The 2021 Chery Tiggo 4 Pro isn’t just considerably cheaper than the average new vehicle sold in the Mzansi, it’s cheaper than the average used car price right now. At a starting R269 900 the diminutive crossover is a member of the shrinking list of sub R300k new cars, and you’d be forgiven for assuming – as I did – that along the line something would have to give.
There are plenty of reasons why new cars have become more and more expensive over the past years. Increasing safety demands by regulators, an expectation of more equipment and more refinement from potential owners, and the rising cost of parts and materials all took their toll, and that was before a pandemic arrived and a chip shortage with it.
Now, I’ll admit, this 2021 Chery Tiggo 4 Pro Elite SE CVT isn’t quite the R269k version which Chery offers. With red detailing on the exterior design. Coupled with both the standard and metallic colours, it nudges the compact up to R359 900. That is, though, still less than the R400k South Africans are currently paying on average for a new vehicle.
Having grown up in the Free State, where smaller cars were frowned upon, a lot about the Tiggo feels both familiar and charming. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo petrol engine brings 108 kW of power and 210 Nm of torque to the party, funneled to the front wheels via the continuously variable transmission. Chery also offers an even cheaper 6 speed manual version.
Despite that, there’s an unexpectedly extensive list of standard equipment. The Elite SE model gets 17-inch wheels, an 10.23-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single zone automatic climate control, a 60/40 split rear bench, remote keyless entry, and hill-start assistance. Even the seats, steering wheel and shift knob are leather-wrapped.
The safety features are arguably even more impressive: Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Traction Control (TCS), Roll Stability Control (RCS), Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Hill Assist all come standard across the board. Excuse me while I spare some side-eye for the German luxury automakers who charge extra for half of that list.
As for the warranty, that covers you for a healthy nd uanmatched 10-year / 1-million-kilometre engine warranty. All Chery Tiggo 4 Pro models are also sold with a 5 year / 60 000 km service plan as standard.
Other automakers have tried cheap, small cars, and usually fallen foul of cabin plastics reminiscent of chocolate box liners or lumpen exterior styling. With its shield-shaped grille and squinting headlamps, the Tiffo seems like it’s aping popular bigger SUVs, and not in a bad way. It doesn’t fall victim of that “just escaped from Toy Town” aesthetic that many in the segment struggle with.
Inside, things feel surprisingly solid. Nobody will confuse the Tiggo for one of Chery’s more upscale models that are yet to reach us, never mind a Hyudai or KIA, but the switchgear is solid and the infotainment system easy to use. There are plenty of USB ports, the climate control is straightforward, and though the whole thing is sober – with only some matte silver plastic trim to attempt to lighten the mood – it feels like it would hold up to family use.
Around town, the dinky engine plays its perky strengths well. There’s enough verve to have you zipping away from the lights, and the compact footprint makes both traffic darting and maximizing parking opportunities easy. There’s a Sport mode which leaves the CVT a little more urgent, though temper your expectations there.
Out on the highway, things are somewhat less convincing. Outside of typical urban speeds the sluggish acceleration means overtaking maneuvers can be fraught. The Tiggo just doesn’t feel as planted as you’d expect from something with crossover billing.
Both front and rear passenger space is plentiful, and visibility is good too.
It’s a little astonishing, not only just how much Chery has managed to squeeze into the Tiggo for its price, but how it has done so without leaving the whole thing feeling cheap. Yes, there are places where you’ll find hard plastics, and no you’re not going to mistake the Tiggo for some of the more lavish crossovers on the school run, but it’s very hard to argue that most drivers need more than this R360k model.
Those who should look elsewhere include anybody wanting electrification, anyone needing the extra winter traction of all-wheel drive, and those who spend more time on the highway than around town. All areas where the Tiggo’s shortcomings and omissions are most glaring. Urbanites needing affordable wheels, a solid and spacious cabin, and a great warranty, though, might find more to like at Chery’s dealership than in trying to trawl the used car classifieds.
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