As the newest kid on the block, does the cost-effective Chery Omoda 5 have what it takes to make a difference in the fiercely competitive small-SUV segment?
Though it might seem like Chery is another new Chinese brand having a crack at the small-SUV market in Australia, the truth is that this is the brand’s second attempt down under.
First launched just over a decade ago with the J1, J3, and J11, these Chery’s had a decent crack at the local market, but were pulled in 2017.
Fast forward to 2023, Chery has returned to Australia with just one car this time – the Omoda 5. The brand has expressed plans to bring up to four more vehicles before the end of the year, with the all-electric Omoda 5 BEV set to join the local line-up in 2024.
For now, we’re focusing on the petrol-powered Omoda 5, of which Chery is planning to sell in two grades, the entry-level BX and the higher-spec EX. Pricing starts at $29,900 for the BX, and $32,900 for the EX, both before on-road costs. New South Wales-specific driveaway pricing sits at $32,190 for the BX and $35,490 for the EX.
At $29,900 before on-road costs, the Chery Omoda 5 BX represents the entry-point into the range. It is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that makes 115kW/230Nm. This is paired with a CVT that sends power exclusively to the front wheels.
Standard equipment on the outside of the Omoda 5 BX includes 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as LED headlights and DRLS.
On the inside, the BX is reasonably well appointed for its price point, with synthetic leather seats, and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen that gets wireless Apple Carplay, but wired Android Auto. It also gets dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, and a 10.25-inch digital cluster.
Things are almost identical on the outside of the higher-grade Omoda 5 EX, apart from the bold red accents that are added with the $3000 jump.
On the inside, the EX is even more well appointed with both seats in the front row getting power adjustment as well as heating. There’s also a 360-degree camera, power sunroof, power tailgate, and a steering wheel heating added.
Though the Omoda 5 might make a decent first impression with its bold looks and impressively appointed interior, the experience offered behind the wheel reflects its relatively cheap price.
Making 115kW of power and 230Nm of torque, the 1.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine that powers the Omoda 5 feels adequate if a little underwhelming at times. I say this because a lot of vehicles in the small-SUV segment are quite spritely and can hold their own off the line, whereas the Omoda 5 doesn’t share this same trait.
Because of this, wheelspin off the line is not something drivers will have to worry about in most situations. Also to this point, the initial shove of torque is dulled down by the transmission which doesn’t seem to be in a hurry at any point.
This engine is paired with a CVT that is artificially stepped to give drivers the sense that they are using a traditional torque converter automatic transmission. Chery states that this transmission has nine steps to it, but most drivers shouldn’t be able to notice it, and that’s the beauty.
In saying this, the Omoda 5 managed a 0-100km/h time of 8.31-seconds during Chasing Cars testing, putting it on par with something like the Nissan Qashqai.
This is likely something that could be remedied with the introduction of the Omoda 5 hybrid this year. I can imagine it’ll be a similar situation to the Haval Jolion versus the Jolion hybrid, with the latter’s extra electric grunt.
As for the ride quality, I found it to be quite interesting as it was reasonably smooth as a whole but, at the same time, quite busy at low speeds over most surfaces.
For instance; inner-city Sydney driving is quite a bumpy affair, whereas open road driving about 80km/h offers a significantly smoother experience.
On the handling front, the Omoda 5 offers a very modern experience, and by that I mean that it feels like it’s catering to the next generation of drivers with its extremely light steering.
It’s very likely that most drivers will enjoy the light feeling in the steering of the small SUV, but it doesn’t provide much confidence with its lack of feedback.
The benefit here is that the system is remarkably quick, and steering inputs require very little arm work, so I’m sure there are a few drivers out there that will appreciate it.
As far as refinement goes, the Omoda 5 misses the mark a little, and this is mostly down to the engine. It has the tendency to be quite noisy upon acceleration, which is something that’s quite unusual from a modern turbocharged engine.
This could also be down to a lack of cabin sound-proofing, but tyre noise isn’t anywhere near as much of an issue, so I’m sceptical on this front.
As a whole, it feels like the Omoda 5 falls short of the mark on the driving front. The engine and ride quality are unrefined in the face of its competitors in the small-SUV segment. While some might enjoy the lightness of the steering, it’s not quite to my taste.
So while the Omoda 5 might’ve fallen short of the mark on the driving dynamics front, the well-appointed cabin is something that will score it back points.
As standard, the Omoda 5 gets artificial leather upholstery, which covers both first and second rows of seating. Like the MG HS Plus EV, the seats get quite a sporty look to them with bolstered side panels and integrated headrests.
Though they might be a little left-field in an affordable small SUV, not only do they look great, but these seats also offer an impressive level of comfort. It’s also worth noting that in the range-topping EX model, the front seats get power adjustment and are also heated.
As for the rest of the cabin, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of soft-touch materials offered, with the same synthetic leather covering the dash, the door cards and the centre console.
One big downfall that I came across is the lack of rear visibility through the rear window. This is something usually associated with low-slung sports cars, but due the rather extreme rake of the roof, visibility is severely impeded.
Cabin technology is another win for the Omoda 5 in my books, with a plethora of easy-to-use equipment on offer. Behind the steering wheel sits a 10.25-inch screen that is used as the digital cluster.
Housed within the same frame is the infotainment screen that measures the same size. Highlights of this system include wired Android Auto, wireless Apple Carplay and satellite navigation.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Omoda 5’s operating system, as it was very easy and intuitive to use, whereas other affordable small SUVs can have clunky systems.
As with most interiors, the Omoda 5 isn’t without fault, and I’d say that the climate controls, which are situated on a touch panel below the infotainment screen, are its biggest issue.
It’s a clunky format that is slightly remedied by the fact that the temperature controls appear on the screen once activated. But despite this, it’s still a little frustrating to use.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning the wireless phone charger that comes standard across the Omoda 5 range. Like the dual-charger you’ll find in a Tesla, this one looks to be able to charge two phones at once, but I only managed to get one side working. I’ll put this down to potential user error rather than that of the system’s, as I would be surprised if it was only a single charger.
Like most vehicles in the small-SUV segment, rear seat space is limited, and you’d be pushing it to get three adults across the seat. Once inside, head and leg room is reasonably generous, but the lip on the low-slung roofline makes entering and exiting a bit tricky.
Another bonus in the second row is the reasonably flat floor, which is something that I can’t imagine will be a thing in hybrid and all-wheel-drive Omoda 5 variants.
As for cargo space, Chery Australia quotes a figure of 360-litres with the second row of seating in place. It’s worth noting that these figures are VDA rated, so it’s likely that the official Australia figure will be smaller. When the second row of seats are lowered, this jumps to 1075 litres, but again, this isn’t a VDA figure.
This is reasonably on par with a Kia Stonic that has 332 litres with the second row in place, but down on the Nissan Qashqai that gets 429 litres.
While the Omoda 5 is still yet to receive an ANCAP safety rating, it was awarded a five-star rating by Euro NCAP in December 2022. For Europe, it received 87 percent in adult and child occupant protection, 88 percent in safety assistance systems, and 68 percent in pedestrian protection.
Aside from these official ratings, the Omoda 5 comes fitted with an impressive suite of advanced safety equipment as standard. This includes things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and blind spot monitoring among others.
The adaptive cruise control system is particularly impressive with its Tesla-like display, showing surrounding vehicles on the digital dash. It can also come to a stop in highway traffic.
I found a bit of an issue with the lane-keep alert system to be quite fussy, protesting to a number of lane changes even though the indicator was activated. The same goes for the driver distraction warning system, which is one of the most attentive of its kind – take what you will from that.
On the fuel economy front, the Omoda 5 has been rated at a combined figure of 6.9L/100km by the ADR. During real-world testing, Chasing Cars wasn’t able to quite match the ADR’s figure, instead landing on a combined figure of 7.4L/100km. It’s also worth noting that it only needs 91 octane to run.
Chery Australia has announced a capped-price servicing plan for the Omoda 5 that covers it for up to seven years or 70,000km. This will cost owners $2086.58 throughout this period, with service intervals occurring every 12 months or 10,000km.
This is significantly cheaper than the Kia Stonic, which costs $3314 over the same time period.
On the warranty front, Chery has matched Kia’s industry-leading plan that covers the Omoda 5 for up to seven years and unlimited kilometres.
As a whole, I don’t think that the Chery Omoda 5 has been successful in moving the affordability goalposts of the small-SUV segment. As one of the most competitive segments in the industry right now, it was a tall task and I believe that it’s fallen short of the mark.
On the road, performance is lacklustre. The small turbo-petrol engine can feel overworked at times and can be quite noisy. Coupled with the seemingly uninsulated cabin, this makes the Omoda 5 feel somewhat unrefined.
Though it comes fitted with a raft of advanced safety features, the tuning is a little strange, and can feel overly intrusive at times. Potential buyers should definitely make use of these on a test drive to feel it out for themselves.
The interior will be a saving grace for most buyers, with its cabin that’s stacked with soft-touch materials and impressive technology. Wireless phone projection, wireless phone charging and a sunroof are just a few aspects that put the range-topping EX above its rivals at its price point.
The same goes for the reasonably cheap running costs, which will win it some points in the long run over its competitors. But with reasonably short 10,000km service intervals some might question the reliability of the Omoda 5, especially given how young the brand is in Australia.
As for alternatives, most would be better off going for something like a Kia Stonic GT-Line, which starts at $30,790 before on-road costs. Here, buyers will get a slightly downgraded interior experience, but I’d say that the driving experience is vastly improved.
The fresh-faced Kia Seltos is here, but will its updated looks and new transmission make it a worthy Corolla Cross rival?
Key specs (as tested)
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Chery Omoda 5 2023: $31,990 driveaway Australian starting price for Chinese Toyota Corolla Cross rival
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