Chery J1 1.3 5DR Review
The cheery one in the city

Story by Jeremy R. Chua, pictures by Jeremy R. Chua and Azfar Hashim
17 Feb 2009

Just the perfect choice if you're among the growing number of motorists who goes public but still buys a car, well, just for the heck of having a car

Looks & styling

On paper, it sounds like it’s a mish-mash of designs all rolled into one package. But in the flesh, the J1 somehow manages to pull it off without looking odd

If you could afford to live within the city center, would you still opt to drive? After all, if your workplace is nearby, the supermarket is within walking distance and you don’t have kids, owning a car becomes a luxury (as if the cost wasn’t prohibitive enough).

There’s the annual insurance, road tax and fuel costs to ponder about, not to mention the maintenance charges at the workshop. But with COE at dirt cheap levels, most people could already be thinking, “Hmm…maybe I should.”

So if your heart still yearns for a set of wheels despite your pragmatic mind screaming “It’s not worth it! You live in a convenient location already!”, then the path becomes clear. It has to be a car that’s cheap to run, and whose purchase price won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

What the city-dweller needs, is of course, a city car – small, peppy, and fun to drive. Lets begin with this Chinese offering.

Chinese car manufacturers have often been taken to task with regards to them having blatantly copied their competitors’ car designs panel-for-panel. Copyrights still seem to be a new concept to them, but they are learning. So to do away with any of those issues, Chery actually commissioned Italian styling house, Bertone, to design the J1.

If there’s one thing the automotive world has come to expect from Italy, it's flair. Founded in 1912, Bertone is a design house that’s associated with brands such as Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. One of their most famous designs happens to be the 1966 Lamborghini Miura.

Well, the J1 is hardly an exotic car, and the only Italian semblance here is with the car’s nose - it looks somewhat similar to a Fiat Bravo or Grande Punto, albeit with longer headlight lenses. The J1’s flanks are reminiscent of the Hyundai Matrix (what with those roof rails), while its rear bears a good resemblance to the Hyundai i30. 

On paper, it sounds like it’s a mish-mash of designs all rolled into one package. But in the flesh, the J1 somehow manages to pull it off without looking odd. And at 3,700mm long and 1,578mm wide, the J1’s dimensions are just right for maneuvering in tight, urban sprawls too.                  


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Engine Capacity 1297cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Power 81bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 114Nm @ 3800rpm
Power to Weight 77.9 bhp per ton


Acceleration 15s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 156 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 16.7 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 5 -speed Manual
Drive Type FF


Body Type Sedan
(L x W x H)
(3700 x 1578 x 1527) mm
Wheelbase 2390 mm
Kerb Weight 1040 kg


Brakes (Front) Discs
Brakes (Rear) Drums