Chery’s Chinese copycat brings Benz interior on a budget

Newcomer Chery has unleashed its largest and most expensive car – but the Tiggo 8 Pro Max still has value at its core. Essentially a stretched and more upmarket version of the Tiggo 7, the 8 is priced from $41,990 drive-away.

It makes the mid-sized SUV is one of the most affordable seven-seaters on the market and a car the company hopes will continue its upward sales trajectory.

Even in entry-level Urban guise the Tiggo 8 comes with a list of standard equipment usually reserved for more expensive machinery. It gets 18-inch alloy wheels, synthetic leather, ambient lighting, 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 12.3-inch central infotainment screen. The front seats have heating and ventilation and electric adjustment with memory settings.

Any colour other than white is $600 extra. Pay another $2000 for the Elite and you pick up a powered tailgate, heated exterior mirrors, forward-facing dash camera and third-row air vents with fan speed adjustment.

The $47,990 Ultimate picks up all-wheel drive, tinted windows, a panoramic sunroof, exterior puddle lights and an extra two speakers (for 10 in total).

But it’s the three rows of seats Chery hopes will attract families looking for some pampering on a budget.

The cabin deviates from cheap and cheerful plastics to pack in stuff that looks like leather, some wood-look trim and enough silver highlights to lift the ambience above the mainstream. It’s neatly done and combines with plush front seats for an upmarket look.

Touch sensitive buttons on the dash adjust the ventilation and window demisting, each of which drags up associated menus on the main display, itself incorporating wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Driver aids were a bugbear in recent Cherys and while they’re vastly improved there’s still headway to streamline the steering assistance.

Get too wound up delving into the menus, too, and it warns you that you’ve been distracted for a long time.

Elsewhere there’s the occasional oddity, such as the convex centre mirror that allows more view of the window pillars and roof but requires an adjustment to your eyes’ focal length.

Those in the middle row of the Tiggo 8 are well catered for. The third row less so; it’s relatively compact and best reserved for smaller humans, although you can slide the middle row forward as a legroom trade-off.

Getting to the back row is also easiest done on the driver’s side of the car, which is not ideal. That’s because it’s only the single outboard seat on the traffic side that tilts and slides to allow access. Those up front have plush seats and plentiful storage, including a broad space beneath the centre console.

The Tiggo 8 also delivers on performance, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine making 180kW and 375Nm. It’s a perky engine that pulls strongly from low in the rev range, causing occasional issues with traction in the front-drive Elite we drove. It’s especially prevalent if you’re punching out of a tight corner, where the traction control chimes in to contain any slips.

We suspect a wet road could keep the traction control even busier.

There are no such issues in the all-wheel drive Ultimate. But there’s still the occasional hesitation with the seven-speed twin-clutch automatic. It’s noticeable from a standstill and also when accelerating through the lower gears.

The steering is mushy and lifeless and isn’t helped by some inconsistencies under acceleration, more so in the front-drive model.

Darting between Normal and Sport mode adds some weight but doesn’t address the dullness. Plus having “sport mode selected” announced when switching between modes is overkill.

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Suspension is soft for some roly poly through bends. The ride in the Elite is generally comfortable; lower profile 19-inch tyres the Ultimate picks up more initial stiffness.

Yep, we’re nit-picking, but the Tiggo 8 competes with some impressive seven-seaters such as the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander. There’s also the even cheaper Mahindra XUV700.

Ultimately, value and a well-presented cabin are the Tiggo’s strongest suits.

A suitably long equipment list could be enough of a sweetener and convince those value-conscious buyers to overlook some of its foibles.

Verdict: Budget-priced seven-seater packs plenty in and presents well, but there’s room to sharpen the driving experience.

3.5 stars

Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Max Elite

Price: From $43,990 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 7 yrs/unlimited km, $1400 for 5 yrs/75,000km

Safety: 10 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear auto braking, driver monitoring, speed sign recognition

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol, 180kW/375Nm

Thirst: 8.1L/100km (Urban and Elite models)

Spare: Space-saver

Boot: 117L (with 7 seats in use), 489 (with 5 seats in use)

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