2016 Changan CS75
– Competitive pricing
– Cabin space and features
– Comfortable ride
– Hard-plastic cabin bits
– Slow acceleration
– No all-wheel-drive option
Does anybody remember Korean cars from a decade ago? Back then, they were cheap mass-ridiculed tin cans, and people driving one were always laughed at and looked down upon. Fast-forward to the present, and that is exactly the situation with Chinese cars now. Today, even the top Japanese players, let alone the Europeans and Americans, are breaking a sweat due to the Korean competition, not just in the Middle East, but globally. Wondering if Chinese automakers are on the same track as that of the Koreans, we we grabbed an invite from the Changan dealer. We set aside our preconceptions about Chinese cars and brought home a fully-loaded 2016 Changan CS75 compact crossover.
This test was going to be a bit different as we got the car for two weeks, so we used it as a serious daily-driver. We drove it for over 2,500 km. Unlike most other Chinese cars, the design of the Changan CS75 is fairly original except for a handful of small styling elements vaguely inspired by other cars. Boasting a mildly aggressive front-end with sharp cues in the front and rear and a well-proportioned side profile, the CS75 looks neat, albeit a little generic. However, one would not even recognize that it is a Chinese-branded vehicle, unless seen up close, which is a good thing. External bits worth mentioning include the brushed-aluminium-looking plastic inserts in the front and rear bumpers, projector headlamps wrapped in reflective bluish rings that look like angel eyes in the daytime, LED tail lamps, and roof-rails.
The interior is all hard plastic, with padded inserts on doors. Surprisingly, the plastics don’t feel particularly cheap, and the fit and finish seem tight. The steering wheel, centre armrest, and seats are all leather-clad. The dashboard design looks modern too, and houses a 7-inch touchscreen. The gauge cluster incorporates a colour information display.
Other features include smart keyless entry and push button start, electronic parking brake with auto-hold function, a good 8-speaker DVD audio-video system with USB and AUX, Bluetooth with music streaming, steering controls for audio and Bluetooth calls, heated front seats with power-adjustable driver’s seat, sunroof, front and rear sensors with reverse and passenger-side blind spot camera, tyre-pressure monitor, trip computer and electric-folding heated external mirrors. The interface of the touchscreen system is dated, offering only basic functionality, but it does the job, with good touch response and no visible lag. There is no navigation system available. The dual-zone climate control a/c, with rear vents, felt strong enough during our February test, and will probably be decent in the summer. There are four 12-volt power-outlets, enough to keep several electronic devices fully charged on a long voyage.
There is abundant space in the 5-seater cabin, and with generous legroom and headroom both in the front and the back. There are enough storage cubbies and cup-holders. The boot space is very good for its class and can be expanded with the split-folding second-row seats folded flat.
On the safety front, the Changan CS75 boasts six airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, and stability and traction control systems, which is impressive for the price. Although the CS 75 has not been safety-tested by any recognised international bodies, it did achieve a 5-star safety rating in the Chinese NCAP tests, which apparently follows Euro-NCAP standards.
Propelled by a turbocharged 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and cranking out 175 hp at 5500 rpm and 230 Nm of torque from 1700 rpm, the front-wheel-drive Changan CS75 clocked 12.1 seconds in our 0-100 kph acceleration tests. However, 80 kph comes up rather quickly thanks to the turbocharger, making the CS75 zippy on inner-city roads. On the highways, the accelerator needs to see the depths of the footwell for overtaking manoeuvres. With a moderate right foot and despite our harsh driving, the trip computer recorded fuel consumption at the rate of 11.4 litres/100 km in mixed driving conditions, which is not bad. Our manual calculations revealed that the trip computer was more or less accurate.
Featuring Macpherson struts in the front and multi-link independent suspension in the rear, one of the best aspects of the Changan CS75 is its smooth ride even on some unforgiving road surfaces. It soaks up bumps with ease, although at the expense of some mild-to-moderate body roll when you hit the corners. With the mildly-bolstered seats offering good back support, journeys in the CS75 is a comfortable affair. Unless the throttle is floored, the interior is fairly silent, with negligible road noise and a slight hum from the engine, with wind noise only creeping in beyond 110 kph.
We never really push vehicles of this category when it comes to testing the handling limits. But we didn’t spare the Changan CS75, and it still held up well. There is ample grip from some Chinese-branded tyres that we have never seen before. Body roll is moderate at most, and the CS75 understeers when pushed beyond its limits, although easily corrected by regulating the throttle. The mildly-weighted electric power steering offers only minimal feedback, but is responsive and firms up a tad at highway speeds. The turning radius is good too, making city-driving a breeze. Keep it in the city though, as you won’t get very far offroad with just front-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive is not offered in the GCC at the moment.
So did the Changan CS75 impress us? Mostly, yes. Boasting good build quality, a fairly long list of features and commendable ride quality, the Changan CS75 never really felt like the stereotypical Chinese car. What’s more, we hardly ever got mistreated by the fellow road users, likely because no one realised we were in a Chinese SUV. Even with the right pricing strategy, Changan may not sell as many CS75 as its well-established rivals at present, but they sure are on the right track towards becoming what the Korean competition is today. It’s only a matter of time.
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