27 March 2024

2024 Omoda C5 230T

A second bite of the 'Chery'

Omoda C5 9 1
Omoda C5 8 1
Omoda C5 13 1
Omoda C5 12 1

It’s been over ten years since the Chinese brand Chery phased out the low-cost line up of cars and utes from the New Zealand market, asfair to say their initial foray in 2011 missed the mark with Kiwi buyers. Despite price tags starting at $12,990, poor safety ratings and elementary styling kept sales to a minimum.

A decade on, the only way a bona fide revival was possible was through a radical overhaul of design ethos and safety doctrine.

Based on initial impressions of Chery’s new entrant, it looks they might just have pulled this off.

We are talking about the Chery Omoda C5 SUV. However the New Zealand distributor has dropped the ‘Chery’ designation entirely –the C word shall no longer pass go. It’s probably the right move, as the new Omoda line up bears zero resemblance to its predecessors.

That means the Omoda brand will stand on its own four wheels from this point, as will its soon to be released sister brand, Jaecoo. The two marques will deliver a stream of vehicles over the next couple of years.

You would be forgiven for assuming the Omoda C5 is another Chinese EV, given the volume of electric cars that have poured across our border over the past two years. But in fact it has a petrol engine. To allay any concerns, Omoda also have plenty of EVs in their range. In fact, you will see the Omoda E5 on our roads soon, with the same body shape as the C5 but fully electric.

The C5 we tested was a front wheel drive, 1.6 litre turbo engine, nine-speed CVT (108kW, 210Nm). The line up also has a 1.6 turbo FWD seven-speed dual clutch auto (147kW, 290Nm). Both will have two spec levels, plus a AWD version will be available soon.

All carry a five-Star ANCAP safety rating and a seven-year warranty with seven-year AA Roadside Assistance.

The first thing that will strike you is the C5’s front grille is bigger than a pitmaster’s BBQ. The expansive diamond lattice design is an aggressive feature that will undoubtably polarise opinion. The rear has more conventional athletic styling, with slimline arrow lights and a roofline rear spoiler. If you squint you can pick up shades of a Jaguar F-Pace, which is no great surprise – the parent company entered a joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover UK in 2012.

The interior has ample room in the front, although the rear seat suffers from an elevated position and sloping roof line. Kids will be fine back there, but three adults will be snug. The rake of the rear window and rear headrests restrict driver visibility somewhat, and a convex rear view mirror provides an uncanny perspective.

The plastics, faux leather seats and overall interior ergonomics err a little on the budget side, but we definitely wouldn’t consider them cheap and tacky. Compared to the previous generation of Chery vehicles, they are streets ahead. Storage amenities are ample, and the boot capacity is a decent 360 litres.

With more features than you can shake a stick at, the C5’s premium tech offering is what will define its position amongst competitors. It’s hard to think of a feature it doesn’t have, and they’re all available in the entry model.

Driver assistance goodies are everywhere, in fact 16 different ADAS safety systems are working to keep drivers safe. Apple and Android wireless is standard, as well as adaptive and intelligent cruise, interior lighting effects, walk-up automatic tailgate, remote start, sunroof, Sony sound and a customisable digital assistant that will operate these features on voice command.

Not to mention one of the better 360-degree parking camera systems we have seen.

Chinese auto makers love greeting drivers with welcome music. I believe the correct term is muzak –that unobtrusive elevator melody, acting as a sensory relaxant before the traffic chaos. Welcome muzak sometimes resonates with a distant memory of a familiar song. With the C5, I hear the opening few bars to Jean-Michel Jarres’s hit 1977 track Oxygene (yes, I’m old). Ironically, the ‘O’ in Omoda also stands for Oxygen. (Moda signifies ‘Modern Fashion’). Nothing like a nostalgic jingle before the morning commute.

To drive, the 1.5L turbo is punchy and responsive. Outright performance is not groundbreaking; 0-100km is claimed at 9.9 sec, but power to weight feels decent and there is a manual mode that allows you to go up and down the CVT’s nine artificial gear shifts. Having five people and luggage on board may push the smaller engine to rev a bit, but solo city driving was a breeze.

Turbo spooling was efficient and we didn’t experience any flat spots. There can be an inclination for the C5 to wheel spin off the line, as with most FWD turbos, until you get used to the accelerator temperament and adjust driving style.

Mileage is claimed at 6.9L/100km and it will happily run on 91 octane. Our city commuting average was around 8.8L/100km, not bad at all.

Ride and handling is soft, as is the steering. It’s a light vehicle weighing 1,381kg (similar to a Corolla Hybrid) but dimensions put it in the mid-SUV category. There is a tendency for body roll around corners, but not enough to worry about. The rear torsion beam suspension can feel a tad bumpy, especially for back passengers when road conditions are not the smooth variety.

In the model we tested, lane keeping and sign recognition systems needed calibrating to New Zealand conditions, but Omoda is working on this.

The Verdict

Five-Star ANCAP…tick 

Seven Year Warranty…tick

Seven Year Roadside Assist…tick

Brimming with features…tick

Fair to say, the hatchet is buried for Chery’s past indiscretions. The question is, will it challenge legacy brands and other Chinese entrants for market share? The answer probably lies in the price.

Omoda hasn’t officially released pricing for New Zealand, but if it’s close to the mid-thirty bracket we are anticipating, you would be foolish not to at least visit an Omoda showroom before your next purchase.

Article by Avon Bailey

Avon BaileyAvon has spent three long decades doing everything there is to do in the car universe, from the car auction podium to wrenching on a race car team, he has seen it all. He brings an open mind and a sharp pencil to give an honest review of anything with four wheels.

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