They really aren’t that bad

Brace yourself for the wind of change straight from the People’s Republic

After World War II, Japan started making and exporting cars, and people laughed at the prospect. The market eventually realized Japanese-made cars were by no means a laughing matter, though, and their popularity soared to the detriment of locally-manufactured motors.

Next came South Korea. While a few decades behind the Japanese automotive industry at first, it has since caught up and reduced the handicap considerably. The story repeated itself for Korean cars too - in the 1980s and 1990s, they were often ridiculed, and nobody took them seriously, yet they are making cars that are just about on par with what Japan, Europe, and the U.S. are making.

So now that Japan and Korea have established themselves firmly on the global automotive scene, is it time for a new player to step in and shake things up a bit? China seems like the perfect candidate, as most of its domestically designed and manufactured cars are currently being made fun of, people calling them copycat efforts, unsafe, and lacking in technology.

But that perception is slowly changing, and there’s no reason why the Chinese automotive industry won’t match the best the world has to offer within the next decade; they’re already pretty close now with several models which, even as a car savvy American or European, you’d genuinely not mind owning. And, let’s not forget Chinese automakers are, as you are reading this, plotting their entry into the U.S. market. Trumpchi is one such automaker that has clearly announced its ambitions to start selling cars Stateside as early as 2019, albeit under a different brand name that was created specifically for that purpose.

Here are five current Chinese cars you’d (probably) not mind owning.

Hongqi L5

5 Chinese cars you (probably) wouldn't mind owning
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The Hongqi L5 is a genuinely desirable and interesting car and also the most expensive car ever made in China

What is not to like about a large premium sedan with tasteful retro styling, decades of tradition, famous owners behind it, as well as the holy grail of luxury car power plants: a big V12 engine? That’s one way the Hongqi L5, which is built by FAW (short for First Auto Works,) could be described by somebody who doesn’t have it out for Chinese cars. Those views, however, are based on preconceived notions rooted in early 2000s catastrophic crash test results.

The Hongqi L5 is a genuinely desirable and interesting car. It’s also the most expensive car ever made in China - the equivalent of around $700,000 at current exchange rates. Its 6.0-liter, V-12 engine packs more than horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, both of which are needed to motivate the 7,000-pound car off the line and up to its top speed of 124 mph. The Hongqi L5 comes with all-wheel drive, too.

Technology is not lacking in the L5, either. It comes complete with a centrally-mounted digital gauge cluster, a touchscreen that does away with most physical buttons on the center stack, and even cylinder deactivation for its big V-12 for better fuel economy. Styling-wise, it really doesn’t betray its roots, being quite obviously designed to mimic the look of the 1963 Hongqi CA770.

WM Motors EX5

5 Chinese cars you (probably) wouldn't mind owning
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Chinese EV fans can now order the WM Motors EX5 all-electric crossover that blends pleasant exterior styling with a flashy looking high-tech interior.

Chinese EV fans can now order the WM Motors EX5 all-electric crossover that blends pleasant exterior styling with a flashy looking high-tech interior. It comes complete with a digital gauge cluster and huge style infotainment screen that’s comparable in size to the one found in a Tesla Model S but with one big difference. You can actually rotate it to landscape or portrait mode depending on your preference.

Several versions of the EX5 are available, differentiated by battery pack capacity and, ultimately, range: 186 miles, 248 miles, and 285 miles. Be that as it may, there is only one motor option available and it comes with a power output of 218 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque.

On paper, the EX5 is definitely enticing, but the company that makes it is completely new, it has no dealer network, and no way of servicing the cars it sells (other than at the factory that builds them). Still, with its a starting price of around $22,000, and the specs it promises, it actually sounds like a pretty competitive vehicle for the global EV market.

Lynk & Co 01

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The 01 is made alongside the XC40 in the same factory on China’s east coast, but the plan is to start selling it outside the PRC

Lync & Co. is brand owned by Geely, the Chinese automotive giant Geely and its firsts ever model is the 01 crossover that debuted on the local market in November of last year where it was an instant hit, receiving a reported 6,000 orders in 137 seconds.

Why was the Chinese buying public so eager to get its hands on the high-riding 01? Well, the Geely connection ensures confidence, as does the fact that the vehicle uses the same platform that underpins the Volvo XC40 and has derivatives of two of Volvo’s turbocharged, gasoline engines: a 1.5-liter with 148 horsepower and a 2.0-liter with 187 horsepower. Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions are available, with the latter coming paired exclusively with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.

The 01 is made alongside the XC40 in the same factory on China’s east coast, but the plan is to start selling it outside the PRC which would mean manufacturing it in Europe and even the U.S. as well. Currently, the base 01 kicks off at the equivalent of around $24,000, whereas the starting price for the XC40 in the U.S. is $33,200.

Read more details about the 2017 Lynk & Co 01.

Changan Raeton CC

5 Chinese cars you (probably) wouldn't mind owning
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The Raeton CC is a midsize model with eye-catching styling, decent credentials, and a low starting price for what you’re getting.

Chang’an Automobile may not be a name you’re familiar with, but it’s actually one of China’s four major automakers, tracing its history back as far as 150 years. It runs several joint ventures with Ford, PSA, Mazda, and Suzuki and builds cars for these brands for the Chinese market.

But, it also makes its own cars, and the Raeton CC is its latest and most eye-catching creation. Not to be confused with the Raeton large sedan which is the manufacturer’s flagship offering, the Raeton CC is a midsize model with eye-catching styling, decent credentials, and a low starting price for what you’re getting.

In China, it kicks off from $10,600 at current exchange rates, but for $13,600 you can get the fully loaded model that features quite a sumptuous looking interior complete with a digital gauge cluster and a touchscreen infotainment system. Regarding its exterior styling, it looks like a mix between the previous generation Opel Insignia (sold as Buick Regal in the States) and an older Ford Focus sedan. It proudly wears a very Lexus-like grille up front.

Considering just how cheap the brand can sell this model, and given the company’s extensive history of collaborating with established automakers for whom it’s built countless models, it doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all.

Trumpchi GA8

5 Chinese cars you (probably) wouldn't mind owning
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About the same length as a Mercedes S-Class, the GA8 is front-wheel drive, but its proportions trick the eye into believing power actually goes to the rear.

Trumpchi is a brand belonging to GAC (short for Guangzhou Auto), and its top-tier offering is the GA8 large sedan. About the same length as a Mercedes S-Class, the GA8 is front-wheel drive, but its proportions trick the eye into believing power actually goes to the rear.

Styling wise, it doesn’t appear to have been inspired by any one vehicle from an established marque, but it is handsome enough and actually looks quite respectable. The same can be said of its interior which blends a pleasant design with decent materials, plenty of space, and good technology.

Dials are analog, but it does make up for that with the big centrally-mounted infotainment screen with an operating system that has internet capability and can control many functions of the car. The GA8 is the most expensive Trumpchi ever, and converting its price from the local currency into USD reveals that it kicks off from just under $25,000. You can double its price with options, it seems, as the most expensive version with all the bells and whistles nearly doubles that figure.

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