2023 Chery Omoda 5 review – Australian launch (video)

Brett Davis

This is the new 2023 Chery Omoda 5. It, in our opinion, is the least-recommendable new SUV currently on sale in Australia. We’re not sure how a product with so many surrounding concerns actually passed through Australian Design Rules, let alone received ticks of approval from engineers and other decision-makers to allow it to hit showrooms in its current state.

Chery is making a return to the Aussie market after a hiatus of about nine years. This is set to be one of many new models on the way, with the Omoda 5 jumping in first, straight into the competitive small SUV market segment. Just one main variant is available powered by a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine developing 108kW and 210Nm. It comes with a CVT auto and front-wheel drive. Trim levels are split into BX and EX grades.

Prices start from $29,900 (excluding on-road costs). Although some of the concerns we have with this vehicle could be justified by a very low price, at $30k before on-roads, it’s actually $400 more than the most affordable Kia Seltos, and $3000 more expensive than the cheapest Hyundai Kona. You can even step up to the Kona Elite for almost the same money as this. Both are significantly superior in almost every way in our opinion.

2023 Chery Omoda 5 – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Output: 108kW@5500rpm / 210Nm@1750-4000rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 18×7.0 215/55
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1393kg
Power-to-weight: 12.89:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.9L/100km
Economy during test: 9.6L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 50L/91 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 15.65kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.45 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.59 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.98 seconds*
1/4 mile: 17.11 seconds at 135.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.601g*
100-0km/h braking: 3.49 seconds at 45.68 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.063g*
Decibel at idle: 36*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 87*
Priced from: $29,900[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Chery Omoda 5 – THE PACKAGE

Aside from a rear seat belt which would not fully retract on our test vehicle, a dizzying rear-view mirror that provides very poor visibility, and a wireless charging pad that potentially caused our iPhone to overheat (could be the iPhone’s fault), the Omoda 5’s interior is fresh, mostly modern, and filled with up-to-the-minute technology.

The fashionable rose gold piping on the seats is a nice touch to attract trendy young buyers, and the twin digital screens running across the dash certainly provide instant wow factor for a vehicle in this price range.

We quite like the touch-screen operation in terms of menu flow, intuitiveness and graphics and animations – including the music dude that bobs up and down when songs are playing. The colour scheme also fits in well with the modern and futuristic exterior, and the gauge cluster offers some configurable display outputs so you can keep an eye on things important to you.

Unfortunately, the driving position is let down by the lack of steering column adjustment. We found it quite difficult to settle in. Comfort is good though, with decent legroom and headroom in the front, with at least satisfactory levels of storage and cubby holes around the place.

That includes the back seat area. There is just one charging port in the back, but that’s pretty common for this class, and it’s nice to see climate vents and cup holders to keep passengers comfortable.

Boot space is okay for this segment, rated at 360 litres, and the loading area is totally flat. The rear seats also fold down flat, or close to, exposing 1075L, and there’s a handy 12-volt socket on the wall to support long road trips. A shallow storage tray can be found under the floor.

As standard the Omoda 5 comes with sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an impressive surround-view camera system, lots of on-board active safety assist technologies (many of which don’t work properly, at least on this test vehicle), a wireless phone charger, power tailgate, an eight-speaker Sony sound system, adaptive cruise control, and auto LED headlights.

2023 Chery Omoda 5 – THE DRIVE

After reading the section above you might think it’s a pretty good little package. However, that satisfaction is likely to plummet into shocking disappointment after you take one for a test drive. And we’re not being picky or going out of our way just to say negative things for the sake of it. This vehicle has some proper issues that need fixing before we’d ever recommend it to anybody.

Let’s start with the best bit; the engine. It’s a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder that produces 108kW at 5500rpm, and 210Nm between a wide 1750rpm and 4000rpm window. A 147kW 1.6 turbo is also offered overseas, but you don’t need it because this littler unit performs better than expected. We clocked 0-100km/h in 9.59 seconds, and in reasonably hot conditions. That is a great time for an SUV with this power output.

The engine isn’t the most refined unit in this class. Sure, it idles at a mere 36dB according to our tests, but it also makes an annoying whine during heavy-throttle overtaking between 60-110km/h, peaking at 87dB in the process. For context we usually see heavy-duty diesel 4×4 utes peaking at around 80-83dB across the same test and on the same piece of tarmac.

Refinement in terms of response and power delivery is also poor in our opinion. Sometimes, under light throttle, the powertrain provides a smooth delivery of engine torque. On other occasions, despite applying similar throttle input, it can serve up more torque than you demand, even to the point of spinning the wheels on dry tarmac. We’re not sure if it’s the throttle calibration or CVT auto and torque converter, but we feel more tuning is in order for a more consistent feel.

Another area that needs works is the suspension and steering. The ride is very soft, almost too soft for regular driving. If all you do is drive straight on smooth highways, then this setup could work.

But as it is, the uniquely disconnected steering feel and inconsistent power steering support paired with waterbed handling characteristics remind us of driving a clapped-out 1980s HiLux on damp sand, with flat tyres. It is the least-favourable modern SUV we’ve driven in this class, in terms of driving dynamics. And that’s without even pushing it.

As standard the Omoda 5 comes with GitiComfort F50 tyres, which probably don’t help – the name is perhaps inspired by Continental’s ComfortContact tyres. These units did not perform well during our cornering tests and braking tests, emitting premature tyre squealing and comparatively long stopping distances. Using a Racelogic Vbox Sport we clocked the 100-0km/h emergency stop in a dismal 45.68 metres.

Again, we’ve seen better from a diesel dual-cab ute. In fact, we’ve tested over 1000 vehicles over the years, with most modern utes pulling up in around 42-44m. We usually see 45-plus from vehicles fitted with chunky all-terrain tyres. See below for our results on the last 25 utes we’ve tested, on the same tarmac and using the same timing equipment. You can also head over to our performance results database to check out all of the vehicles we’ve ever tested.

By far the most concerning issues we had during our drive were the safety systems. We honestly thought this test vehicle – provided by Chery Australia through its media fleet – was a pre-production model or some special prototype; the on-board systems are that crude/incomplete. We drove this test vehicle on two separate occasions, too. Following our initial concerns and after advising Chery, the local arm applied a software update to the vehicle and handed it back to us. As far as we could tell, it performed exactly the same.

Firstly, the driver-reading system. This is basically a camera that sits in the dash and faces you, monitoring your behaviour. Its aim is to make sure you are not distracted or tired when driving, and it can sound off an alarm and visual warnings if it detects any red flags. Well, as you can witness in our video below, the vehicle responded as if we were driving from the back seat.

Our drive was accompanied by constant beeping and visual messages, and some of these messages didn’t/don’t make sense. Here are some examples, in order of delivery: “You are being distracted; You have been distracted for a long time!; You are no longer in driving condition!; Aggravating the degree of fatigue!”

Some of these messages are obviously outputs from a basic language translation tool, however, one message even made up a word; “Front car drived away”.

Aside from the humour this can bring to the cabin crew, we think engineers should be checking translations as a prerequisite before it goes on sale here, or in any country for that matter. If the company can’t get something so straight-forward correct, what other under-the-skin issues could there be?

There were other concerns we had during our drive, such as poor real-world fuel consumption, a potentially leaking sunroof and wrinkled roof panel, and an overly-sensitive steering assist system so abrupt it feels unsafe… but we think you get the point here. This needs more work.

2023 Chery Omoda 5 – THE VIDEO

2023 Chery Omoda 5 – THE VERDICT

An honest and professional way to sum up the Omoda 5 is for us to simply suggest it is an unfinished project that needs more work. There are some interesting ideas in here and decent technologies, and elements of the design can be attractive in their own way. We reckon the underlying hopes presented could eventually spawn good things from the brand in the future.

But in its current form as a piece of transport to move you and your family around, we don’t think this is fit for sale in this market as it is. Thus, we don’t recommend you consider the Omoda 5 until you have checked out every other vehicle on sale. Even then, if you still go ahead and decide on the Omoda 5, we recommend you see a geologist as something hard and crumbly might be lodged in your head.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Decent punch from relatively low power output
– Modern screens with excellent graphics
– 7-year warranty
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Terrible handling and steering, including for its class
– Alarming safety assist technologies need more work, some safety messages don’t make sense
– Build quality issues on this test vehicle
– Poor rear-view visibility and oddly-blurred rear-view mirror
– Potentially leaky sunroof on test; evident whistling sound and warped panelling[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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