Our coverage of the 2016 Beijing Auto Show is back with Part 3 of our ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Show: #10 to #6. You can see Part 1 (#30 to #21) here and Part 2 (#20 to #11) here. All the justifications behind the rankings are below.
10. FAW (32,13)
After a very disappointing performance in Shanghai last year (#32 in our ranking), FAW is back in the groove in Beijing, showing a multi-faceted personality. The all-new Xenia R7 SUV is right-on trend and impressed with its interior quality, the X4 and X6 SUV concepts are extravagant enough to strike the imagination but close enough to production to announce future launches and show that FAW is not about to waste any time coming up with anything else but SUVs: a good decision. Finally, the armored police truck on show in the exterior stand adds a welcome touch of coolness to the picture. Well done.
9. Venucia (23,10)
Launched by Nissan as a low-cost brand to compete with the likes of Baojun, Venucia has pleased me along the years by progressively developing its own identity. Launched last year, the T70 has given the brand a new dimension in the sales charts. This year in Beijing, Venucia took a giant leap towards becoming an independent, full-blown brand perfectly completing Nissan’s offer in China. Last year in Shanghai I said the Vow concept car Venucia presented was “interesting-looking but so far away it is from the current lineup it probably won’t translate into anything tangible”. I am now swallowing my words, because Venucia just launched the production version of the Vow concept, the T90 SUV, in a stroke of genius. The car is simply awesome and boosts Venucia’s credibility by miles. The only reason the brand doesn’t rank high is the poor interior quality of the T70X.
8. Leopaard (5,29)
Only two years after the brand launch, it now has a rich stand complete with a new SUV (the CS9) and a very cool-looking pimped-up Q6. Leopaard manages to mix its mountain DNA with the indispensable city relevance with a multi-faceted presence at the Show. Outstanding progress again.
Full commentary will follow shortly.
Leopaard CS9Leopaard CT7 Pickup
7. BAIC (33,6)
Like SAIC in Shanghai, BAIC plays at home in Beijing and is expected to pull all stops in a chest-beating exercise. Still, I feel like the group went beyond this year with a multitude of concept cars, some very impressive progress in the interior quality of its new Senova X35 SUV, a new brand dedicated to electric cars (Arcfox), an extensive display of SUVs including a few BAW-branded matte-coloured examples, and an enormous police truck on the outside stand. On the negative side, BAIC’s brands are a complete mess: Senova, Foton Gratour, Huasong and Changhe models are all grouped together with no separation or explanation.
Full commentary will follow shortly.
6. Hongqi (4,2)
Another very impressive performance by Hongqi even though it is struggling to keep pace with its direct competitors in the “most impressive” ranking, resulting in another two spot-drop to 6th place. Hongqi exhibited two very sharp-looking concepts: the S Concept SUV and the B Concept sedan, both featuring futuristically appealing interiors. The H7 got a facelift that takes it away slightly from its previous generation Skoda Superb look and the retro-cool L5 was present again even though it is still not on sale and probably never will be.
Last year Hongqi surprised with a seemingly-production ready LS5 SUV, a Chinese-luxury version of a Range Rover, and this year it is still here as a concept, disappointingly. I had to beg for about half-an-hour, look dejected, give up, come back one hour later and do the same thing again to finally be allowed in the LS5 cockpit. Although refined, I understand the brand’s reticence to let me in as the quality is no match for the most recent and sophisticated offerings by Geely, Haval, GAC Trumpchi, Soueast or even Zotye.
Hongqi B Concept:
Hongqi LS5 interior:
Geely, Haval, GAC Trumpchi, Soueast or even Zotye are now coming up with better-finished, more refined interiors.