, and it's paired with a 7-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission. The impressive figures are nice to see on paper, but I appreciated more that it did feel like it when I got to test it out.
It has a punch that I really like. Step on the gas pedal and it will pick up speeds very well for a crossover. Weighing in at around 1,835kg plus a few more for passengers, the engine has more than enough grunt to haul and go. Mileage is around 10 km/l in city driving, and as it stretches its legs on the highway it goes up to around 16.3 km/l.
The CS55 Plus also comes with 3 driving modes, Eco, Normal, and Sport. In Sport mode, everything is just more refined, from the suspension being a bit stiffer and the throttle response being at its quickest. But even in Eco mode, the suspension of the vehicle is well-planted and exhibits very minimal body roll.
However, there are several things we've noticed that can be further improved by Changan. One is the alignment of the windows. It's not visible at first glance but once you take a good look at it from an angle, it's there. Another thing is the air-conditioning. While it's good that it is indeed ice cold, climate control somehow does not respond as quickly when you increase the temperature.
Nevertheless, the driving comfort and speed for me is a very big plus, and the appeal both inside and outside does indeed give the crossover a lot of promise. Overall, the CS55 Plus Hype has the makings of being a competitive vehicle in its class.
The price point alone of PHP 1,279,000 with all the bells and whistles that this car has to offer is more than enough for you to make a very big consideration of this vehicle. In my hometown of Davao, the CS55 has been doing really well in terms of sales, and I won't be surprised if other parts of the country start to follow once they see what this crossover could do.