As you would have heard by now, Chery is back in Malaysia after a long sabbatical, and the Chinese carmaker held a preview for the media and business partners at Setia Alam today. It was the returning brand’s first event.

The brand – which some might remember for the bug eyed QQ minicar and budget Eastar MPV from its first outing here – is now all about SUVs. Models earmarked for Malaysia include the Tiggo Pro range of SUVs (4, 7 and 8) and this striking thing called the Omoda 5.

It might not be obvious at first glance, but the Chery Omoda 5 is a B-segment SUV that’s about the size of the Honda HR-V and Proton X50. The footprint of that swoopy shape is 4,400 mm long and 1,830 mm wide, which is 15 mm longer and 40 mm wider than the current HR-V. At 1,585 mm tall, it’s 5 mm lower than Honda’s B-SUV, and the Chery’s 2,630 mm wheelbase is 20 mm longer. In the same ballpark.

In China, the Omoda 5 has seven variants including some with the 1.6 litre TGDI engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and AWD. The 194 hp/290 Nm 1.6T is good for 0-100 km/h in 7.8 seconds. There’s also a more economical 2WD 1.5 litre TCI + 9CVT powertrain with 154 hp/230 Nm, and the car you see here has this combo. How do we know? Look for the tailgate badge. The ‘230’ is the torque figure.

The Omoda 5 will also have a new energy (China’s term for electrified cars) version in its home market, with the firm’s plug-in hybrid powertrain as seen in the Tiggo 8 Pro e+. Chery also has plans for a full-electric Omoda 5 EV with a 64 kWh battery and 450 km range. More pertinent for Malaysians, at least for the marque’s launch model, is the 1.6T ICE.

The figures are par for the course, but the selling point of this “futuristic fastback crossover” is its “Art in Motion” design. I see some Hyundai in the front and a hint of Lexus RX at the rearmost pillars, but there’s no one particular SUV that the Omoda 5 references. What it does is provide a big dose of drama in the B-SUV segment, unseen since the Toyota C-HR.

Step inside Chery’s latest and your jaw will remain low. The Omoda 5’s seats look very sporty with their integrated headrests, and the dashboard design modern and minimalist. The Mercedes-Benz-style digital instrument panel and infotainment screen combo is branded as a 20.5-inch dual screen, and the horizontal AC vent strip is also contemporary.

There’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel with the Chery script (instead of the logo on the Tiggos) and there’s a high centre console to complete the cockpit feel. The latter creates a pass through below the gear lever that’s also a storage area, but what I find unique is the angle of the phone recess – it holds two phones vertically and the angle allows for easy viewing.

One can choose from 64 ambient light colours and the illumination follows the pulse of the music. Speaking of that, light is embedded in the trim strip below the AC vents, and so are the AC controls – very neat.

It’s a car of today, so the Omoda 5’s kit list includes all the essentials. You’ll find voice control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 360-degree around view monitor, and full ADAS suite with six airbags. Sunroofs are important in China and there’s one here. The main dashboard moulding and upper door caps are in soft plastic and the seats are in leather. Look closely and you’ll see Sony branding on the speakers.

So, what do you think of the Chery Omoda 5? As if the design isn’t striking enough, this demo unit comes with a novel pastel green body with a white roof and all-black blade-style 18-inch wheels. A Honda HR-V Turbo V (the most popular variant) goes for RM134,800 and the top RS Hybrid is RM140,800. At what price would the Omoda 5 be competitive in our market?

By the way, this unit does not represent the eventual local specs that Malaysia will get – planning is still in the early stages and no launch timeline was given. The preview was to show Chery’s intent and showcase its latest products.

GALLERY: Chery Omoda 5 in Malaysia

GALLERY: Chery Omoda 5 in China