Eight Chery Tiggo SUVs successfully took on the challenge of being driven through 12 passes in Mpumalanga in eight hours. Most of the cars had motoring journalists behind the steering wheel and all the cars got through unscathed with not even a punctured tyre even though much of the terrain was rocky and rutted.

Seven of the passes were tarmac-surfaced and five were gravel, with the main traffic on the latter roads being huge logging trucks and trailers. The distance over the passes was fairly evenly split at 67.3km of surfaced roads and 65.7km of gravel roads, making a combined distance of 133 km for the 12 passes.

Chery Tiggo (1)

The route of more than 350km included many mountain passes that were sweeping tarmac roads, but then there were gravel sections  that were not for sissies; surfaces were often rocky and in several places the roads  were pockmarked like a moonscape. Severe damage to the roads during the rainy season caused by logging trucks also resulted in many kilometres of the route being deeply rutted with washaways, while several of the gravel roads had many cross bumps to assist with rainwater runoff, all of which put heavy loads on the Tiggo suspension systems.

These conditions made big demands on the fleet of two-wheel drive Tiggos, which handled the challenges of continually changing road surfaces with aplomb. The cars proved sure-footed while the supple suspension soaked up the uneven surfaces and the driven front wheels maintained traction even on loose surfaces. The steering had plenty of feel without giving kick back through the steering wheel when the road surface got really rough.

Meanwhile the easy-revving 1.6-litre engine matched to a slick-changing five-speed gearbox handled the climbs without fuss.

The cabin remained dust-free despite several kilometres of driving in thick clouds of dust from the extra-long logging trucks.

“Chery may be a comparative newcomer to the South African passenger car market, having arrived here in 2008, but it has already made an indelible mark locally in several aspects of vehicle performance, including fuel economy, ruggedness and reliability as well as being a responsible corporate citizen,” said Pedro Pereira, the Managing Director of Chery SA. “Now we can add the Tiggo’s achievement of 8 cars completing 12 passes in one day without any problems.”

Chery Tiggo (2)

Since its arrival here seven years ago Chery South Africa has made a meaningful local test programme obligatory before the launch of any new or revised model.

This was also the case with the Tiggo SUV when it was introduced to the local market in 2011. The company even went the extra mile with this model due to its market positioning as an SUV and the two-wheel drive Chery Tiggo conquered the icy Sani Pass, the rugged mountain pass that is the only link between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho to showcase its off-road capability.

This is usually an environment for four-wheel drive vehicles so one can imagine how surprised the locals were to see a convoy of three Tiggo SUVs arrive in winter at the summit, just before the Lesotho border post and 2 874 metres above sea level. The trio of vehicles were all powered by 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions.

Other challenges that Chery has taken up in South Africa include setting 48-hour speed and endurance records at Gerotek with five QQ models and competing in the Total Economy Run, while Chery showed support for the community when it provided two J2 hatchback cars to the team at Gerotek vehicle test track for their advanced driver training programme among the company’s other road safety initiatives.

The Tiggo compact SUVs used for the 12 passes in one day challenge were the latest models which were  significantly refreshed in appearance recently and fitted with a new, more powerful 1.6-litre double variable valve timing (DVVT) petrol engine and given a much-improved standard specification level all at a very competitive price of R229 900.

Chery Tiggo (3)

The front and rear appearance is much more rounded and sleeker with a hint of aggression. The Chery design team, which now includes several renowned stylists from Europe, calls the new, flowing look Hydrodynamic Surfacing.  The fact that all parts of the vehicle are colour-coded to the body provides an upmarket feel to the overall design.

The exterior appearance benefits from the fitment of 17-inch alloy wheels, compared to the 16-inch wheels fitted previously. Distinctive daytime running lights are another new feature, while there are light emitting diode (LED) stop- and tail-lights, with front and rear fog lamps standard.

The latest version of the 1.6-litre ACTECO engine has dual variable valve timing and now develops 93kW of power at 6 150r/min and 160N.m of torque at 3 900r/min.  The new engine upgrade increases the power output by 15% over the previous version. The engine, which is also very economical, drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission.

The Chery Tiggo remains a fully specified vehicle with all the extras included as standard.  An important change to the interior is the fitment of grey, leather-trimmed seats, while convenience features include Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and rear park distance control. Hill start assist is another useful feature which is standard.

Air conditioning, power windows, power steering, electrically-operated exterior mirrors, 60/40 split rear seat backrest for load versatility, an audio system with CD player and MP3/USB jack are all standard fitment as is central locking with remote keyless entry.

Chery Tiggo (4)

Safety is very high on the list of Chery’s priorities with the new Tiggo and standard equipment includes an electronic stability control programme (ESP), dual airbags and ABS with electronic brake distribution (EBD) as well as ISOFIX fittings for child seats.

Besides a big improvement in the level of standard equipment there is now added peace of mind for Tiggo owners with a 3-year/75 000km service plan, factory-backed 5-year/120 000km warranty and roadside assistance. Chery has a substantial footprint in the major centres of South Africa with 31 dealers ensuring efficient and convenient after-sales back-up.

  • The passes traversed by the Chery Tiggos in Mpumalanga were: Gravel – Mount Carmel (13.5km), Wonderkloof (7.7km), Makobulaan (19km), Bakenkop (5.5km) and Klipkraal (20km); Tarmac – Sudwala (9km), Montrose (3.8km), Masjien Nek (11km), Long Tom (22.5km), Koffiehoogte (6km), Kiepersol (5.5km) and Bergvlei (9.5km).