I just found this Chery A1 review by Singaporean magazine
17 Mar 2008
We have reason to believe that Chery aims to flood the global market with (ed. plagiarized) subcompacts. First the QQ, the current A1, soon the upcoming QQ2 and QQ5 in China. Everyone was up in arms over the QQ's copyright controversy as well as safety ratings of the vehicle.
The A1, however appears to sport a different set of promises and dynamics. It looks better and it’s engine is larger in capacity.
However, when news surfaced that Chery had brought in another city car that would “revolutionize the way China cars were seen,” the first thing that came to our minds was that they had decided to buy a Korean hatchback and simply rebadge it. Default jokes on plagiarism and crash tests ensued.
At first glance…
While the editors at SGcarmart didn’t have to read ‘who moved my cheese’ in order to realize that China cars have come a long way since the fateful QQ, all we did was glance at the A1’s front, and soon after we started trudging slowly towards it.
According to the kind people from Chery, the A1 was designed by Italian styling company Gruppo Bertone. Streamlined headlights, curved color bumper and standard fog lamp made us scratch our heads in confusion. This sudden departure from the conventional, oddball, or should we even say, plagiarized Chinese design seems a little daunting. Not to say that this car was entirely original - the sides and rear end seemed hauntingly familiar to a Fiat Idea, with C-pillars that mimic a Hyundai Getz.
The “sit-inside test”
Many Chinese car-seat manufacturers seem to suffer from color blindness, judging from the tonal balance of the grey and creamy-white fabric seats. Our bulky frames quickly rejected the front seats. They were indeed, uncomfortable to start with, but surprisingly, it was nothing that we couldn’t get used to after a while.
The A1’s control surfaces are well within reach, with a well placed array of controls including the default air-conditioning, dual cup holders, hazard light and built in CD player. A USB port allows for the plugging in of external MP3 players – enough for the semi-pampered Singaporean in us.
The strategically located gear-knob, unfortunately, looks more phallic than ever, possibly due to it’s designer’s secret stash of FHM magazines.
The rear seats were easy to fold down, although back seat space isn’t something to shout about with a vehicle 1578mm wide. Accusations of the A1’s rear headroom, and possibly shoulder room being more spacious than a Jetta, as mentioned on another online motoring website, proved to be exceedingly unfounded.
The steering wheel felt solid to hold, unlike previous mainland made vehicles. This time, we didn’t have to grimace at the thought of handling such brittle equipment for hours on end. We wrapped our fat, hairy palms around it, caressing and rubbing the sturdy plastic (ed. sounds suggestive we know), which ironically, was well fitted and unlike what we were used to, giving us that feeling of security.
We might even say that one could identify this model with the original Hyundai Atos, the car that propelled the Korean marquee to prominence as a maker of reliable city cars.
Sadly though, all positive adjectives on originality disappeared when our eyes fell on the instrument cluster. A sharp eyed Toyota aficionado will spot the exact design used in the IMV Hilux.
Oh well, we can’t expect a 100% set-apart from other vehicles in the market just yet.
The bright blue readings illuminate the dim console when you turn the lights on, giving the meters a pseudo “Optitron” look. A trip meter that indicates both instantaneous consumption and fuel mileage were clearly displayed on the moon-like spot smack in the middle of the speedometer.
The “performance test”
The time had come to put Chery’s Acteco engine to the sword. This 1.3 DOHC engine was designed and put together locally with a little help from Austrian engine specialists AVL List GMBH.
Or so it seems.
The open, winding roads of Seletar gave us an opportunity to witness the might of this “engineering marvel”. We shifted into first gear and floored the slightly stiff accelerator.
Then, there was a sudden rush of acceleration!
Actually, No. Sadly, the opposite happened. The A1 picked up like a hamster on diarrhoea, crawling along the slippery asphalt on a rainy day. The rate of pickup improved slightly in second through fourth, where a barely decent amount of acceleration kicked in. Our photographer clicked his stopwatch to reveal a century dash of……15.5 seconds on a near empty tank of petrol.
A 82bhp, 4-cylinder, 16 valve 1.3 DOHC engine should not crawl this slowly through city roads. Drivers behind would turn red when the traffic lights go green! Obviously, Chery hasn’t mastered how to use variable valve technology to squeeze the most out of this engine’s combustion process.
Adding to the list of to-dos for Chery would be adjusting the suspension settings. The fairly rough roads of Seletar camp gave us a taste of what an “un-tuned” set of shocks would feel like, with numerous puddles and potholes. We bounced up and down like cowboys in a Rodeo
Tight corners bring about the visual of the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” The Chery’s high center of gravity showed us why taking corners is a challenge in itself. The engine, also looses it’s push through huge puddles, which means you are better off letting your Chery hibernate during the monsoon season if you are afraid of getting stuck in water. The skinny tires skidded badly on damp roads, and thankfully, the ABS & EBD wasn’t called into serious action, thanks to our well trained, lightning fast reflexes.
The silver lining in this bunch of clouds would be the air-conditioning, which threatened to freeze us to death in the pouring rain. Switching the botchy-feeling gear lever into reverse, we noticed a digital reverse sensor in the rear view mirror of our subcompact. It displays the distance between the rear end of the A1 and other stationery objects – a godsend to old ladies, bimbos and incompetent drivers in general.
The A1 proves to us that the days of poorly made China cars are almost over for Chery, well, hopefully. It is a triumph of acceptable workmanship and semi-ergonomically inclined efforts with the uninformed driver in mind.
While we can’t deny that for S$44,999 (correct as of 14th March 2008) you get more than you might bargain for a point A-B vehicle, the A1, still is up some against very stiff competition, especially the 1.4 Hyundai Getz, which retails at S$49698.
Although pricier by over 4 grand, the Hyundai’s engine churns out a very well tuned 97bhp and drives like a dream. In turn, it makes this Chery look the part of exceptionally poor value.
While we can’t deny that the A1’s styling is refreshing in the way of ice cold beer on a hot, humid day when it comes to Chinese cars, we also can’t deny that Chery has much to learn in order to improve their product lineup, especially in the area of refinement, aesthetics and safety.