Published on March 26th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair0
Chery Maxime: The Chinese-Made People Mover
You might be wondering what we’re doing with a Chery MPV. Sure, chuckling at Chinese manufacturers as they try their hardest to build a name within the automotive industry might be what’s ‘in’ right now, but remember that just a few decades ago, the Japanese went through almost exactly the same sort of ridicule. More recently, Korean carmakers have had to work very hard to rid themselves of a similar stigma. So why not give Chery a chance to prove their worth? History tells us it’s only a matter of time before Chinese cars really take off in a big way and so let’s see if the Chery Maxime MPV is any indication of how far they – or at least Chery – have come.
The easiest place to start would be with the way the thing looks. Let’s be clear – there are no great looking MPVs. Unless you’re in a Ford S-Max or something similarly priced, moving people is a chore you have to do in a vehicle that shares both the elegance and the practicality of a small bus. So it’s a relief to see that the Maxime has some pretty well rounded looks.
I really liked how daring Chery was with the interior. That black-on-tan, two-tone look is difficult to get right, but the Maxime just about pulls it off. The review unit we received came with fabric seats but we’re told the same colour scheme is applied to the one with leather upholstery.
It really struck me as odd that there wasn’t anything noticeably wrong with the way the thing looked and when I did a little digging, I found that the Maxime was designed by people who’ve worked at BMW, Mercedes, Daimler-Chrysler and Porsche.
It looks like Chery have taken the Kia approach to design and thrown Germans at the problem and it has almost completely paid off. But the execution of the design looks like it had a few missteps. First of all, the daytime running lights should have been housed in the headlamps and shouldn’t turn off when the headlamps are on. HIDs are provided in yellow to comply with local government regulations and the fonts and symbols used could have been less odd. For example, the power button for the radio on the steering reads ‘On Off’ while the symbol on the ‘unlock door’ button is a diagram of the car with a door wide open.
There’s also a very strange looking gear lever. The top half is leather-wrapped and nicely sculpted but there’s a very long, thin metal bar that runs the rest of the way down. Even the sleek little key fob suffers from a lack of attention to detail, with markings from the mould injectors still visible. These are really tiny niggles, but they’re enough to give the car’s roots away. So design-wise, the Maxime is pretty good for the category but there are a few things to tidy up on.
From a practicality standpoint, this MPV performs very well. The seats are comfortable all-around with the front getting manual height adjustment and individual armrests. All 3 rows were comfortable, and the rearmost seats were surprisingly plush. There are plenty of cubby holes all around, and they’re all a decent size. The promotional material states that both the second and third row of seats fold flat so that one may “efficiently carry more life interest, living joys, career and business opportunities”, but what they really mean is that you can fit about 23 and a half golf bags in there, which is quite a lot.
The air conditioning and its controls are really great for the front two passengers with rear vents to keep 3rd row passengers cool. We didn’t encounter a problem getting the temperature down, but third row passengers might have to wait a while for heat to dissipate on particularly hot days.
There’s a lot of nice leather inserts around the car, but most of the plastics feel a bit hard. They did a good job on the centre mounted instrument cluster, which was readable without being distracting. The radio unit is a bit old-school though, and it lacks Bluetooth or touch screen input. It plays MP3s through a USB and has 6 speakers, which provides a workable media solution. Anyway, it’s not easy to get anything more complex than that right, so it was probably a good decision to stick with this set up.
Performance out of the 2 litre DOHC engine is alright. It’s not underpowered, and any excitement that’s missing from the engine can be more or less recuperated from the 7-speed gearbox. Yes, it’s a CVT so it’s a bit elastic before you get it to speed but the built in shifter more than compensated by making the drive just a tiny bit more engaging.
Where this car really shines is, of course, its value for money. In today’s world manufacturers are only eager to keep pushing for a share of the premium segment. Even on low-end cars you get fake wood trim and on the bigger names, much of the marketing costs are pushed onto consumers. But Chery does away with that in favour of cramming the car with accessories. With the Maxime, you get just two specs and the difference is purely cosmetic – tinted windows, a body kit and leather seats. Everything else comes as standard, even the longer-than-standard 5 year/150,000km warranty.
I believe Chery’s almost nailed the formula down with their Maxime. I mean, there’s still a very large gap between the actual quality of the car and the perceived quality, but that’s something only time can build. It could do with more airbags but the issues with refinement and build-quality aren’t at all deal-breakers. I would still recommend a car like this, but only to those who would take a gamble on something with better kit and better looks than its rivals.
Chery Maxime Specifications:
Engine: 2L Naturally Aspirated DVVT
Transmission: 7-speed CVT with ‘Shiftronic’ Gear Selector
Max power: 136bhp @ 5750rpm
Max torque: 182Nm @ 4300-4500rpm
Top Speed: 175km/h