Matching the competition at last
"Is Changan aiming at European manufacturers?"
"With such an affordable price tag, buyers would confidently come."
"It does provide you a reasonably lively daily drive," said Issam.
I always wondered if Chinese automakers could make it to the top players in the automotive industry like the Koreans did. I’ve personally encountered a few Chinese vehicles during my motoring career such as Brilliance, Geely, BAIC, etc. But since the day I decided to drive the new Changan CS55, my entire perception of Chinese cars changed. Here I am picking up the CS55 from the official distributor of Changan in Lebanon for a long weekend drive.
I’m pretty sure most of you don’t know the brand or have even heard of it. Changan is a Chinese car manufacturer headquartered in Chongqing, China. Changan operates joint ventures with Groupe PSA, Mazda and Suzuki, which respectively produce Ford, DS Automobiles, Mazda and Suzuki branded passenger cars for the Chinese market. It also has a joint venture with Jiangling Motors (JMC), which produces SUVs sold under the Landwind marque (which most of you will remember the Evoque clone). Changan is more than 100 years old, in fact, and in 2016 alone produced nearly three million vehicles-including cars, vans and SUVs.
The CS55 is one out of 17 models within Changan and was launched last year at the 2017 Shanghai Motor Show to compete in the fast-growing Chinese compact SUV segment. While driving the CS55, the phrase I mostly heard used by people around me was, "it’s a Land Rover… oh maybe a Discovery…or an RR Sport!" Basically people were right because the design was developed with input from Changan’s Turin design studio and seems to have a similar look to Land Rover’s vehicles.
Well in terms of looks, I loved it and had no arguments. The look is always a matter of taste. Either you like it or you don’t. It comes with 18-inch two-tone with diamond-cut wheel hubs and a high-end polished finish. The headlamps have an integrated position lamp, turn signal, and the daytime driving lights have 22 LED chips. The taillights are composed of 26 transparent LED chips. Jump into the cabin and I can tell you that if you didn’t notice the Changan badge in the middle of the steering wheel you would never guess it’s a Chinese car. Red stiches on the steering wheel, piano black laminated plastic in the middle console, leather seats, panoramic sunroof, good-looking infotainment screen, and so many more features give the interior of the CS55 a welcoming ambiance for the driver and the passengers. It is also packed with safety kit features including adaptive cruise control, front collision warning, automatic emergency braking and six airbags. Lane-change assist, blind spot monitoring and rear collision warning also feature, alongside tire pressure monitoring and a 360-degree parking camera.
In terms of driving, the CS55 is perfectly comfortable. The turbo engine is really quiet, and at speed the biggest issue is road noise from the large rims. That’s the case here in Beirut and we can’t do much about it; but due to the soft damping I rarely noticed shakes in the cabin. It’s not a thrilling car to drive and in many ways most of the vehicles in that category won’t be; but it does provide you a reasonably lively daily drive.
Don’t get me wrong, but I think most consumers are still hesitant regarding Chinese cars. Though far from being priced in a clever way, the Changan CS55 is a praiseworthy rival to many cars costing twice the price. Apart from that, the official distributor in Lebanon is offering a buy-back package of 50-percent after the termination of the 5-year warranty. This shows considerable confidence in the product itself. I can only tell you that it is the best Chinese car I have driven in my entire motoring career! I’m really excited to lay my hands on the bigger SUV, the CS95.
Rivals: Nissan Kicks, Renault/Dacia Duster, Hyundai Creta, Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport
Pros: Attractive exterior design, welcoming cabin, well-crafted interior, safety features, soft damping equals less cabin shakes
Cons: No four-wheel drive availability, fake exhaust tips
one word: round of applause
3 / 5 stars
1.5L VVT DOHC turbocharged, 4-cylinders, 155 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 225 Nm @ 2,000-4,000 rpm
6-speed automatic, FWD
0-100 km/h: 12.9 secs, top speed: 177 km/h, fuel consumption: 6.58 L/100 km
Weight: 1,460-1,490 kg