Chery Tiggo 5X: A wallflower with star power

Priced just right, this crossover contender punches above its class

SANDWICHED BETWEEN its siblings, the price-leading entry-level Tiggo 2 (which starts at a stunningly low P695,000 for the stick-shift version) and the head-turning European-inspired all-new Tiggo 7 Pro (which retails for P1.198 million and boasts a staggering array of standard comfort, luxury and safety features), the Chery Tiggo 5X finds itself in somewhat of a gray area.

It’s not as generously sized and upscale as its more expensive sibling, but isn’t exactly priced to draw out the budget-conscious buyers like its entry-level little brother.

So while the Tiggo 2 does a good job of attracting potential buyers who would otherwise be looking at tiny hatchbacks or entry-level variants of subcompact sedans, the Tiggo 5X finds itself being compared to a lot of other cars, from a stalwart crossover like the MG ZS, to the ever-popular subcompact sedans like the Toyota Vios and Honda City.

The Tiggo 5X 1.5 starts at P818,000 for the manual transmission variant — curiously the same price as the starter manual-equipped MG ZS 1.5 Style. Pricing stays very close even with the lowest priced automatic models (P860,000 for the Tiggo 5X AT and P868,888 for the ZS Style AT).

But while the ZS has two more higher-end automatic variants at P898,888 and P998,888, the Tiggo 5X only has one at P970,000. Its pricing also puts it smack dab in the upper half of the vast range of the Vios lineup (as well as that of almost all other subcompact sedans).

For many people, a spacious and high-riding crossover that’s priced the same as a small and less versatile sedan is a no-brainer. This alone dramatically expands the Tiggo 5X’s potential market.

Of course, I cannot always be on the same wavelength as others when it comes to a vehicle’s looks and a new brand’s perceived reputation and image. Those would be mostly subjective.

Nonetheless, I find the Tiggo 5X’s design good-looking enough in a chunky way — almost like a Nissan Juke but with less of the visual quirkiness. The chunky side panels, high beltline, and thick C-pillar all connive to make the car look shorter than it is, but it’s actually longer and more spacious than it seems.

This crossover punches above its weight with a generous array of standard features inside and out. The big blacked-out grille, black mesh side air intakes, and aggressive-looking headlamps lend the Tiggo 5X that “Euro-inspired face” that’s both compelling and characterful.

The Tiggo 5X’s 17-inch alloy wheels wear a very sporty five-triple-split spoke design and are wrapped by big 215/60R17 rubber that works wonders in soaking up bumps and potholes and makes curb-jumping relatively painless — as opposed to some crossovers’ tires that have aspect ratios of 50 or even less and result in a choppy or jarring ride.

Inside the well-crafted cabin with plenty of soft-touch surfaces (in contrast to many small sedans’ hard plastic inner door panels), judicious space utilization results in a spacious cabin with generous headroom, legroom, and shoulder room for both front and rear passengers. Cargo space is better than most sedans’ trunk space and can be increased a lot more by folding down the 60:40-split rear seats.

The faux leather upholstery on the highly supportive and comfortable seats feels plush, with multi-way power adjustments for the driver’s seat. Yet another premium feature is the electronic parking brake, which does away with the conventional handbrake lever for greater convenience (and more space on the console). There’s also push-button engine start/stop, a power sunroof and rear aircon vents.

Under the hood of the Tiggo 5X is a smooth and impressively refined 1.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 114ps and 141Nm of torque — hardly superlative numbers but plenty adequate for everyday driving. No less than automotive giant Borg Warner developed the engine’s dual variable valve timing system. Other advanced engine technologies include cylinder head-integrated exhaust manifolds, and an intake manifold-integrated water-cooled intercooler.

Since the Tiggo 5X is a step above the Tiggo 2, there are a lot more safety features included like HDC or hill descent control, which allows the car to safely descend steep roads in full control, and HHC or hill hold control, which automatically uses the brakes to prevent the car from rolling backward when you want to accelerate from a standstill on a slope.

Another safety feature of the car is the 360-degree around-view monitor, which provides more viewing angles and wider vision for a stress-free drive. The Tiggo 5X’s instrument display utilizes a seven-inch LCD, which is among the largest in its class. For infotainment, the Tiggo 5X’s huge and nicely intuitive nine-inch touchscreen display allows you to control and display your phone’s various functions (including playlist and navigation) via Mirror Link.

The Tiggo 5X’s leather-wrapped steering wheel has intelligent speed control, which integrates cruise control, overspeed alarm, active speed limit and other functions. A welcome change from most cars is the four-door power window in which all four windows support one-touch push-button descend. I also applaud the use of idiot-proof large knobs and buttons for the climate control that let you set the cabin climate without taking your eyes off the road.

All things considered, the Chery Tiggo 5X has what it takes to steal sales from any number of sedans or crossovers — and not just based on a lower price. And if you’re still having second thoughts about the after-sales experience, there’s always Chery’s industry-leading five-year/150,000-km general warranty and 10-year/one-million-km engine warranty plus three-year free PMS and three-year roadside assistance.