The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse in the world, with over 400 locally produced passenger car models from more than 70 domestic and foreign brands. If we include imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles, there are more than 1.000 different models available. In the March 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 11 new models: 6 crossovers, a sedan, a hatchback and an EV version of an existing crossover. In the April 2017 sales ranking, we welcome 9 new models: 5 crossovers, 1 MPV and 3 sedans (of which 2 EVs).
After a successful launch of its first crossover, the Roewe RX5, SAIC launches its first sedan with its new corporate design, and it immediately is one of the most mature looking Chinese sedans on the market. Gone are all the frivolous shapes and shiny chrome accents, well except for the grille, that is. You could almost call it boring. The i6 launches in one of the most difficult segments in China, that of affordable compact sedans, but still a segment with a lot of potential. Power comes from either a 1,0T three-cylinder with 125hp/170Nm mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox or a 1,5T with 170hp/250Nm also mated to a 6MT or 7DCT gearbox. A PHEV version named i6e will follow soon, powered by a 1-liter three-cylinder withh 125hp and a 82hp electric motor. Dimensions are 4.671/1.835/4.460mm with a wheelbase of 2.715mm.
Prices run from 89.800 yuan to 143.800 (€11.600,- / US$13,000 to €18.600 / US$20.800), which puts makes it more expensive than rival domestic sedans like the Chery Arrizo5 (58.900 yuan/11.700 monthly sales) or Geely Emgrand GL (69.800 yuan/8.800 monthly sales), but below foreign brand sedans like the Nissan Sylphy (99.800 yuan/28.600 monthly sales) or Volkswagen Lavida (109.900 yuan/39.800 monthly sales). In that light, the 7.000 sales in both March and April are not bad at all, especially considering the i6 replaces both the Roewe 550 and the Roewe 750 (yes, that’s the Chinese continuation of the Rover 75), and combined sales of these models peaked at 88.500 sales in 2010 but haven’t been above 20.000 since 2013.
Roewe’s sister brand MG has also launched a second hit model after its first crossover MG GS, but it continues this success with a second, smaller crossover called MG ZS. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it was used before in Europe on a sporty sedan based on the Rover 45. When the ZS starts sales in Europe (and not only the UK this time, more on that later), The ZS will be renamed MG XS there to avoid confusion. The ZS is destined to become MG’s best seller and jumpstart sales of the brand in China in a similar way the RX5 has done for Roewe. Power comes from either a 1,5 120hp/150Nm mated to a 5MT/4AT or an optional 1,0T 3-cylinder with 125hp/170Nm mated to a 6AT or 6DCT. A 1,5T with 150hp will arrive later. Dimensions are 4.314/1.809/1.648mm with a 2.585mm wheelbase.
Prices start at 73.800 yuan and run up to 115.800 yuan (€9.600,- / US$10,700 to €15.000 / US$16.800), which is spot on with its domestic rivals Geely Emgrand GS (77.800 yuan 9.000 monthly sales), Haval H2S (83.800 yuan/22.400 monthly sales including the regular H2) and Soueast DX3 (67.900 yuan/7.000 monthly sales), but significantly below foreign brand players like the Honda XR-V and Vezel duo (128.800 yuan/12.300 monthly sales each). The ZS launched in March with 4.264 and grew to 9.768 sales in April, which means it’s sold almost as many units in its two introduction months than larger sibling GS sold in all four months this year and the ZS has already beaten the peak of 6.700 sales of the GS.
Beijing Hyundai is the king of recycling old models forever and ever. It has now launched a new nameplate for a veteran model: the “new” Celesta (Chinese name: Xin Yuedong, or New Yuedong) is basically a reskinned Hyundai Elantra Yuedong, also known as the fourth generation Elantra, sold in the rest of the world from 2006 to 2010. The “old” Yuedong will remain on sale as well, by the way. On the other hand, they quit making the third generation Elantra last year, so I guess they actually do retire a platform eventually. And in fact, giving an old platform a modern body and a new name in China isn’t entirely exclusive to Hyundai, as Ford (Escort) and Chevrolet (Cavalier) have done the same. However, the Koreans didn’t even bother to modernize the engine, as the Celesta is powered by an ancient 1.6-liter with 122hp/150Nm, mated to a surprisingly modern 6MT or a 6AT. Dimensions are 4.510/1.765/1.470mm with a 2.650mm wheelbase.
Prices range from 79.900 yuan to 115.900 yuan (€10.300,- / US$11,600 to €15.000 / US$16.800), on par with rival Chevrolet Cavalier (79.900 yuan/13.600 monthly sales) and Geely Emgrand GL (69.800 yuan/8.800 monthly sales), but below the Ford Escort (96.800 yuan/21.115 monthly sales). The Celesta launched in March with 8.018 sales when it immediately was the brand’s #2 behind the Mistra, but dipped to 3.965 in April due to anti South-Korean sentiment in China over the missile dispute. The timing of the Celesta’s launch couldn’t be worse.
FAW Besturn X40
FAW has launched its second compact crossover in the past 12 months, this time under its Besturn subbrand. The X40 is similar in size and price to the FAW Xenia R7, launched last May, and they share the same platform and technology. Makes sense to develop 2 models? Well, consider this: FAW is a huge conglomerate that consists of a number of subdivisions and these have differences in popularity by region or market, so while it’s indeed hugely inefficient, there is at least some economy of scale to be gained. The Besturn X40 is powered by a 1,6-liter engine with 115hp/155Nm, mated to either a 5MT or a 6AT transmission. Dimensions are 4.310/1.780/1.680mm with a 2.600mm wheelbase.
Prices start at 66.800 yuan and run up to 101.800 yuan (€8.650,- / US$9,700 to €13.200 / US$14.800), right between rivals like the also very fresh and ultra-cheap Baojun 510 (54.800 yuan/20.000 monthly sales), the Changan CS35 (79.900 yuan/14.000 monthly sales) and the JAC Refine S3 (65.800 yuan/6.300 monthly sales), and far below foreing models like the Hyundai ix25 (also known as Creta elsewhere) at 119.800 with 5.400 monthly sales. The x40 was launched in March and sold 4.905 in its first month, followed by 5.744 sales in April, making it FAW’s best selling model in its second month, with 53,4% of total brand sales. That also indicates at heavy cannibalization for the Xenia R7, which dipped from 7.621 sales in February to a mere 1.957 in April, by a large margin the lowest figure since its launch.
Toyota Yaris L sedan and Vios FS hatchback
Toyota already sells a subcompact sedan (the Vios) and a subcompact hatchback (the Yaris L) in China, but the Japanese brand has two production Joint Ventures in the country, one with FAW and one with GAC. None of these partners want to lose on potential success the other may have, a problem Honda also has, so Toyota has decided to accomodate them and launch two additional versions. Guangzhou-Toyota now builds the Yaris L hatchback and Yaris L sedan, and FAW-Toyota now builds the Vios sedan and the Vios FS hatchback, so both patners are treated equally. Both “new” cars aren’t all that new either, as they’ve already been on the market in different regions across the globe. Toyota is not trying to win prizes for their design, not for their technology, these are simple, reliable and affordable cars, nothing more, nothing less. All four models are powered by the same powertrains: either a 1,3-liter with 99hp/123Nm or a 107hp/140Nm 1,5-liter, both mated to a 5MT or CVT.
All four models start at the exact same 69.800 yuan and run up to a maximum of 113.800 yuan for the Vios sedan (€9.000,- / US$10,100 to €14.700 / US$16.500). Rivals include the Honda City and Greiz (yes, Honda has the same issues with its 2 partners), which both start at 79.800 yuan and sell about 4.000 units a month each, the Kia K2 (72.900 yuan/3.000 monthly sales) and the Skoda Rapid (79.900 yuan/5.700 monthly sales for the sedan and 2.700 monthly sales for the Spaceback). The Vios FS hatchback sold a consistent 3.400 units in both March and April, the Yaris L sedan started with 4.317 in March and improved to 5.045 in April, putting them immediately above their rivals.
This is one of the most significant introductions so far this year, because the Equinox is the model that may save Chevrolet in China. The American brand was slowly but surely sinking into insignificance in the world’s largest car market, but launching a brand new locally produced crossover puts the brand immediately back on the radar of car buyers. The Equinox is based on the Buick Envision, which has been produced in China since 2,5 years and is even exported to the US. It replaces the Captiva, which appears to have gone out of production last January. The Chinese Equinox is powered by either a 1,5T with 180hp/275Nm mated to a 6DCT or the same 2.0T with 260hp/350Nm, mated to GM’s latest “Hydra-Matic” 9-speed AT. Dimensions are 4.652/1.843/1.693mm with a 2.725mm wheelbase. GM is rumored to be considering a China-only 7-seater version Equinox L, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Prices run from 174.900 yuan to 249.900 yuan (€22.700,- / US$25,400 to €32.400 / US$36.300), well below the more premium Envision (starting at 209.900 and up to 349.900), which sells an average of 21.400 units a month and spot on with rivals like the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail (both start at 179.800 yuan and reach 15.300 and 10.700 monthly sales, respectively) and the Ford Kuga (184.800 yuan/down to just 5.200 monthly sales this year). The Equinox sold 5.693 units in April, its first month of sales, and has plenty of room to grow. It should become Chevy’s best seller in the country and bring the brand back to life.
As mentioned above, Honda has two production Joint Ventures in China, one with GAC and one with Dongfeng. Like Toyota, Honda has to make sure to please both partners and the best way to do that is by giving each a similar model as the other has. Thankfully for Honda, the volume in China is large enough to sustain such a strategy, as it sells plenty of both the Vezel and XR-V small crossover that is justifies selling them alongside each other. The UR-V (made by Dongfeng Honda) has a similar twin: the Avancier (made by Guangzhou-Honda), which was launched last October. They share the same platform (also shared with the US-market Honda Pilot), and the biggest differences are in the grille, bumpers and lights. The interiors and dashboards are exactly the same too. Naturally, they also share the same engines: a 1,5T with 193hp/240Nm, mated to a CVT and an optional 2,0T with 272hp/370Nm mated to a ZF 9AT, 4WD is standard on all versions. Dimensions are almost identical to the Avancier: 4.825/19.42/1.670mm with the exact same wheelbase of 2.820mm. Why Honda didn’t make one of these two a 3-row 7-seater is worthy of a facepalm, but also understandable as that would give one partner a possible advantage over the other.
Prices for the UR-V start at 246.800 yuan and can go as high as 329.800 yuan (€32.000,- / US$35,900 to €42.700 / US$47.900), which means it misses the base model that the Avancier has, starting at 220.000 yuan. This is no budget pricing, putting the Hondas well above the Buick Envision (209.900 yuan/21.400 monthly sales), Toyota Highlander (239.800 yuan, 9.100 monthly sales) and the Volkswagen Tiguan L (223.800 yuan/12.000 monthly sales). The UR-V sold 2.444 units in March and 2.035 units in April, this is still half the average of the Avancier, which sold an average ot 4.346 units a month. Even combined, the two are still below their rivals, so there’s still some room to grow for Honda.
Venucia is a brand of the Dongfeng-Nissan Joint Venture, and has completely missed the boat on the current trend of affordable domestic crossovers. The brand still mostly sells cars based on Nissan platforms like the R50 and D50 (Nissan Tiida) and the T70 and T90 SUVs (1st gen Nissan Qashqai and 2nd gen Nissan Murano). But the Japanese brand has vowed to turn Venucia around and the M50V is the first of a range of new models for the brand. And it’s not based on a Nissan platform, but on a Dongfeng: the Fengguang 360 MPV. Unfortunately for Venucia, the M50V arrives awfully late to the party, as cheap MPVs here all the rage a few years ago but small Chinese families are now switching to crossovers instead. Still, the M50V does stand out in that crowded segment with its relatively sharp styling and modern interior. Two powertrain options are available: a 1,5-liter with 112hp/143Nm coupled to a 5MT or a 1,6-liter with 124hp/151Nm mated to a CVT. It offers the option of 6-seat or 7-seat configurations. Dimensions are 4.501/1.726/1.780mm with a 2.750mm wheelbase.
Prices range from 65.800 yuan to 84.900 yuan (€8.100,- / US$9,100 to €11.000 / US$12.300), slightly above its domestic rivals, like the Dongfeng Fengxing S500 (59.900 yuan/5.200 monthly sales), Baojun 730 (60.800 yuan/25.000 monthly sales) and the Changan Oushang (51.900 yuan/10.500 monthly sales). The M50V sold 2.704 units in April, its first months of sales, immediately making its the brand’s #2 seller, and it could become the best seller in a few months time, until Venucia starts launching some crossovers.
The resurrected Borgward brand has launched its second crossover after the relatively successful BX7 (4.300 monthly sales). The BX5 is slightly smaller and has sportier lines, and therefore should be able to top its larger sibling’s sales, although it also will cannibalize on the BX7. Its modern and clean design both inside and out helps it stand out among other domestic crossovers and wouldn’t stand out in the European streets, something Borgward is still planning as well. The BX5 is powered by a 1,8T with 190hp/280Nm mated to a 6AT, and offers optional 4WD. A 1,4T including a hybrid version of that powertrain are expected to arrive later. Dimensions are 4.483/1.876/1.677mm with a 2.685mm wheelbase.
Prices range from 149.800 yuan to 216.800 yuan (€19.400,- / US$21,800 to €28.100 / US$31.500), which is premium pricing for a domestic brand, considering the pricing of rivals like the Chery Tiggo 5 (88.800 yuan/4.600 monthly sales) or the Changan CS75 (92.800 yuan/20.000 monthly sales). In fact, the BX5 is entering foreign brand territory, rivaling the Jeep Compass (159.800 yuan/6.000 monthly sales) and the Hyundai Tucson (159.900 yuan/14.000 monthly sales). The BX5 sold 1.593 units in April, its first month of sales, but that figure should easily triple in coming months.
Almost simultaneously with its launch in Europe, the Skoda Kodiaq has started production in China at the Shanghai-Volkswagen Joint Venture. The Kodiaq sits on the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan L (a.k.a. Allspace) and offers 5-seat or 7-seat configurations. It’s the first of a full line-up of new Skoda crossovers to be launched in China, which will include the slightly smaller Karoq, a budget crossover based on the platform of the current Yeti, and a top-of-the-line Kodiaq Coupe to rival the Honda UR-V featured above. The Chinese Kodiaq is available with two engine choices: a 1,8T with 180hp/330Nm with either a 5MT or a 7DCT, and a 2,0T with 220hp/380Nm mated to a 7DCT. A 1,4T with 150hp is expected to expand the line-up later. Dimensions are similar to the European version: 4.697/1.882/1.655mm with a 2.791mm wheelbase.
Prices start at 189.800 yuan and run up to 269.800 yuan (€24.600,- / US$27,600 to €35.000 / US$39.200), which is slightly above the Chevrolet Equinox featured above, but a lot cheaper than the Volkswagen Tiguan L (223.800 yuan/12.000 monthly sales). The Kodiaq launched in April with 913 sales, but has the potential to reach monthly volumes of at least triple that figure.
Also launched in March and April are the Yema T80 crossover (347 & 1.052 sales), the Foton Gratour im crossover (429 & 614 sales), Chery eQ1 small EV hatchback (1.035 sales), JMC E160 compact EV sedan (285 sales), Buick Velite 5 (rebadged Chevrolet Volt, 67 sales), Bisu T5 crossover (17 & 46 sales), Changan CS55 (30 sales) and Hawtai XEV260, an EV version of the Hawtai New Santa Fe (7 & 21 sales).