Deceivingly good-looking: the Hawtai Shengdafei
This is Part 2 of my Beijing Auto Show 2014 coverage, you can see Part 1- First impressions here.
In order to report to you with as much precision as possible my experience at the Beijing Auto Show I will rank all 30-odd Chinese carmakers exhibiting at the Show based on how impressed I was with them. So a totally subjective ranking taking into account novelties, concept cars, design, interior cockpit and the general vibe on the stand. The only missing link for now is how these cars drive. Keep in mind this was my first time stepping in most of these cars so you are getting my very first outtakes. We’ll be going up the ladder from last to first in pure hit parade tradition.
I estimated the Hawtai Lusheng E70 to be the best-selling car in North Korea in 2013 thanks to a batch of taxis delivered to Pyongyang. Well to me Hawtai also holds the title of most deceptive Chinese brand at the Show. Design is actually becoming pretty good, with the all-new Shengdafei arguably one of the better looking Chinese SUVs, and the brochures are top notch. Everything comes crashing down when you step inside any Hawtai car: it literally feels like you could break anything just by holding it. I haven’t been in such fragile cars in decades and seen interiors so at odds with exteriors, ever. I guess the E70 price tag ($11,100) should have alerted me. On a positive note, with up-to-scratch interiors Hawtai could climb inside my Top 20.
Leopaard Q6 – a 1982 Mitsubishi Pajero in disguise
Yes this still happens: I find myself on the stand of a brand I had never heard of before. So you’d think I’d have a pretty open mind. Well. Old Mitsubishi Pajeros used to be sold by Changfeng under the Liebao brand, they continue under the Leopaard name (yes, two a’s). And they shouldn’t. The interior is a throwback to the eighties complete with faded grey plastics and wobbly gearbox. And it’s not a mean-looking CT5 pick-up and an ok if very common CS10 SUV concept that will change my mind. The good news (?) is that Leopaard mainly sells to police, military and other Chinese government agencies, not so much to the masses.
China circa 1984. Oh wait…
#28 GAC Gonow
In stark contrast with most Chinese carmakers and most surprisingly at opposite ends with its GAC counterpart Trumpchi, the GAC Gonow presentation of a very unspectacular looking minivan was reminiscent of a China we all thought lost in the past. Static powerpoint screen, gauche presenter reading her notes and overly disciplined audience made it feel like we were in 1984 all over again. Except we aren’t. Chinese journalists seemed to enjoy the nostalgia and punctuated the excruciatingly long speech with cheers. I wasn’t impressed.
You got a feel for it yesterday when I published the first picture of the Denza EV on BSCB. Launched with big fanfare and lots of German people amongst the Chinese, it’s because of such high expectations that the Denza brand features so low in my ranking. Most Chinese carmakers let (a little) loose on their hybrid or EV offering this year at the Show, joujing up both inside and out what would otherwise be relatively ordinary cars. That was too hard for Denza: plain design, unimpressive and unergonomic interior, butt-ugly butt. Wasn’t a joint-venture with Daimler supposed to offer a touch of class? Take 2 please.
Facelifted – not buttlifted – Chery Tiggo 3
The Chery Tiggo used to be the Chinese SUV king but it has taken a hard beating lately, notably from Haval. I’m not sure the facelifted Tiggo 3 presented at the show will reverse the trend. At first glance it looks exactly like a Tiggo 5 and the back of the car hasn’t had a significant update since its original launch almost 10 years ago as you can see on the picture above. It’s going to take a lot more than this to catch up with Haval. Plus the two concept cars unveiled (Alpha and Beta – oh the creativity) could have been in any Car Show from the past decade or two. Come on Chery, where is the new QQ, where is your renaissance?
More photos below.