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Road tests

New Omoda 5 prototype review: an establishment-beating SUV

It's not the finished product but the Omoda 5 has the potential to shake up the budget SUV market

The Omoda 5 has the potential to really shake up the budget end of the family SUV market. It’s not the biggest or most practical car, nor will it be the cheapest to run. But it’s decent to drive, comes loaded with kit and feels well built for the price. For £289 per month, we can see it tempting plenty of people away from the established mainstream makers.

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Omoda is one of a number of new Chinese brands hoping to take the European market by storm. It launches in the UK this year with the 5 – a Nissan Qashqai-rivalling SUV that will be available in both petrol and electric guise from the summer.

But while its debut offering near enough matches the Qashqai for size, Omoda is looking to dramatically undercut its Japanese competitor on price. The 5 will start from around £24,000 when it goes on sale in May, that should be significantly less than the cheapest versions of the newly updated Qashqai. Omoda says the first cars are due with customers a couple of months later.

To get a taste for what’s in store, we’ve come to Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire to try a couple of late prototypes. It’s a bold launch location; the hill route is notoriously unforgiving, and can show up a car’s failings even within the first few miles.

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Yet from the off you can tell Omoda is serious about making it big in Europe. Apparently, cars are regularly sent from China to the brand’s HQ in Germany, where local engineers are given free rein to set up the SUVs as they see fit. These models are then sent back home, analysed and put into production; a domestic-market car, in theory, could feel quite different to one sold over here.

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Over the challenging hill route, the petrol car feels well tied down – more so than the slightly unwieldy EV. The steering is light and a little vague, but grip is good and there’s not much in the way of body roll. The engine packs plenty of punch (183bhp is more than sufficient in a car this size) but it sounds quite coarse under load and you’re at the mercy of the occasionally hesitant seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. We suspect a set of paddles on the steering wheel would alleviate this issue somewhat.

But for what this car will be used for, the Omoda 5 is largely on par with its mainstream rivals when it comes to ride and handling. The suspension strikes a good balance between control and comfort, and felt compliant over the few ridges and potholes we were able to find during our drive.

Elsewhere, Omoda has done a good job of building the 5 to a price, while still achieving a decent level of perceived quality. Sure, there are cheaper plastics if you go searching, but most of the surfaces you interact with are soft to the touch. There are quite a few glossy surfaces that may scratch up over time, but that’s the case across this part of the market. 

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Interestingly, the dashboard layout in the petrol and electric cars is different, though the changes relate mostly to the centre-console arrangement. The infotainment system, as we’ve found in a number of Chinese cars of late, runs a powerful processor. It’s quick to respond to inputs, though the menu layouts aren’t as logical as we might like. As usual, you need to switch off some of the safety systems if you don’t want it beeping and bonging every time you approach a white line or new speed limit.

There’s enough space in the back for taller adults at a push, though the floor is set quite high, which limits thigh support. The 380-litre boot is smaller than the class average, and limited by the steeply raked rear screen. Our car came with a space-saver spare wheel hidden under the floor, however.

Two trims (Comfort and Noble) will be offered across both petrol and EV, though the specs do differ slightly across the powertrains. Regardless, all cars come with dual screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rear-view camera and an eight-speaker stereo. You also get 18-inch wheels, automatic LED lights and a suite of safety kit.

Range-topping versions get a powered tailgate, a sunroof, heated synthetic-leather seats and a heated steering wheel, plus two-zone climate control, 360-degree HD cameras and an air-purification system. For around £2k more (largely negated on a monthly PCP), this surely has to be the pick of the range.

Finance figures have yet to be finalised, but indicative pricing looks promising. Initial estimates suggest you’ll be able to get a base-spec petrol car on a four-year deal for £289 per month, with a £3,500 deposit and 5.9-per cent APR. All cars are covered by a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The electric E5 is set to start from around £33,500, with a £1,500 walk-up to Noble trim. It’s equipped with a 61kWh battery, and its official range stands at 257 miles. We saw 3.4mi/kWh even over our quick test route, which would make more than 200 miles easily achievable in normal driving.

The petrol car isn’t quite as efficient, though. It may be cheaper than its rivals to buy, but it’ll cost more to run; 34.5mpg and 169g/km is some way off the pace, since a comparable Qashqai will officially do 10mpg more.

Model: Omoda 5 1.6 TGDI Noble 5dr 7DCT
Price:£26,000 (est)
Engine:1.6-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque:183bhp/275Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:7.8 seconds
Top speed:128mph
Fuel economy/CO2:34.5mpg, 169g/km
Dimensions (L/W/H):4,400/1,830/1,588mm
On sale:May
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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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