DRIVEN: Chery Maxime 2.0 CVT – Eastar resurrection

Chery Maxime 1

Malaysians love MPVs. Okay, maybe love is a rather strong word to use in this context, but the fact is that our rising population has pretty much forced the people carrier to become the default transportation of choice for many families, whether urban or rural.

And frankly, you’re spoiled for choice, at least if your bank account is relatively healthy. Take your pick – there’s the Japanese zen-like comfort of the Nissan Serena S-Hybrid and Mazda Biante, the European sophistication of cars like the Peugeot 5008 and Volkswagen Sharan, or, if you’re really feeling flush, the Toyota Alphards and Vellfires and Nissan Elgrands flooding the grey market (or, if you want, through official means as well).

If you’re looking for something affordable, however, your only options are of the national (Perodua Alza, Proton Exora) or of the bargain basement Japanese kind (Nissan Grand Livina, Toyota Avanza). This was the environment in which the old Chery Eastar thrived in when it came on the scene in 2008 – the Chinese seven-seater was a breath of fresh air from P1 and P2, and more car-like than the Nippon-badged offerings.

That was seven years ago, however, so the Eastar is getting a bit long in the tooth now. Early this year, Chery has finally sent in reinforcements by supplanting it with a new model, called the Chery Maxime. In fact, we’re considered such an important market for the new MPV that Chery has launched it here first, a full three months before the Chinese-market model makes its debut in Shanghai. But is the new pretender good enough to sling it out with the sub-RM90k competition? Let’s find out, shall we?

Chery Maxime 7

The Maxime is really a rather comprehensive makeover of the Eastar, and while you may still catch a few glimpses of the old car in profile, the revisions – designed by a team led by ex-GM assistant chief designer James Hope, ex-Porsche senior designer Hakan Saracoglu and former GM senior designer Sergio Loureiro – lend the new car a different outlook altogether.

The bulbous double-bubble reflector headlights have been replaced by sleeker upswept projector units joined to a broader front grille, while a single lower air intake takes the place of the previous triple inlets, flanked by vertical LED daytime running lights.

Chrome door mouldings add class as well as protection against dings and scratches, while the slim, full-width LED tail lights bring to mind cars like the Honda Civic Tourer and the Toyota Previa/Estima. You almost don’t notice the additional panels required to hide the hole left by the predecessor’s vertical tail lights. Almost.

Below the tail lights sits a wider rear number plate recess with a prominent chrome trim piece bearing the Chery badge. The rear indicators, reflectors and fog lights are housed in the bumper as before but look far better integrated, while a black lower insert gives the car a touch of sportiness. Only the busy 16-inch wheel design – which looks like the one offered on the Proton Satria Neo CPS – disappoints slightly.

The interior has also been completely revised. The minimalist dashboard and acres of fake wood have been banished; there’s now a more sophisticated design. And while there are still hints of typical Chinese brittle plastics and hollow switchgear in some areas (as well as some cheap-feeling spongy fabric upholstery), the overall fit and finish is decent enough for this price range. Although the plastics used are of the hard variety, the Maxime feels more luxurious than its rivals thanks to its smattering of leather trimming.

More of a pressing issue are the ergonomics, which are still ever so slightly off. The steering wheel only has rake adjustability – that’s fine given how cheap it is, but the range of tilt on offer isn’t wide enough, so it always sits too low. The glovebox is also quite small; it opens up deceptively wide, but the rear portion is fixed – you really only have a small slot in which to store your odds and ends.

Then there are the audio controls, which are all clustered below the upper dashboard – the simple head unit between the centre air vents, which does not even have a CD player, only features a slim LCD display and the preset buttons; everything else is manipulated by a row of buttons low down, making them harder to get to. The air-con knobs are also a bit on the small side, but there are no complaints on their operation.

I do have a complaint about the instrument cluster, though. It’s placed in the centre like on the Eastar, but it isn’t angled towards the driver; instead, it faces straight forward. It doesn’t sound like much of a problem until you realise that the parallax makes it difficult to read certain gauges accurately, particularly the speedometer when at or near the speed limit.

Chery Maxime 18

The good news is that these are really just minor bugbears that are possible to get used to with daily use, and don’t get in the way from the rest of the cabin’s good bits. One of them is space – the Maxime is one of the bigger cars in its class and it shows inside, with decent head-, leg- and shoulder room on the first two rows. The middle row can both recline and slide fore and aft.

The rearmost two seats are a little tight to be in for extended periods of time, but they are completely useable for short to medium-length journeys, and beat the pews of most of its rivals. There’s a decent amount of boot space, too, even with all the seats folded up, although Chery’s quoted 588 litre figure seems quite optimistic. Folding both rear rows results in a flat, truly commodious load bay.

For RM86,800 on-the-road inclusive of GST and insurance, the Maxime provides quite a fair bit of kit – the aforementioned LED daytime running lights are standard, as are all-round disc brakes, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel. An extra RM7,000 nets you the Premium variant, which receives a bodykit, leather seats and tinted windows, all of which are also available as options on the regular model.

In terms of safety, the Maxime gets dual airbags and ABS with EBD – par for the course for the segment, although the new Exora Premium and Super Premium variants have raised the bar with the inclusion of side airbags and stability control. The centre middle row seat also has to make do with a lap belt (all other seats have three-point belts), but thankfully Isofix child seat anchors can be found on the outer middle row seats.

Under the bonnet sits a revised version of the Eastar’s 2.0 litre ACTECO four-cylinder engine, now with the inclusion of dual variable valve timing. It produces 136 hp at 5,750 rpm and 182 Nm at 4,300 rpm, two horsepower and two Newton metres of torque higher than before. The old four-speed automatic transmission has been substituted for a CVT with a seven-ratio stepped mode, operated through the gated shifter. Chery quotes a fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per 100 km at a constant 90 km/h.

First things first – manoeuvring the big Maxime is not such an easy task. It’s fairly wide, at 1,823 mm, and guiding it through tight spaces is made more challenging by the thick pillars, tiny wing mirrors and small rear windscreen. There’s no reverse camera, but there is a distance readout from the three-cell rear sensors in the instrument cluster, which does come in handy.

Chery Maxime 56

Off the line, the Maxime pulls away cleanly, if not spectacularly – piling on the speed is a bit of a chore, as the engine can struggle to pull all 1,590 kg. Helping to mask the bulk is the cooperative CVT, which, although still a step behind the best transmissions in the business (particularly Nissan’s latest Xtronic), is reasonably responsive and smooth.

Driving it spiritedly, the car’s handling is, while not at all terrible, is nothing to write home about. The soft suspension induces quite a bit of roll through the corners, and it’s coupled to steering that is vague and lacking in feel. The brake pedal also requires quite a stab for the stoppers to kick in, even though there is a decent amount of stopping power on tap. At least it has good grip through the Goodyear Eagle NCT5 tyres, though once the threshold is passed there is a fair amount of understeer to be had.

Better to drive it in a more sedate manner, as you should in a people carrier like this. Settle down and you’ll find that the ride is pleasantly cosseting, ironing out the worst of the potholes and bumps Klang Valley’s roads can throw at you, although its high-speed ride can get a little bouncy. Noise levels are also pretty low at a cruise – you can hear the CVT’s characteristic whine at higher speeds, but it’s no deal-breaker.

Chery Maxime 15

The Chery Maxime, then, seems to have been designed purely to satisfy its intended market. It’s not perfect – far from it, in fact – but it provides more than enough space for seven people and transports them to their destination comfortably and, if not briskly, then at least at a reasonable pace.

Its flaws – some iffy interior bits, poor visibility and less-than-stellar handling – perhaps show that Chery is still not quite in step with other manufacturers from Japan, Korea and Europe, but on evidence, it is very quickly catching up.

Certainly, its competitive pricing only serves to sweeten things further – apart from the comparatively more technologically advanced Exora Turbo, the Maxime serves up a more attractive proposition next to the Grand Livina and Avanza. If you are looking for a handsome, refined MPV that won’t break the bank, this car makes a convincing argument indeed.

The Chery Maxime is on sale now at RM86,800 on-the-road inclusive of GST and insurance, with the higher-spec Premium variant retailing at RM93,800. A five-year/150,000 km warranty is included, and buyers who register before June 30 will also receive a five-year/100,000 km free service package.

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Jonathan Lee

After trying to pursue a career in product design, Jonathan Lee decided to make the sideways jump into the world of car journalism instead. He therefore appreciates the aesthetic appeal of a car, but for him, the driving experience is still second to none.



  • BBQ party on Apr 07, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Better than Exora light years ahead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 116
    • Compared to the exora, the parallax in the meter cluster will make a difference between keeping to the speed limit and getting a saman. No thank you, exora for me anytime

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 83 Thumb down 22
      • Ah Beng ProtonFan on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:44 pm

        And Exora kick this junk anytime…

        Smart people buy Exora this junk go back to China !!!

        Exora for smart Rakyat !!!

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 71 Thumb down 34
        • my friend bought chery car 2.0 last year. He told me the gearbox fail to engage n sent for repair after just few month of using. I seriously look for new chery car n now I better look for other brands.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
      • Sam cheras flat association on Apr 07, 2015 at 10:21 pm

        Anytime better than (Danny )Sam saga

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5
    • Resurrection Dino on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Sorry but if you don’t need the space, get Alza, and if you do, get the Exora. Get it anyway. At least the turbo does a good job of hauling the family and luggage, even up a hill. handling is also decent for an mpv, spare parts and mechs are everywhere.

      At this price range, one is certain to encounter sub standard quality and in MALAYSIA, it is so much easier to service a proton or perodua compared to a cherry. from A LOT of personal experience. trying not to sound like sam loo, but the cherry probably does not even bear the term RV: disposing it might be more painful than stabbing oneself with a blunt knife.

      If one only does the city run, requires absolute reliability, maybe the innova. warning: the noise from the engine above speeds of 100 is unbearable, at least to me and family. and it struggles to carry even two asian sized people up the ipph stretch of the NSE.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 4
      • I’ve once the eastar of my friends. quite surprise with the condition even it is a 5 year car with milage slightly more than 100k but looks like a 10 year old car with milage 300k++ with sounds is everywhere including at engine / during gear change.. the build quality for this chinese manufacturer is very poor… very far even compare to proton..

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2
        • ya i agree, my eastar hell a lot problem overheating n toll bac chery workshop. gearbox also got problem, cannot change gear. I wan to sell tis junk, but used car give very low price… now problem to me lah!!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
        • ya, I got one chery car too n damn hell a lot of problem. car breakdown 2 times at highway. toll bac workshop foreman said wiring, sensor rosak n need to change whole wire set. gearbox malfunction. overheat 1 times also. I plan to change other car now.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
    • Esoklah on Apr 07, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Agree, this car is much better than the jagung kampung junk exora.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 78
      • torquey on Apr 08, 2015 at 9:09 am

        The torque is important for heavier vehicle like mpv. Too bad its power output only equivalent to 1.8l while the engine says 2.0l.

        So exora turbo anytime. 205Nm is quite fast but more important is that the driver doesn’t have to push pedal hard and the mpv moves easily even with full load.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3
    • Better than Toyota Alphard, Alphard only for rich people want to sleep forever.
      Ordinary people better choice are Maxime, Biante & Exora.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13
    • china car better avoid. I also got one chery car before, after 1 years, may problems come out. oil leaking, water tank crack also, engine suddenly cannot start n toll back workshp. enough for me alrdy. anyway sold tis junk alry n now using mazda 2.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Aero (Member) on Apr 07, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Wow, I would’ve never expected to review the new Maxime, nobody seems to care about Chery now sadly. Personally, I don’t think the Maxime is a bad car, not at all, it has some ups but still too many downs. Compared to the newer Chery cars like the Arizzo 7 especially, the Maxime is simply not good enough for the price it’s asking. The Exora and Alza are both better and much cheaper, so it’s hard to recommend the Maxime. Most importantly, Chery Malaysia has yet to prove that they can assemble a reliable car, all their previous offerings have been plagued by quite severe reliability and quality issues (worse than Proton and VW).

    Anyway, good luck to them. So far, I haven’t seen one on the road. Also, is it just me, or does Chery like to copy Proton’s rim designs ? Before this, the Eastar had the Waja’s rims, now the Satria Neo’s ? Hmm…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 4
  • sudonano (Member) on Apr 07, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Chery tbh doesnt feel like it has changed the perception on Chinese cars. I still fell it looks very much like a pre 2008 Proton, rough edges here and there.

    Especially the whole ergonomics thing, I see they drew inspiration from the Megane, but the thing is, the Megane does have a joystick to control the display. In that sense the Exora and Alza aren’t half as bad.

    But the bigger issue is the reliability. Heard the Eastar didn’t have too good of a track record….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 9
  • This blog praised this china car cvt gearbox but not praising the iriz’s cvt gearbox. chery>proton

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 25
    • Maseratits on Apr 07, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      Well, Proton’s punch CVT gearbox is quite rubbish to be frank. Great car overall, but the gearbox is a let down.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 11
    • Because it’s utter rubbish. Deal with it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7
  • nighttrain on Apr 07, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Wait until they bring in Hongqi H7 then you know la..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 13
    • I own one chery mpv before. so bad, a lot of problem. car always got funny sound. gerabox breakdown 3 times. air-cond not function after 1 year. anyway I sold tis crazy chery car n change to honda civic alrdy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • Ah Beng ProtonFan on Apr 07, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Exora still look better and equip better then this junk and Alza.

    Smart people buy Exora.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 16
  • Krasher on Apr 07, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    RM90k for this crap? I rather get a recond Toyota Wish.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 7
  • PandaLion on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    seats looks like chocolate and cream theme?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • Norman on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    everything is nearly alright till i see the Alteco engine..In the mainland the mid class Chinese avoid Alteco engined Chery due to technical problem..I work in Shanghai and Guangzhou for almost 3 years..Perhap they should stick to Mitsubishi engine till they have refined and solved those hiccups

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3
  • King Road on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    chery in malaysia = proton in oversea
    (if u know what i mean)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 29
  • domainicus on Apr 07, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Seriously, there will be a market if price at sub-RM50k. More than that is just plain mystery who is the buyer. At least KIA and Hyundai USPs are stability programme and 6 airbags and much much cheaper even though they are hatchbacks. At least I see Toyota Avanza as more palatable at much lower price point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
  • Maseratits on Apr 07, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    If space is not a priority, get a Nissan GL. If space matters, get an Exora.

    I have more faith in Proton compared to Chery to produce a cheap decent car.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1
  • Interior definitely looks better than the dated looking Exora.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 15
  • local mommy on Apr 08, 2015 at 1:20 am

    When i see this carefully, i thought exora sp is overpriced. If only spareparts easy to get. I rather have this than exora sp

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 16
    • This engine churns out power of 1.8l only
      You pay for 2.0l engine, that’s waste of money

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2
  • what a horrendous looking car….best to stay away from this..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
  • punch on Apr 08, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Most of the china car also use punch CVT…their engine performance drag down by this rubbish gearbox..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
    • Contender on Apr 08, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Punch CVT is also used by Proton Exora ! Anyway Grand Livina is the best for the segment though size is just barely enough …. that’s why best seller for Nissan, Serena Hybrid and Biante would be ideal not too big like Alphard and still affordable and brand new unlike Vellfire and Alphard Estima recond with questioanable history unless you buy new from UMW Toyota.

      At 90k forget about this but if they give 10k discount which they always do then it will sell it bigger numbers. Can you imagine even China ppl also not into this …. instead Malaysian buy …. haha. Just like Malaysia is the world’s largest market for re-conditioned cars or dumping ground and we’re so proud to buy re-cond Merc, BMW, Audi, ALPHARD etc

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  • another shitbox? send them back to china plis

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4
    • maizan on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      right, chery is really a shit car. my friend got 1 unit chery car n many many problem. toll bac workshop 2 times. engine die suddenly, exhaust pipe crack also less than 1 yr. engine oil also leaking. so many brand in market now, might as well buy other brand.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • ah bing gor on Apr 08, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    This car looks damn ugly in and out! Well, at least its consistent. You can buy this car if you hate your money.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
  • din dino on Apr 08, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    selamat satu malaysia.. pada mereka yang teringin untuk mendapatkan info percuma dan test drive chery maxime 2.0 cvt dikawasan klang dan sewaktu dengannya.. boleh menghubungi saya salesman chery cawangan klang.. pastikan sebelum menghubungi saya nama x blacklist, akaun bank chantek, xde ccris, xde ctos, bukan high commitment.. sedia bantu anda untuk dapat apa saja kereta idaman anda dengan cara yang sah.. minta maaf kalau ter follow saya semasa memandu maxime dan saya terlalu perlahan ini bukan disebabkan kereta ini bermasalah cuma berusaha untuk sampai pada destinasi dengan isian rm 10 untuk perjalanan sejauh 45km. saya pun amat berharap 3s centre dibuka lebih banyak lagi diseluruh negeri.. untuk memenuhi kehendak pelangan bukan mudah tapi saya berusaha.. itu satu langkah..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3
    • RM10 for 45km city driving for 2.0l engine is nothing to shout about

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  • Garry on Apr 09, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    The old version still have mitsubishi engine now using Australia engine. This can be a challenge esp with many choices like exora, alza, livina and avanza

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • I drive Chery Easter 2.0 year 2013 now in workshop When press on the oil pedal the car moves slowly
    Sent to Chery workshop on the 22 July 2015 they tried to rectify the fault and now car engine cannot start.Only did 60K mileage.To-date still in the workshop.
    Appreciate anyone can help this problem.
    NB:Chery Easter Bad reputation.
    03 Aug 2015

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
    • my chery car 2.0 also have same problem. when press pedal, cannot move, sent back to workshop n repair. foreman repair. After few month, when start engine, the car cannot move again. Now my car still in workshop repair. I just bought this car 3 years only.. don know still can use for another 3 years.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Most of the comment is valid . However I bought a Chery Eastar 2.4 (Mitsui engine/transmission) (not the 2.0) . It was in 2009 and I am still using it. I have traveled across Malaysia and South Thailand couple of times and currently is 125km .There was no single problem with the engine or the transmission but of course other minor issues , such sensor , window motor , aircon etc. There are trade off , when the purchase price is cheap than you have to face with these problems. Chery SA advice me to go for the 2.4 rather than 2.0 which I believe it was a honest advice . I dont have plan to sell it in the near future as not bad as it seems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • zaifol chery on Jul 27, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    salam satu malaysia…
    chery maxime 2.0 cvt.
    merupakan mpv terbaik dpd chery…
    cantik dan jimat minyak..
    minor problem…
    chery eastar 2.0 st..
    suda di perbaiki kualiti
    sekarang menggunakan ACTECO engine.
    pada yg ade masalah kereta
    eastar sila whatapps saya di 013 3737 892
    saya sedia membantu..
    setiap problem pasti ade penyelesaiannya…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • Andrew on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    to all people reading this, please dont simply comment on the car even before you drive it your self. yes, i got to admit the previous model Chery Eastar is a disaster but maxime is totally another story.

    with the new blood from other automotive, chery car had improve tremendously. this mpv had lotus handling tuning ( but never advertise heavily like other brand, u know what i talking), this car engine is new engine compared what in eastar (maxime with variable valve timing), the cvt gearbox actually is sourcing from hyundai.

    no doubt when talk about china car all ppl will said its piece of junk, but thats the same thing for korean car before kia forte released which i am the proud owner of 1st batch. please do research/ study before comment.
    dont use the saudara saudari story where my brother/my friend owned 1 & bla bla bla….

    no doubt china cars still miles away from japanese / korean car (normal range only & pls dont compare with continental brand), but for sure it beats P1 anytime & perhaps P2 also with this maxime. think & act not listen & act.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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