2009 is the year of the MPV. The big two are the Proton MPV and the Perodua MPV that’s set to launch at different times this year, but before any of them manage to get in the showrooms comes the cheapest MPV in the market, the Chana Era CM8.
Now let’s backtrack a little - those of you who have been following this blog for a few years now may remember this vehicle being spotted a few years ago, in June 2007 to be exact. The CM8 was spotted in Subang Jaya with trade plates. Even before that in end-2005, we heard news of a company signing an agreement with the CM8’s maker ChangAn Auto to assemble the CM8 locally in Malaysia. It turns out that company was a unit of the Berjaya Group, Changan Berjaya Auto Sdn Bhd.
The result of all that discussion and planning since 2005 are two cars, and here we take a look at one of them - the Chana Era CM8, assembled locally in Oriental Assemblers in Johor. Chana Era is the brand that Changan Berjaya is using to market the ChangAn products here in Malaysia. The car is said to have over 40% local content. Take one look at you’ll realise this is probably something based on a Suzuki as it looks like the Suzuki ER-V, plus Suzuki is one of ChangAn’s partners in China.
Something similiar in size and shape to this vehicle was introduced in Malaysia sometime ago. I’m sure some of you remember the Suzuki APV, which retailed for over RM70k. It didn’t do very well, probably because of its van-like looks. But the 3.8 meter long Chana Era CM8 has one advantage under its sleeves - it’s insanely low price tag of RM38,888 OTR with insurance for the cheapest model. This goes up to just under RM45k for the most expensive models.
Chana Era CM8 Standard Solid RM 38,888.00
Chana Era CM8 Standard Metallic RM 39,368.00
Chana Era CM8 Premium Solid RM 43,888.00
Chana Era CM8 Premium Metallic RM 44,368.00
The Chana Era CM8 is built on a monocoque chassis which is superior in terms of ride comfort and handling compared to the body-on-frame that other cheap MPVs use. It’s essentially a van, with a van-like engine position. It has sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle for access to the rear. The 2nd and 3rd row have their own air cond blower located at the ceiling. The key differences between the Standard and Premium models are ABS brakes, a stereo radio with a single CD player, speakers, an electric power steering and 14 inch alloy wheels which are all features only available on the Premium version. Power windows are only available on the front two doors for both models.
Both variants are powered by a Suzuki-derived 1,310cc inline-4 16 valve aluminium alloy engine producing 80 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 102Nm of torque between 4,500 to 5,000rpm. This is mated to a 5-speed manual, with no automatic version in sight even in the near future. Top speed is 135km/h. Brakes are discs for the front and drums at the rear. Tyre size is 175/65R14 for both the Premium’s alloys and the Standard’s steel wheels. It measures 3,856mm long, 1,568mm wide and 1,898mm tall with a wheelbase of 2,430mm.
At first impressions the interior plastic quality and the touch and feel of the CM8 is quite rough, especially where different plastic bits meet together. Mechanically it remains to be seen but as it is a basic 16 valve inline-4 without any funky features like variable valve timing it should be easy to maintain. If you want to compare to another China-sourced car, the Naza Forza (Naza Sutera) definitely has better interior quality.
It’s quite obvious the proposition that the CM8 is offering to you is cheap to buy. There are many people who do not place importance on interior quality and just want something that works and isn’t expensive. This is the car for them. It remains to be seen whether it is cheap to maintain and cheap to run. I will try to get a test drive session and report to you how it drives as well as the fuel consumption I can get.