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Explore China 2019: The cars of Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia

Bestune T77 in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia.

This is the second stop in our 2019 exploration of China following the Shanghai Auto Show. You can consult the 1st stop Shanghai here. We are now in Manzhouli in eastern Inner Mongolia in the north of the country, at the border with Russia and Mongolia (see map below). At 300,000 inhabitants but with secondary and relatively isolated political status, Manzhouli qualifies as a Tier 4 level city. See an excellent Tier city classification map and explanation here. Manzhouli and its region to the south completes our exploration of Inner Mongolia, of which we visited the western part last year.

Location of Manzhouli in China, Russian Doll market scenes.

From Shanghai, I landed in Hailaer and drove 200km west to Manzhouli. On the way, the car landscape follows the “steppe” tastes we found in both Mongolia and western Inner Mongolia: large, luxurious foreign SUVs such as the Toyota Prado, Land Cruiser and VW Teramont, as well as full-size domestic pickup trucks led by the Great Wall Wingle 5 and the entire JMC line-up.

Toyota Prado, Honda XR-V, Haval H6 and Honda UR-V

Manzhouli is China’s busiest land port of entry, and is responsible for 60% of all imports from and exports to Eastern Europe. Trains from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Manchurian branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway pass through Manzhouli Railway Station. Not to be missed in town is the Russian Doll market a mere 500m from the border with Russia, featuring a hotel in the shape of a Russian Doll! More on this in our upcoming test-drive of my rental Peugeot 301.

Popular SUVs in Manzhouli

In Manzhouli Honda is very strong with, in this order, the XR-V, UR-V and CR-V the most popular. The Haval H6 is also extremely frequent in town, the Baojun 510 is strong and the Leopaard brand is more represented than usual. I also spotted one Lynk & Co 01 near the Hulun Lake (pictured above), as well as a good number of new gen, China-exclusive Hyundai ix35 and its twin the Kia Sportage, also exclusive to the country.

Russian-plated Toyota Allion in Manzhouli

One curiosity in Manzhouli is the presence of numerous cars with Russian license plates. This is logical, given Russia is only a few kilometres away, and is the occasion to witness once again the peculiar popularity of second-hand Japanese exports in this part of Russia, such as the Toyota Allion pictured above.

Manzhouli/Tongliao car landscape

A few other curiosities encountered in this part of Inner Mongolia include a couple of Ford F-150 Raptor most probably grey-imported into the country, as well as one Lamborghini Urus spotted in Tongliao, further south into the province. But the most interesting feature of Manzhouli was actually elsewhere: a mini Auto Show right in the city centre square…

Manzhouli Auto Show

Manzhouli being a Tier 4 city, this dictates which carmakers operate in town, strongly skewed towards Chinese SUV brands such as Haval, Baojun, Jetour, Leopaard, Changan and Bestune, the #1 pickup brand Great Wall (with the brand new Steed 7)…

Manzhouli Auto Show

…as well as some rarities such as the Qingling Taga (pictured above). Geely is adequately represented as the #1 Chinese brand in the country, with Toyota also in prime position with its Land Cruiser and Prado. But the cherry on top was obviously a lonely shiny-new Lada 4×4 that just leaped across the border to show off. A nice touch/wink for sure.

Stay tuned for the following city in our Explore China 2019 series: Kunming.

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