There have been many articles written about the United Bravo and the Prince Pearl, and many videos posted online, comparing them to the one and only “Boss Rani” of not-so-long-ago, the Mehran. But the one car that these new (budget) Chinese entrants into the Pakistani market should have been directly compared to, has somehow slipped the attention of the auto journalists and the auto community at large. The one car that the Bravo and the Pearl should be directly compared to, is the Chery QQ from 15 years ago.
The QQ could be considered an indirect predecessor to the Bravo and the Pearl. However, in my humble opinion, in many important aspects,the QQ still remains much superior to them. It is true that the Bravo and the Pearl bring many new things to the table but in many practical ways, the QQ did it first and did it better.
First off, where did these cars come from? There is more than enough information regarding both the Bravo and the Pearl on our local car forums and sites but I’ll just quickly summarize. From what I could find on the internet, both cars come in petrol and electric versions. The United Bravo starts life as a Dahe DH350. The only information on Dahe I could find was on their own Facebook page. The Pearl is supposed to be a car by DFSK, the REX7. We also know from various sources in the local car community that the REX7 is also sold as Yika E7, an electric car, by the Yika Motor company. For the Pakistan market the petrol versions have been introduced and it seems they both utilize the same engine.
The QQ was launched by Pakistan Chery Automobiles (Pvt) Ltd (later called Karakoram Motors). It was a local company and the sole distributor of vehicles made by Chery Automobile Co. of China, one of the top Chinese car manufacturers to this day. Chery is a Chinese state-owned company and sell their cars in many countries such as Malaysia, Brazil, South Africa, Singapore etc. and have a huge lineup of vehicles. They introduced the QQ in 2003. For many years the QQ enjoyed great popularity in China and in other regions of the world because it was the cheapest car on the market with very good options for the time and even by today’s standards. The engine was, and still is, made by Chery under their ACTECO brand.
Before I go any further, let me quickly address a detail about the QQ. Yes, it is a copy of the Chevy Spark. As the story goes, GM sued Chery over stealing the designs for the Chevy Spark; which was originally the Daewoo Matiz. However, as GM had bought Daewoo, the design then belonged to GM. What was the outcome of said legal action? Not much. As I mentioned before, Chery was/is state owned. Copyright laws were not very significant to the government’s agenda at the time in China. So, Chery were given the proverbial slap on the wrist, GM were ordered to drop the matter and life went on. Yes, Chery did copy the design but that did not make it a bad car. I can speak from experience because I owned one for 7 years and never once regretted buying it. It was a good little run about. After experiencing “Brand new, Zero Meter” Mehran hell for 2 years, this car was a pleasure.
So, let’s get into it and do a comparison of this forgotten car from 2005, the year it was introduced in Pakistan, and see how it stacks up against the latest small cars from China.
The QQ is sold in many markets such as Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia etc. The available engine capacities are 800cc and 1100cc. As we are comparing 800cc cars we will stick to that engine capacity here.
The QQ has an 812cc DOHC engine which produces 51hp and a max. torque of 70 Nm and is Euro III compliant. It has five forward gears and reverse. By contrast the Bravo and the Pearl both, apparently, have the same 796cc engine with 40hp and 60.5 Nm of Torque and they are Euro II compliant.They both have four forward gears and reverse. They basically sound like copies of the EFI Mehran engine. So, the newer cars suffer in the power and technology department. The older Chery QQ had the better engine. I can vouch for that. It was a very responsive and peppy little engine.
|Chery QQ||Prince Pearl||United Bravo|
|Power (HP)||51 hp||40 hp||40 hp|
|Torque (NM)||70 Nm||60.5 Nm||60.5 Nm|
|European emission standards compliance||EURO III||EURO II||EURO II|
In my experience, not once did it refuse to start even on freezing cold mornings in Murree. Not once did it make me feel like it was lacking power going up on steep roads or on the motorway. I would comfortably cruse at 120 Kph with no steering vibration or loud engine noise and no indication that the car was struggling, even with the A/C on. It was very quiet and smooth. The cabin was quite enough that you could have a decent conversation.
I’m not saying that the new cars aren’t any good. It’s just that, their engines are underpowered and their bodies are a bit bulkier than the QQ. They suffer in the power to weight ratio because of it.
I will concede that the QQ’s interior looks a little dated compared to the Bravo or the Pearl but by no means can it be considered unacceptable by today’s design standards.If we compare it to the Mehran, the materials used were simply better. In my 7 years of ownership, nothing major broke or stopped working. All the switch gear worked and all the buttons were just as tight after 7 years as they were the day, I got the car. The gear lever was just as good and precise after 7 years; unlike in the “brand new” Mehran I owned before. After only two years of use the gear lever was so loose in the Mehran that finding a gear was like playing a game of chance. Many times, I went from 1st to 4th by mistake. Also, unlike the Mehran, the inner door cards were proper plastic in the QQ, and not cardboard wrapped in cheap rexine.
|Chery QQ||Prince Pearl||United Bravo|
|All Windows Auto Close Upon Locking Car||✔||❌||❌|
|Power Side View Mirrors||✔||✔||✔|
|Number of Speakers||4||2||2|
|Internal Instruments Light Dimmer||✔||✔||❌|
|Light/illumination in all Buttons and Switches||✔||✔||❌|
|Alloy Rim Spare Tire||✔||✔||❌|
However, we are here to compare it with the new cars. Right away, I will say, that the interior of the Bravo looks better and more modern and the interior of the Pearl looks even better than the Bravo’s.
The QQ came standard with an immobilizer, power windows, hydraulic power steering, internal instrument lights adjustment, power side view mirrors without auto folding and 5 seatbelts. All those features are also available on the Bravo and the Pearl. The only differences being that both Bravo and Pearl have Electric Power Steering and the Bravo comes with 2 seatbelts for the front passengers while the Pearl comes with 4 seatbelts; 2 in the front and 2 in the back.
The QQ had one very unique feature for the time and even by today’s standards. When you locked the QQ with your key fob, any windows left open would automatically close by themselves. How I have missed that feature to this day. It was such a time saver and so convenient. Why don’t all cars have that (and I’m looking at you Toyota, Honda and Suzuki). All the internal buttons were backlit to make them easy to see in the dark and with the instrument lights adjustment feature you could dim or brighten all the internal lights if you so wanted.Reviews of the Prince Pearl make a big deal of the back-lit interior buttons with light adjustment, but the QQ had these features 15 years before the Prince Pearl.
Some images of the interior of Chery QQ showing better quality of materials used
In the QQ, all the window keys, on all four doors, were one-touch-down, meaning that you just had to press them once (no need to hold them down) and the windows would fully roll down by themselves. They didn’t have an auto roll up feature in the buttons which I felt was a bit odd.Another added touch that I really liked was that in both the front doors, small lights were installed at the bottom which would light up the ground beneath the door when the door was open. The new cars don’t have either of these features.The QQ also came with a standard rear window defogger. The Bravo and the Pearl do not. Sadly, an omission that compromise visibility, especially on cold days, and can lead to safety issues.
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As previously stated, the Bravo and the Pearl both have much better and updated interior layouts with mock wood and matte chrome trim etc. The few things that are an added bonus on the Bravo and the Pearl are the USB ports, the infotainment systems, reversing camera and reversing sensors. The instrument cluster in both the new cars are also more modern. However, it must be said that the later models of the QQ came with a digital instrument cluster. Sadly, this feature never made it to Pakistan. In fact, what also did not make it to Pakistan on the QQ were airbags, a sunroof option and reversing sensors with an audio beep function to let you know when you were getting too close to an object behind you while reversing.
Still, with all due respect to the new cars, all these new features on the Bravo and the Pearl are what I would call “chaska” features. Especially the so called “Jack-knife” key. Please, let’s not get over excited about such a mundane thing and let’s just call it what it is. A needlessly elaborate, folding key. Just think of the funny conversation this would make:
Bravo/Pearl Owner: “Look at my Jack-Knife Folding key. I press this button on my key fob and the key unfolds.”
QQ Owner: “Really? I press the lock button on my key fob and any windows left open, roll up by themselves.”
Bravo/Pearl Owner: …(Silence)
The QQ was a few years before the time of the smartphones or infotainment systems or even USB ports. Still, all these things can be added easily enough through everyday upgrades that everyone ends up doing to their cars sooner or later.However, the main point here is that the QQ provided features that increased the usability and safety of the car such as the auto windows roll up on car lock, 5 seatbelts and rear window defogger; and it did all that 15 years ago. If it was allowed to exist in the Pakistani market maybe the QQ would have gotten all the new gadgets as well. Maybe we could’ve even got the model with the sunroof.
On the exterior, the QQ, admittedly, looks the most dated as it is 15 years old. The Bravo has a good design and is the more subdued of the two new cars while the Pearl has the bolder design with bold curves and over-sized lights in the front. Mind you, I like the look of the Pearl and the over-sized lights do grow on you after a while. The look of the Bravo is the more mature of the two but it does not look very good in the rear. If you look at the back doors, they seem very small and look as though they were supposed to be longer. Maybe, due to budget constraints, they decided to lop-off a few inches. It is not bad looking but the back doors do seem a bit out of place in my opinion.
With the QQ it was simple. If you’ve seen a Chevy Joy, you’ve seen the QQ. It only had minor differences. The front hood and bumper were different. Where the Chevy Joy had a long, thin, rectangular opening between the Hood and the Bumper on the front, the QQ had a much bigger oval shape opening. In the back, the Chevy Joy had smaller upwards pointing oval lights, whereas the QQ had big lights that started close to the bottom of the back window and went down to the bumper. Many people joked that it made it looked like a surprised, cartoon frog. An assessment I myself agreed with when I first saw the QQ. But I did grow to like the look eventually.
|Chery QQ||Prince Pearl||United Bravo|
When we compare sizes, the QQ is the smallest in width and height. In length, however, it is the same as the bravo and has a wheelbase that is almost identical to the Pearl’s. Longer wheelbase usually translates to improved handling and a bigger cabin space.
On the exterior, the Bravo and Pearl come with foglamps in the front. The QQ came with foglamps, front and back. The Bravo and Pearl come with alloy rims with tubeless tires. The QQ also came with alloy rims with tubeless tires and as an added bonus, the spare tire was also a full alloy rim with a tubeless tire.
One other feature that both the Bravo and the Pearl have, are parking sensors and reversing cameras. The QQ didn’t have those. Yet, like I previously said, the QQ had the reversing sensors option in foreign markets. However, the QQ did come with a rear window wiper to help increase visibility in rain conditions. The Bravo and pearl don’t even have rear window defoggers, let alone rear window wipers.
|Chery QQ||Prince Pearl||United Bravo|
|Fog Lamps Front||✔||✔||✔|
|Fog Lamps Rear||✔||❌||❌|
|Rear Window Defogger||✔||❌||❌|
|Alloy Rim Spare Tire||✔||❌||❌|
However, the new cars have something which the QQ does not have. Both have very nice and modern looks with modern light clusters both front and back. The Pearl even comes with day time running LED lights and both cars have LED lights in the rear clusters as well.
Really? Do we have to go there? Let’s put it this way; if you are coming up from a motorcycle to one of these new cars; firstly, congratulations and may it give you years of loyal service. Secondly, yes, in that case they are way safer. However, if you are upgrading from a small car such as a Mehran or a 1000cc Alto, then why are you asking?
The Mehran is the Alto from 1984. Ten years before safety standards were actually a thing. The old Alto is also from a time, in the 1990’s, when safety was just becoming mandatory. It too has no standards to speak of. So please stop judging these cars from China so harshly when our own “local Japani” cars, still are, the poster children for lack of safety standards. The new Alto is out too because at the price range of the Chinese cars, you can only get the Alto VX. It does not even have an A/C let alone any gadgets (or airbags).
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Let us simply say that, in the safety department, these cars are neither better nor worse than the cars they are replacing or competing against. This is true for all three cars here; the QQ, the Bravo and the Pearl.
It’s not like the QQ didn’t have quality issues. The quality of some of the plastic parts was lacking. My car was hit from behind at very slow speeds and it caused the rear bumper to basically shatter. But it was not such a big issue as the replacement new bumper was the same price as a Mehran’s bumper. The other major plastic quality issue that I faced was with the front arm rests. The plastic housing for the window controls, over time, became very brittle. The hook tabs on the inside of the plastic pieces, broke.They stayed in place, no problem, but they could be easily pulled up by mistake. Other than that, there were no major issues with the plastics.
Another issue was the transmission. It was crunchy between 1st and 2nd. Mind you, it did not give me any problems in all the time I owned it. It was just a very cheap transmission. That was the biggest problem I could see with the car. It never failed, it never caused me any problems and if I was doing normal gear changes it did not crunch at all. Only when I was revving hard did it have that issue. But regardless of the crunch between 1st and 2nd, the gear changes remained tight and precise throughout the 7 years I owned it.
I cannot comment on the issues with the Bravo or Pearl too much because they are new and only time will tell how they will fare. However, there have been a few people who have complained about the infotainment system in the Bravo which freezes and requires disconnecting the battery to fix.Also, some owners have complained about the doors needing to be slammed hard to close. In my humble opinion these are teething problems and hopefully the company will soon have them sorted out. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and let us just give them time. That is the best course of action for us and the new companies.
Why Did Chery QQ Fail?
The main purpose of this write up is not just to compare the cars but to ask a simple question; if the QQ was a good car, why did it fail? The only answer that I can come up with is that in a fair, rational world, it shouldn’t have. It was car ahead of its time in the Pakistani market but it entered into the market at a time when the power of the local big 3 was at its peak. Obviously, they had cornered the market and didn’t tolerate any intrusion into their territory. Of course, having political clout and the power to make things difficult for the new companies did help them in deterring new comers. Case in point, Chery, Geely, Proton and Chevy. They held on for a while but eventually fizzled out. Unfortunately, the power of politics, half-truth opinions, hearsay and propaganda will always out-weigh rational thinking, evidence that people can see for themselves and commonsense.
Here is the link to the Chinese auto sector page on Wikipedia. You can also find there, the list of the most popular brands and manufacturers in China; 2016 and 2017. You can also, if you so wish, search for the best Chinese auto companies online. Chery and Geely will always be there. We had Chery introduced to us in 2005. At the time they only had the QQ but they had plans to localize and also introduce their sedan cars to compete against the likes of Corollas and Civics. Geely was the second company after Chery to try to introduce its sedan (by SUS Motors) in Pakistan. But why did that not happen? Why did they fail? The reason was simple. Their cars were perceived as inferior to the Japanese, whether it was deserved or not, and were judged harshly. Like I stated before, all they needed was time andwe did not give it. Look at where these companies are now on the world stage today. Thanks to blind loyalty for “Desi-Japani” and resale value mentality, we lost a great opportunity. Let’s not make all those mistakes this time around.
The QQ was a good car. It just had bad timings. With the current prices, people have no choice but to pay attention to the Chinese cars. I hope the other reputable companies, who have come here from China, focus on what is really needed; good small, affordable family cars for the masses and not big cars for the rich buyers. That is why I really appreciate cars such as the Bravo, the Pearl and the QQ. These are needed to truly mobilize the population. Mobilization benefits society and the economy. With cities growing and commute distances increasing, the car has become a necessary part of modern life. These cars will enable that. Having said that, I would very much like to see the New Chery QQ introduced into the Pakistani market.
To Sum It Up
So, let us not forget a very capable little car that we got from China 15 years ago. What I wanted was to show that, even if the QQ is old compared to the new boys, it still holds its own and still is a better package. And to all those ‘Japani fanboys’ who have belittled and made fun of the QQ and of Chinese & other non-Japanese brands in general over the years just to get their kicks especially on prominent car forums, thanks to your efforts and bias, we missed out on getting big-name companies into Pakistan early on. Not just Chery but Proton, Chevy and Geely all could have been operating here for years if we had learned to accept change and diversity all those years ago. Now that we have no choice, I hope we can make it work this time.
So, a big thank you to Prince and United for bringing in these cars. I hope they continue to do so and I hope our public realizes that these are the only options for us. As long as blind tax increases with no relief for the industry or the consumers is the only government strategy, these cars are our only hope. I also hope that any entrepreneur, looking to bring good Chinese cars to Pakistan, reading these words, does consider bringing back the QQ. I believe now is the right time.
Contributed by: Muhammad Ali Khan– A guy who is passionate about cars and concerned about the state of the auto sector in the country.
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