The Chinese-built Chery J3 (called the A3 in its domestic market) will initially only be available as a five-door hatch with a five-speed manual transmission. Premium features like alloy wheels and leather seats will come standard.
The safety package includes six airbags and ABS brakes, but like the Chery J1 and J11 already sold here, electronic stability control will not be available, even as an option.
This means the Chery J3 will not be available in Victoria (which mandated ESC for all passenger cars in January), and despite ESC becoming mandatory across the country from November 2011, we understand a 'grace period' allowance means it can be sold throughout the rest of the country until 2013.
The Chery J3 promises to be one of the more compact offerings in the small car segment, with a total length shorter than the popular Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla hatches.
The Chery J3 is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 87kW of power and 147Nm of torque.
Chery is yet to confirm fuel consumption figures, but we expect the J3 will fall in between the 1.3-litre J1 and the 2.0-litre J11 from a combined cycle perspective – meaning an average somewhere between 6.7 and 8.9 litres/100km.
At $14,990 driveaway, the Chery J3 is more than $5000 less expensive than the best-sellling cars in the small car segment: Mazda3, Holden Cruze, Corolla and i30.
From a price perspective, it will be competitive with the smallest and cheapest cars on the road, like the Nissan Micra, Holden Barina Spark, and the Proton range.
After the first eight months of this year, 1065 new Chery vehicles have been registered in Australia, including 761 J11 SUVs, 299 J1 hatches and five J3s.