Matthew Jones14 February 2013

This is the Qoros 3

A new manufacturer from China is heading to Europe with this. Risky?

This is the Qoros 3 Sedan

Historically, unknown marques from unexpected countries don't cost very much money. Especially when they first arrive in Europe. Then, after they've banked a few generations worth of sensible-saloon profits, they employ marketers with expensive glasses and many haircuts to convince us that, actually, they don't just build cars for people that can't otherwise afford them. They'll start testing at the Nurburgring, snaffle engineers from Germany, and hey presto - the reasonably priced car loses its stigma. And reasonable price.

But Qoros, a brand new manufacturer from China, has rejected the traditional Euro-success path. Instead, it'll charge around 20,000 Euros (£17,200) for the 3, its mid-size saloon, figuring that product quality alone's going to be enough for buyers to look beyond the badge. Which seems... brave.

See more pics of the Qoros 3 Sedan

Qoros' Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, Stefano Villanti, says, "We want to change the impression of Chinese cars, but we're not doing it with gimmicks - it is a premium product. With the 3, we want to commodotise luxury, and surprise people with quality and value for money, not the price. "

So, the premium product. It's a front-driver based on an all-new modular architecture developed by Qoros just for its own cars. There'll be a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing around 140bhp and 155lb ft of torque. Diesel variants could well be along shortly, too. Despite Qoros snaffling its Director of Vehicle Engineering from BMW M-Power, Villanti tells us it won't be focusing on dynamics, but it'll have "solid performance".

Inside, it gets leather seats, and the sort of equipment you expect from a 17-grand saloon - cruise control, air conditioning, keyless go, and an infotainment system. The latter's pretty impressive, actually. It's an extremely simple 8-inch swipe-based system, which is built with parts sourced from Apple's suppliers and under Qoros' ex-TomTom Director of Connected Services. Swipe from top to bottom and you get music, right to left for navigation, left to right for vehicle info, and bottom to top for the phone.

Outisde, it's similarly similar to the Euro offerings. The faintly derivative styling comes from Gert Volker Hildebrand's pen, he who drew the MkIII Golf, Seat Leon and worked on the divisive Mini coupe and convertible. But there are convincing details here - there aren't any parking sensor holes (but it does have them), there's a deep mesh so you can't see the radiator core, it sits on 18-inch wheels, and there's a horizontally cut A-pillar, which is more expensive to produce, but cuts a far cleaner dash.

But the big question is who the hell's going to buy one? In China, Villanti says it's pitching it at 25-35 year-olds, 70 per cent of which will be first-time buyers. But in Europe, the target market's far less clear. We're struggling with that one, too. Unlike the Chinese, us Euro types aren't used to being bombarded with dozens of new brands, and loyalty takes at least a few generations to garner, even if the products are dirt cheap. Even more so when there's no Euro NCAP rating yet (though the manufacturer's confident it'll get high ratings in European and Chinese tests).

Would you buy one, TopGear.commers? ‘Cause this is the first of a long line of cars - Qoros plans to release a new model every six months....

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