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by Tim Beissmann

The Chery J3 has been launched in Australia, becoming one of the cheapest small cars on the market.

Priced from just $14,990 driveaway, the Chinese-built J3 undercuts the most popular cars in the small class by around $5000, while offering a list of standard features vehicles worth twice the price find difficult to match. The Chery J3 is equipped with climate control, leather seats, automatic headlights and wipers, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Outside, it comes with fog lights, reversing sensors, and 16-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized alloy spare. Safety is one of the biggest concerns most new car customers have with Chinese vehicles, and although the J3 is better equipped than most of its compatriots, question marks still remain over its safety credentials.

The J3 gets six airbags as standard (dual front, side and curtains) as well as ABS and EBD, but misses out on the potentially life-saving electronic stability control (ESC). As a result, it does not comply with safety standards in Victoria and is not available for sale there. Despite the impending introduction of mandatory ESC laws across the rest of the country from November 1, the timing of the J3’s launch means it can be sold without ESC in those states until 2013.

ANCAP is yet to crash test the Chery J3 to provide us with an official independent crashworthiness rating, although without ESC it will not achieve the maximum five-star rating. The Chery J3 is 4282mm long, 1792mm wide and 1467mm tall, making it 37mm longer, 17mm wider and 13mm lower than a Hyundai i30 hatch.

The compact Chery J3 is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It produces 87kW of power (at 6150rpm) and 147Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). A five-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission option. Combined cycle fuel consumption is a rather lacklustre 8.9 litres/100km – equal to the larger and more powerful Chery J11 SUV. Customers have a choice of four colours: red, blue, white and silver.




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