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First drive: 2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.

First drive: 2024 Omoda 5 Prototype
Can Chinese newcomer Omodaís first UK-bound compact SUV mix it with the likes of the Qashqai and T-Roc?

   



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2024 Omoda 5 Prototype

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Omoda is the latest Chinese brand to launch in Europe, but the company is doing more than just bargain-basement electric cars. In a bid to broaden its appeal, the Chery-owned brand is offering a "full" range of cars, and that means giving customers a choice of petrol, hybrid and electric powertrains. The new Omoda 5 is the first example of this policy, and though the electric E5 sibling might be the greater draw initially, the competitively priced and petrol-powered 5 is also vying for attention among cost-conscious customers. The question is, should they choose it over its myriad rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: Omoda 5 Noble 1.6 T-GDi Prototype
Price: Omoda 5 from £24,000 (expected)
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 186hp
Torque: 275Nm
Emissions: 169g/km (estimated)
Economy: 34.5mpg (estimated)
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Top speed: 128mph
Boot space: 307-1,060 litres

Styling

Chinese brands have something of a reputation for copying other companies, and there's a bit of that going on with the Omoda 5. The grille is clearly inspired by the Hyundai Tucson, and there's something familiar about the tailgate and roofline. Perhaps a bit of Vauxhall in there, or maybe some Nissan... Anyway, the result is actually a reasonable-looking vehicle, albeit a bit homogenous in a strange sort of way. It shouldn't offend anyone, though, and that's probably half the battle in this market.

Interior

Omoda's penchant for nabbing ideas from other brands continues inside, where the switches on the dashboard seem to have come from a Nissan Ariya and the window switches are carbon copies (well, plastic copies) of those on a Mercedes-Benz. Ditto the engine start button... But if you're going to copy, why not copy some well-established car makers with strong market shares?

Overall, the Omoda's cabin looks and feels pretty good, with some cheap plastics lower down and some more upmarket materials on the dash, doors and other common touch points. But that's true of a T-Roc, too, and few will complain about that.

For all the design theft, the 5's cabin is fairly minimalist, really, but the whole thing centres around a double-screen display in the dashboard. There's a digital instrument cluster that's lovely and sharp, showing you all the information you need, and there's a touchscreen that's equally sharp in terms of graphics and responses, but isn't without its foibles. Some functions are hidden a little too well in the menus, and it takes quite a lot of learning your way around.

That said, the touchscreen probably isn't in its final iteration yet, such is the rate of change in Chinese manufacturing, and we expect some of the features to have been updated and improved by the time customers take delivery.

Practicality

Sizewise, the Omoda 5 is much the same size as a Nissan Qashqai and very slightly larger than a VW T-Roc, but that's the ballpark its in. Which is an issue when we talk about boot space, because the official figures currently released by Omoda in China suggest a boot size of 307 litres. That's considerably less than you get in a VW Polo, let alone a T-Roc, and it isn't a good look for the new model. However, that figure doesn't include the underfloor storage, and Omoda has told us to expect a space of around 380 litres or more when the car is launched properly. But even that is only on a par with a Golf, and the Qashqai's 504-litre boot is streets ahead.

Normally, you might expect this lack of boot space to be mitigated by a massive rear cabin, especially with a Chinese car, for which rear space is often king. But while the Omoda does provide enough room for four adults to sit relatively comfortably, it doesn't do much more than that. Both in terms of leg- and headroom, the space is wholly adequate, rather than especially generous.

Performance

This petrol-powered version of the Omoda comes with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine that drives the front wheels alone through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The 186hp output is ample for a car of this size Ė most of its rivals are less powerful, particularly in basic forms Ė and the 7.8-second 0-62mph time is more than enough for most peopleís needs. In fact, youíll struggle to find many faster family SUVs aside from proper high-performance models such as the T-Roc R.

Unfortunately, the trade-off for this performance is a slight lack of economy. At 34.5mpg, the 5ís engine isnít disastrously thirsty, but nor is it impressively economical. In fact, itís barely more efficient than the aforementioned T-Roc R, which comes with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre engine churning out 300hp. And with no four-wheel-drive option Ė at least not until the hybrid models arrive Ė the 5 wonít be the car of choice for those who regularly venture off-road.

Ride & Handling

Omoda claims to have tuned the 5ís suspension specifically for the European market, but we suspect more fine-tuning might come in for UK cars before the car arrives. Not that itís in a bad place as things stand Ė far from it. The ride is generally decent, with enough body control to prevent excessive roll in corners and enough suppleness to iron out most of the bumps. Like the gearbox, itís better at high speeds because it feels a little lumpen and stiff at lower speeds, particularly on the kind of tired surfaces that are all too common on British roads.

And although the Omoda is by no means a sporty car, it steers quite nicely, too, with a precise and well-weighted wheel that gives you plenty of confidence in the carís capabilities. It isnít especially engaging, but you can set a fairly brisk pace on a country road without too much trouble. But the Omoda is best for day-to-day stuff, and we were particularly impressed with its refinement at motorway speeds. Obviously, the petrol engine isnít as quiet as the E5ís electric motor, but you barely hear it at 70mph, and wind and road noise is limited, too.

Value

Although Omoda claims not to see itself as a budget brand, the 5 is definitely at the cheaper end of the SUV segment. Prices are expected to start from around £24,000, which would make the 5 around £3,000 cheaper than the similarly sized Nissan Qashqai. In fact, it's barely more expensive than the much smaller Juke. Admittedly, we don't know yet how the base 'Comfort' models (or indeed the more upmarket Noble versions) will look in terms of equipment, but Omoda is promising a strong level of standard equipment that could see the brand leading the pack by a country mile when it comes to value.

Verdict

The 5 is an impressive first attempt for Omoda, and though it isn't as good as its electric sister, it's still a decent family car with a very competitive price tag. It has its foibles, of course, but it's a telling sign of what's to come from Omoda, a company that is pumping money and resources into its European operation.



James Fossdyke - 17 Apr 2024



      - Omoda road tests
- 5 images

2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.

2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.2024 Omoda 5 Prototype. Image by Matt Vosper.








 

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