First drive: 2021 Changan CS75 Plus

A new compact SUV enters the market
by Jason Tulio | Dec 29, 2020
PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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Well, what have we here? Another new brand?

Well, not really. Changan has already been in our market before, but this time it’s under yet another new distributor. The brand, then distributed under the name Chana, was available back in 2008 and was handled by Focus Ventures. In 2012, Motor Image (the outfit responsible for our Subaru vehicles) took over the rights to Changan. In 2019, it re-entered the market again under Berjaya Auto Asia, the company who handles Mazda and SsangYong locally. Later that year, it would be rebranded as Kaicene. Now, Changan is distributed by Changan Motor Philippines, an outfit under the same group behind Hyundai in the Philippines.

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Phew. That’s quite the history. Okay, so what’s this vehicle?

This is the CS75 Plus, the Chinese brand’s compact SUV offering. Priced at P1,229,000, it’s entering the competitive arena against contenders like the MG RX5 and the Geely Azkarra. Design-wise, it’s a looker. The front, coincidentally, gives off Hyundai Santa Fe vibes, especially the big honeycomb grille. Flanking this are a pair of slim LED daytime running lights. 

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Moving onto the sides, its natural curves are offset by strong character lines and a high beltline, giving off an edgy look. The rear, like the front, sports a pair of slim LED lamps. Underneath, it gets 18-inch alloy wheels, which are okay, but a bi-color design would’ve been better-suited to this kind of look. 

And inside?

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Open the doors and you’re greeted by a dark red leather-lined dash which features a tilted 12-inch touchscreen display on top of likewise slanted A/C vents. The design may appeal to younger buyers, but it is very much of its time. What is good is the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the legible 7-inch LCD instrument panel. The seats, meanwhile, are lined in dark red and black leather. They’re well-bolstered, and the front seats have comfortable side contours as well. The inside is quite roomy, too. Oh, and you also get a power-adjustable panoramic sunroof above. In the rear, you get 620 liters of space (1,450 liters with the seats folded). 

How does it fare on the road?

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Powering the CS75 Plus is a 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline mill that produces 176hp and 265Nm of torque, paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox. In Normal mode, acceleration can easily be modulated between cruising and peppy with a bit of footwork, more than enough for regular city driving. Comfort, provided by MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, is quite good even on pockmarked roads. 

What about the tech? 

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Well, it’s loaded. The list of amenities include: remote engine start, hill hold and descent control, 360-degree panoramic cameras, a tire-pressure monitoring system, rear camera and sensors, and an electronic parking brake. Those are great, but its biggest selling point is the aforementioned 12-inch touchscreen display.

Yes, it does measure a foot diagonally, and it certainly is a sizeable screen, but the bezel is quite big, meaning you don’t actually get 12 inches worth of display. On top of that, the software isn’t the most user-friendly thing out there. It’s pretty typical proprietary fare, and it lacks the increasingly necessary additions of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

Does it stand a chance in the market? 

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On its own, the CS75 Plus offers a good-looking, comfortable package with decent tech. The thing is, so do its competitors. And those carmakers have had more time to build their reputations locally. At this price point, it boils down to brand loyalty and trust, which Changan will need to invest in heavily if it hopes to make an impact.

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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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