Drumroll…. This is the 2nd most impressive Chinese carmaker at this year’s Beijing Auto Show. You can see Part 1 (#30 to #21) here, Part 2 (#20 to #11) here, Part 3 (#10 to #6) here and Part 4 (#5 to #3) here. All the justifications behind the ranking are below.
2. Dongfeng (11,5)
After dropping to 11th place in Shanghai last year, Dongfeng surges to 2nd place overall in our list of most impressive carmakers at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show. As is the case for the majority of manufacturers in the Top 10, Dongfeng has grown to a size at which it is able to display multiple facets. Firstly, two years after unveiling it as “Concept Number 1” in Beijing 2014, Dongfeng is finally launching a production version of its flagship sedan, calling it the Aeolus A9, and it’s every bit as impressive as it should be, propelling Dongfeng into the league of such Chinese treats as the Hongqi H7 or Roewe 950, despite a refined design still looking decidedly VW-inspired.
The Dongfeng stands themselves (one for DFSK, one for DFM) and their decoration mark a frank progress and now almost aligns with Haval or Geely. Playing right into the SUV tsunami that is engulfing the Chinese market, Dongfeng unveiled no less than four new entrants in this segment and one production-ready concept, the most of any Chinese or international manufacturers at the Show. Though it may lack a bit of personality, the Joyear SX6 is the most current-looking design-wise and is a crossover version of the Joyear S500 MPV.
The Fengguang 580 was the new launch Dongfeng shouted the loudest about in Beijing with its entire DFSK stand dedicated to it. The interior is lightyears beyond what Dongfeng had got us used to in the past. All the gadgets the Chinese consumer is now demanding are here including a massive touch screen in the central console, the closing door noise and glove box opening softness are on-par with foreign manufacturers and the characteristic plastic smell that still taints many Chinese cars is absent. Dongfeng just stepped into world-class.
Building on the success of the Fengshen AX7, omnipresent in more remote areas as we’ll soon see in this year China Photo Report, Dongfeng unveiled the AX3 in Guangzhou and is adding a third member to the Fengshen SUV family in less than 18 months: the AX5. Bonus points for the logical nomenclature, despite common sense still a rarity in China, but the AX5’s interior was blacked out and the doors locked. Dongfeng also presented the Fengdu MX5, slotting below the recently launched MX6 – itself a rebadge of the previous generation Nissan X-Trail.
In Beijing, Dongfeng also revealed a very playful HUV Concept looking like a big toy and a potential successor to the defunct Toyota FJ Cruiser in the hearts of 4WD fans? Its looks deserve a commercialisation as soon as possible.
At every major Chinese Show, Dongfeng consistently exhibits its Humvee military vehicle as a link connecting its passenger car lineup with the heavy truck core capability that has made the brand famous in China. But far from lazily showing the same model over and over again, the marque makes sure to vary the pleasures and adds a different spin each time. This year, it was a shining gold example that was shown, and the model continues to bring a lot of attention from the press and the general public.
Dongfeng asserted even further its aspirations in the SUV segment by choosing to exhibit one of the largest vehicles in the entire show: its military truck pictured above. Adding another layer to the brand’s personality that connects it further with its heavy truck heritage, this armoured vehicle is begging for a private-use variant and looks surprisingly good – at least from the front.
Finally, the recent kick-start of local production with its joint-venture partner Renault has already spawned the Dongfeng E300, in fact a Renault Fluence EV.