From the land of Kung Fu and chopsticks comes a vehicle that is making serious moves in the business of crossovers in the UAE
The Chinese are as progressive a society as they are ancient. They gave the world paper, the compass, gunpowder and, arguably, even the pants you wear today wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for this intelligent Eastern influence. But that was yesterday! Today, pretty much everything, every commodity we use, household or otherwise, is Chinese-made.
It was only a matter of time before they started making cars en masse. Amongst those brands forging a future in this industry of ‘steel and wheels’ is Chongqing-based Changan. You may or may not have heard about them, but they built their first automobile way back in 1958 and, coincidentally, that too was an SUV. But the automotive industry has evolved since then. Vehicles are no longer seen as just commuters; they need to be reliable, quick, tech-laden and comfortable. Add to that the reputation about the quality of anything that comes out of China and you can tell that Changan has its work cut out for itself.
To solve this curious case of Chinese crossovers and to assess whether the brand’s latest offering – the 2016 Changan CS75 – is a legitimate people-mover, we drove it for a few days. Here are our thoughts.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
Imitation is the highest form of flattery and Chinese manufacturers have made an art and science of it. Keeping that in mind, how does the Changan CS75 stack up? Is it a botched-up doppelganger of something European or American or does it have an identity of its own? The truth lies somewhere in between.
The CS75 has a conventional but balanced SUV profile that doesn’t take the form of a camouflaged MPV; neither does it look like a hatchback. At 4,650mm in length, 1,850mm in width and 1,705mm in height, it is very comparable to its rivals: the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson etc. And although it draws similarities between rival vehicles, there are a few arbitrary elements that give it distinction, like the dual blue highlights in the headlamp clusters, which are an easy cosmetic diversion from the herd. Creases on the hood and a segmented front bumper, in black and aluminium, give it a subtle complexity and muscularity. But from the side i.e., if you see one passing by, you’d find it rather inconspicuous; even the plastic wheel arches, like on Lexus models, don’t do much. The rear, however, is a much bolder rendition of the crossover styling with a hint of Ford Escape in its rear lighting.
In a nutshell, the CS75 is a neatly proportioned crossover SUV that enjoys some exclusivity due to its freshness in the market – and that’s a good thing.
The surprise to us, was seeing a very clinically-styled interior with a predominant black dashboard with oblong air vents, resembling interiors found in Honda’s luxury brand Acura. And that sort of makes sense in a very obscure way, considering that the Changan emblem is the inverted version – a sort of reflection – of the Acura.
The layout of the centre console, though, is very Infiniti-esque with a touchscreen inset and an angled iDrive-like controller beneath it. You have easy-to-use hard buttons and knobs for operating the HVAC controls and sufficient number of storage facilities that make it acceptably ergonomic. As for fit and finish, for all the duration of the test drive, we didn’t hear a single rattle or squeak. these Chinese cars seem to be better than where the Koreans were 10 years ago.
The instrument binnacle looks like a sophisticated set of engine scores with a mix of traditional gauges for speed and rpm; at their centres are legible digital readouts for fuel and temperature. The blue lighting is a tasteful touch. We also liked the toggle switches for the volume control on the 3-spoke wheel and general damping of the switchgear.
The driving position is a nice arrangement with a spacious front seat with 6-way adjustments; not all are powered – but that’s only a problem if there’s more than one driver in the house.
Like the CR-V, the rear seating is rather accommodating; some might find the seat bottoms a little low but the majority won’t notice. The black upholstery on our test car had red contrast stitching that takes away some of the monochrome monotony and the only real niggle I had, besides hard plastics, is the awkward positioning of the hazard button.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The CS75 is an easy city drive, made possible thanks to its convenient size, general outward visibility, light steering and throttle response. Turning the front wheels of the compact crossover is a respectable 230 Nm of maximum torque and 175 bhp of power that comes from a turbocharged 1.8-litre 4-cylinder with ‘BlueCore’ technology. Nudge the throttle and the force-fed engine responds with certain gusto – something you’d appreciate while circling urban locales. It gets to 80 km/h rather quickly, but above that, it seems to lack the punch we have come to expect of turbo motors. Managing high-speed lane changes or overtaking – which we are used to in this country – may, therefore, need more preparation.
The steering is generally well weighted for a vehicle of this class and helps with the twists and turns of the journey, with the 17-inch wheels with 225mm wide tyres lending enough traction. Hooked to the crankshaft is a 6-speed automatic, nothing too technological advanced. No dual-clutch technology here; just a regular torque converter that does its job of swapping ratios at the right time in a rather smooth manner.
We had no trouble with the left pedal as well. There is decent feel from the brakes that helps shed speed and bring this crossover to a stop in a controllable manner. It’s certainly a rarity to have ventilated disc upfront and solid discs at the rear in this class. and it pays off.
We didn’t feel the pinch of driving a tall SUV. The CS75 keeps nearly to the fuel economy claims of the 8.8 l/100km. In our daily conquests, it returned an average closer to 10 and 11 but with some “hypermiling” techniques and an apathy for speed, you can definitely keep that 58-litre tank going for over 600 kilometres.
Top of the CS75’s good nature list is ride quality. It covers ground smoothly, with the Mcpherson independent suspension and multilink independent rear suspension concealing road imperfections well. Of course, this isn’t air suspension quality, but it tends more towards that than the feeling of sliding down the stairs.
Being a crossover SUV, we were obliged to take it off road, albeit with a little due suspicion over the workings of a front wheel drive layout – one that lacks lower ratio mode and light power. But somehow it cruised through sandy beaches with ease. Keep out of areas with deep and loose sand and you’ll be fine.
Considering that Changan have the world’s largest automotive test track, and each model undergoes a one million-kilometre road test validation over two years prior to the launch, we expect more exciting things to come out of Changan in the near future.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Safety systems are a hard sell here and we can’t stress the importance of these physical and electronic chaperones enough – besides due driver diligence, of course. That said, the CS75 was awarded a 5-star C-NCAP safety rating, making it one of the safest models in China and, presumably, the rest of the world. On the road, it keeps things alive by engaging every abbreviated safety feature you have heard of. The spec sheet read “ABS + EBD + BA + TCS + HAC + EPS”. The CS75 also boasts six airbags, front and rear parking sensors – so you have no one to blame but yourself if you knock your bumper – a tyre pressure monitoring system and electronic parking brake with auto hold.
Unfortunately, navigation is not being offered – so that is definitely giving customers something to complain about. You do get Bluetooth and making a connection with it is amongst the quickest we have seen so far. It also comes with a 6-speaker unit that is loud enough to get a party of five started and, by plugging in your USB or aux in, you can play DJ too!
Keeping the hot summer just news and not a reality within the car is a single-zone climate control with rear seat vents. It felt strong through the day and helped to keep us less agitated.
Let’s not ignore the duty of an SUV: to haul big things that owners of sedans and hatchbacks would normally leave to the movers. After a few days in the CS75, we think it doesn’t disappoint. You get a largish 590-litre in the back with the seats upright, large enough to fit three large suitcases; fold them flat, and you get 1,560 litres. That’s possibly a two-seater sofa plus extras.
There is also a full-size spare beneath the cargo floor (although most will rely on AAA services) and, last but not least, you also have ISOFIX seats in the rear. Keep in mind that the authorities are cracking down on those who do not prioritise child safety.
With an embodiment of quintessential SUV looks with hints of the Ford Escape on the exterior and Acura-like interiors (presumably free of quality issues), the 2016 Changan CS75 has managed to make a stand for Chinese crossovers. The power of the turbo 1.8L won’t have you stoked but it rolls fine in the city and it will move your family of five and their many luggage boxes from A to B, and across sandy parking lots and beaches with ease. You may struggle to find the hazard button, as you would with resale, but the fact that Changan is backing customers with a 5-year/150,000 kilometre warranty, makes the CS75 worth considering.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Peak output: 175 bhp @ 5,500 rpm, 230 Nm @ 1,700 – 5,000 rpm
Top speed: 185 km/h (drag limited; estimated)
0-100km/h: 12 seconds (estimated)
Price: Starting at AED 59,995
Good: A good size, inside and out; Acura-like furniture; very affordable
Bad: Gutless engine above 80 km/h; awkward placement of hazard button; low rear seats; no navigation
Author’s Rating: 7.5/10