Monday, June 3, 2013

Used Car Review - Chana Benni (2008-2012)

Myk Belmonte starts the month by featuring a student friendly ride. Would you bite for this or wait for our other one this Thursday?

2008-2012 Chana Benni

Since budget is the main consideration, Chinese cars pops out of mind since well, they have low prices. But quality and other aspects are out, and how do they fare well in the second hand market? The answer lies somewhere in the article. Oh, before leaving this paragraph the Chinese cars worth considering are Foton (they target businesses) and Haima (they are well backed up, except for their two microvans).

With a long list of joint ventures together with Suzuki, Ford, Peugeot PSA, and Jiangling Motors, Chang'an Automobile Group (or Chana for short) is known for minivans that rival the Wuling Sunshine but also makes no frills cars like the Benni. The hatchback was introduced in China in 2008, with gas prices starting to soar, it made sense to launch such kind of car.

Focus Ventures Inc (the one who distributes Coleman water jugglers, Ethan Allen furnitures and other consumer goods) brought in the Chang'an brand and among the crop of microvans they have comes the Benni. 2008 was the year fuel prices costs P50 (which is by now the price of a McSaver meal) so it made sense to bring this vehicle, which rivals the other Chinese brand whose former office is located in Buendia. While the direct competitor sold well, this one stayed glued in dealerships. 2012 is the last year one can buy this hatchback, with just one engine and two transmission configurations.

Value and Costs
Browse the classified ads and you'll see Chana Bennis selling for P175,000-P300,000. In comparison, that is the price range for the QQ (but there are some retailing for less than P175,000) as well as some direct rivals from Japan and Korea.

While the engine is fuel efficient (the top priority of students), it is Suzuki sourced so parts can be purchased from a specialist shop. For the rest of the car, the biggest downside is that parts are hard to procure in the popular automotive parts row. Some patience is required to find them, so good luck and study other options first, too.

Exterior and Interior
Chinese cars are accused of piracy and plagiarism, but in the case of the Benni, vehicles like the Mercedes Benz A Class and the Honda Jazz were placed in a blender and the result is, well, the Benni. You and me can tell that the body is somewhat not proportional due to a high headroom and narrow width, much more that it is not qualified for the Kei Car classification, if it were to be sold in Japan. 14 inch rims are standard, that puts the car to a disadvantage that I will mention later on.

The interior is more mellow but simple, with the grey seats and silver trims brightening up the cabin. There is one major flaw, equipment discrepancy. Order the MT and you get front and rear foglamps, dual airbags, body colored handles, power windows on all sides, and a basic stereo system with CD player. The AT comes with only a front foglamp, driver side airbag, chrome handles, front power windows, and a stereo system that has MP3 capability. Its up to you to weigh in the options, but before leaving this, quality is decent but not to Korean levels due to the exposed screws and interior room for the rear is best left for children. The front seats, while admits anyone, would give you a backache.

A Suzuki sourced 1,301cc SOHC with 84hp at 6,500rpm and 110Nm at 3,500rpm comes standard amongg PHDM Bennis. It has the pull but refinement is not great since it tends to get noisy when revved harder.

Driving Impressions
Handling is decent enough, but not noteworthy to win any awards. While low speeds are ok, high turns can pose a threat for a rollover due to the puny 14 inch wheels. The transmission needs some work to do (MT models) since there is some effort needed to lunge the car (no thanks to the heavy body) and it is somewhat notchy to work with. Braking is ok, but tends to bring long distances despite the presence of an anti lock braking system.

You buy this car simply because its fuel efficient, not of refinement which you wouldn't find. Before plunging in, review other alternatives and test drive them.

The Good:
  • Decent power from the engine
  • Modern looking
  • Well engineered interior (somewhat)
The Bad:
  • Equipment discrepancy
  • Lacks refinement
  • Unstable when turning
The Pick: MT

Engine: 1,301cc I4 gasoline
Power: 84hp @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 110Nm @ 3,500rpm
Fuel Consumption: 9-12km/L (city), 10-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear rigid axle with torsion beam

Price (New):
Price (Now): P175,000-P300,000
Rivals: Chery QQ, Kia Picanto, Chevrolet Spark, Suzuki Alto, Hyundai Getz, Hyundai i10, Suzuki Celerio
On Sale: 2008-2012

Focus Ventures Mandaluyong - (02) 631-0298

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