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Sunday, October 10, 2021

Review: 2021 Changan CS35 Plus 1.4T


A million pesos doesn’t get you much these days, especially when it comes to new cars. Sure, it can get you a well-loaded sub-compact—be it a sedan, hatchback, or SUV, but it’s usually a compromise between your needs and wants. There is, however, something from new Philippine market entrant Changan that promises to meet both needs and wants. And this is it: the Changan CS35 Plus.

Now, Changan still isn’t a top-of-mind choice for would-be new cars (it’s so rare, some people might think snapping one qualifies as an “Interesting Car Spotting”); heck, the name doesn’t even roll off the tongue that well. But, at P 999,000, this could be an interesting alternative to the Trackers, EcoSports, Venues, and Stonics of the world.



Things start off on the right note with the way the CS35 Plus looks. Changan still doesn’t have an identifiable family look across its line-up, but taken in by its lonesome, this sub-compact SUV looks pretty neat. Subjectively, it’s the best looking of the entire line-up with its classic boxy shape and clean lines. Chinese car brands tend to go over-the-top with their grille treatment, but here, it’s been pulled back and toned tone. One can even argue that it’s got strong Teutonic influences, but as far as this Chinese carmaker’s concerned, it’s all original. Overall, it’s hard to criticize the final product.

The CS35 Plus’s strength continues inside with a simple, straightforward, and clean looking cabin. Again, kudos to Changan for showing tasteful restraint here. The predominantly black interior (the ceiling is light gray) mixed in with aluminum and high-gloss black accents will age more gracefully, while also making it easier to maintain. Besides looking good, there’s a surprising number of soft-touch plastics mixed in too—the upper dash, door trims, and arm rests are all covered in the stuff—a rarity in this price range. Plus, it’s got a leather steering wheel and seats too.



Despite the luxury-oriented trimmings, there’s no escaping the CS35 Plus’s humble origins. In this case, it’s found in places mostly where the driver interacts with the car. Things like the seat adjustment, shifter, and stalks are alright, but everything else—the steering wheel buttons, window switches, mirror controls—feels dull and are finished in noticeably cheaper material than the rest of the cabin.

Another big shortcoming of the CS35 Plus has to do with its infotainment system. The 10-inch infotainment system co-developed with Tencent is impressive with its crystal-clear graphics and responsive touchscreen, but it’s let down by its severe lack of localization. The main menu might be in English, but go into detailed functions be it the radio, Bluetooth, or backup camera, and it’s in Chinese! So, unless you have a vague idea of the language and a smartphone with Google Translate installed, you’ll surely end up puzzled as to the different functions and settings. Oh, and speaking about smartphones, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity here.



While the CS35 Plus is let down by its poorly executed infotainment system, it does pass muster when it comes to the all-important aspect of interior space. Its exterior footprint is quite compact with just an overall length of 4,335 mm, but its generous 1,825 mm width and 2,600 mm wheelbase gives it surprisingly good interior room. The rear accommodations, in particular, is among best in class with an almost flat floor and a rear AC vent. Meanwhile, up in front, the driver is treated to an ergonomically solid experience with firm, supportive seats, and a steering wheel that offers both tilt and telescopic adjustment.

On the subject of driving, the CS35 Plus has made good in-roads here for one reason: its powertrain. Normally, choices at this price point would be powered by a normally-aspirated 1.5-liter or a small boosted 3-cylinder, but not the Changan. Instead, they stuffed a turbocharged 1.4-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder under the hood. As a result, it puts out 158 horsepower and 235 Nm of torque—figures which are pretty close to SUVs half-a-size larger such as the Territory, Tiggo 7 Pro, and even the HR-V and non-hybrid Corolla Cross. It doesn’t rank high in terms of overall smoothness or refinement, but it does turn this small, somewhat unassuming SUV into a pocket rocket.



Partnering with the turbocharged 1.4-liter is a wet-type 7-speed dual clutch. As expected of gearboxes of similar types, the shift quality is mixed. It can be quite rough when cold or with indecisive throttle application, but largely smoothens out with enough practice. The CS35 Plus doesn’t have any steering wheel paddle shifters, but it does have a dedicated sport mode with a +/- gate to boot.

According to Changan Philippines’s own fuel efficiency tests, the CS35 Plus can do 13.54 km/L in the city and 21.43 km/L on the highway. We didn’t manage to take it out on any meaningful highway drives, but in the city, this figure is actually attainable. We registered 12.82 km/L at an average speed of 22 km/h.



Great as the CS35 Plus is in a straight line, when it comes to overall handling, it’s solid but unmemorable. The driver is treated to changeable steering efforts (Comfort, Normal, Sport), but it’s largely superficial in adding any sense of excitement. Still, it does the Point A to Point B stuff well with light steering, a balanced ride, and responsive brakes. Another thing going in its favor too is that it manages to avoid the small SUV trope. Thanks to its lengthy wheelbase, it doesn’t crash through cracked pavement as badly, and it soaks up bigger potholes with much more poise.

Knowing very well the level of competition in this price range, Changan has kitted the CS35 Plus well. Aside from the turbocharged engine, 10-inch infotainment system, and leather seats, the sole Philippine variant also gets 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, 6 airbags, stability control, tire pressure sensors, and even a camera-based blind spot camera. Frankly, the only thing missing would be LED headlights, and that’s easily rectifiable by going the aftermarket route.



After all’s said and done, the CS35 Plus is a commendable effort from Changan. Performance-wise, it’s far from being the best sub-compact SUV out there, but when it comes to value for money, this one’s hard to beat. There are shortcomings for sure, but overall, it’s got far more items in its pro column rather than its cons.

2021 Changan CS35 Plus

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Ownership 2021 Changan CS35 Plus
Year Introduced 2020
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact SUV
Warranty 5 years / 150,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.4
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 158 @ 5,500
Nm @ rpm 235 @ 1,500-4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 7 DCT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.52 km/L @ 17 km/h,
12.82 km/L @ 22 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,335
Width (mm) 1,825
Height (mm) 1,660
Wheelbase (mm) 2,600
Curb Weight (kg) 1,435
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electronic
Tires Nexen Nblue HD Plus 215/55 R 17 V (as tested),
225/45 R 18 (as standard)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Blind Spot Camera
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) 6-way, Manual (as tested),
6-way, Partial Electric (as standard)
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) 4-way, Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof Yes (as tested),
Yes, Panoramic (as standard)
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB
Bluetooth
Smartphone Connectivity None
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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