The highly anticipated Jaecoo J7 has officially been launched in South Africa, with the country being the first right-hand drive market to receive the first model from the newly established urban off-road SUV brand and the first in Africa.

Endowed with cutting-edge design and innovative technologies, the attractive, upmarket compact SUV was clearly inspired by the Range Rover Evoque, but under its good-looking skin, the J7 brings together the best componentry from the Chery Tiggo 7 Pro (chassis) and Tiggo 8 Pro (drivetrain).

With its modern yet classic design aesthetic and good levels of sophistication and performance, the J7 should appeal to customers with an adventurous, outdoor lifestyle who are not prepared to compromise on comfort or luxury,


The three-strong local range consists of variants with earth element designations (Vortex, Glacier, and Inferno) priced from just R549,900 – all powered by Chery’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (as found in the Omoda C5 GT and the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro), which delivers 145 kW of power and 290 Nm of torque.

The engine is coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (7DCT) with self-shifting capabilities, and while the Vortex and Glacier versions are front-wheel-driven, power is transferred to all four wheels in the flagship Inferno derivative. 

Equipped with the All-Road Drive Intelligent System (Ardis) with seven driving modes, the Inferno, sharing its 200 mm of ground clearance, a 21-degree approach angle, 29-degree departure angle, and 600 mm wading depth with the other two variants, has some light off-road capabilities. 

Inside, the J7 is generously equipped with a 14.8” sky screen dominating the neatly designed, minimalistic front fascia and fully digital cockpit in the Inferno. A 540-degree panoramic camera and a 2.4” head-up display are standard, as well as amenities such as adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, privacy glass, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The mid-tier Glacier mode shares standard 19” alloy wheels and the 14.8” touchscreen with the Inferno, and features innovative inter-seat airbags, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats (with a memory function), a head-up display, an integrated dashcam, and a range of extra driver-assistance systems including automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, traffic-jam assist, lane-departure warning, intelligent high-beam control, and rear cross-traffic assist.

The entry-level Vortex grade comes with power-adjustable front seats, an electric tailgate, a 13.2” touchscreen, a 360-degree panoramic camera system, wireless smartphone charging, 18” alloy wheels (framing red brake callipers), LED headlamps, front fog lamps, automatic windscreen wipers, seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), front radar, and added safety features.


A selection of Glacier front-wheel-drive and Inferno all-wheel-drive models were available for the short test drive from the Indaba Hotel in Fourways to the Lion and Safari Park close to Hartbeespoort Dam, and first impressions of the new J7 on the road were very positive. 

The 1.6-litre turbo mill has ample oomph, and contrary to what we have experienced in the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro, power delivery on take-off is not as neck-snappingly abrupt, but much more modulated and flowing, adding to the comfortable driving qualities of the J7. 

The newcomer also feels well-balanced and secure on the road, and soaked up the bumps and undulations on the potholed roads near Hartbeespoort with aplomb. The Jaecoo debutant also handled a short and easy dirt section within the Safari Park well, yet it was clear that its ground clearance was not enough for more serious off-road work.


Even so, given its good looks, high specification level, high-quality trim, and keen pricing within a highly contested compact SUV market segment, the new Jaecoo J7 is set to take the market by storm. Starting from R549,999 for the Vortex model and going up to R679,900 for the Inferno, pricing for the newcomer is keen and includes a five-year/70,000 km service plan, a five-year/150,000 km warranty, and an additional engine warranty spanning ten years or one million kilometres. 

And for those wanting a new energy option, the J7 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is scheduled for introduction later this year, with the flagship J8 also following shortly.


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