The suspension is struts at the front, a multi-link axle at the rear, anti-roll bars front and rear. The steering is electric power and the brakes are vented discs at the front, solid at the rear. A subframe carries the powerpack and front suspension, an engineering detail that usually delivers an extra edge of on-road refinement.
Safety is an issue that Chinese car makers have yet to convince is up to European standards, due to previous models badly failing the European NCAP barrier test, but Changan is keen to correct that impression. The CS55 has been tested to Chinese NCAP standards, which are claimed to be equal to Europe’s, and Changan's safety chief, Hui Zhao, expects a five-star rating.
Shod with Continental Cross-Contact rubber in 225/55 R18 size, made in China to European spec, the CS55 is largely put together from major modules made by European or Japanese suppliers at Chinese local plants.
The challenge, then, is to discover how well Changan’s engineers have put this cocktail of componentry together to make a credible SUV.
How does the CS55 perform dynamically?
The CS55 is a likeable and dynamically competent soft-roader, although that's a verdict delivered with the usual proviso that our experience was mostly on the company's test track. This is where the CS55’s chassis has been honed, under the watchful eye of ex-Ford handling guru Gordon Cook, a Briton who has worked on multiple generations of Ford models in Europe and China, including the recently retired Fiesta.
But our assessment also has to be tempered by an unfortunate rollover accident experienced by another journalist in a staged lane-change test at around 37mph. With the ESP turned off against the advice of Changan, the exact cause has still not been determined.
In more steady-state conditions, the CS55 steers faithfully through a series of bends and changes direction with good agility, albeit with accompanying body roll.
Weighting of the steering can be adjusted through three modes, which give a wide-spread of weightings, the heaviest of which is Sports, although we found the mid-setting to be the best compromise.
Cook and his engineering colleague Dave Cox, Changan’s brakes engineer, would like to exploit the CS55’s chassis with a flatter cornering attitude, but the reality of coping with China’s often rutted and potholed roads means the chassis settings have to allow for wheel travel and bushing compliance.
As the CS55 settles into a corner, understeer and roll builds, although your line can be tightened tidily with a gentle lift of the throttle. At higher speeds on Changan’s handling track, the CS55 is harnessed by gentle intervention of the ESP, which retards the throttle and applies the rear brakes in tighter corners.
It’s not an exciting car to drive, but it does provide the keen driver with some raw material to enjoy a reasonably spirited drive, while retaining much-needed compliance in more relaxed driving.
The 1.5-litre turbo engine provides enough shove to keep the CS55 buzzing along, although it needs to be worked hard to maintain progress on motorways against the erratically driven other traffic.
We suspect that performance might be perked up by a few tweaks to the Aisin ‘box, though. It slurs changes smoothly but feels lazy when you pressing on, and its Sport mode — selected by pushing the lever across the gate — doesn’t have much effect either.