Qoros: How a Chinese Sedan Became the Safest Car in Europe

It was early March when I was first introduced to a new car model from China which, like all the others before her, had unrealistic ambitions. She said she had nice proportions, was well schooled and could do some things better than her European counterparts. But because of her grayish appearance and the dozens of European hotties around, I completely forgot about this Oriental creature.
This is the story of the Qoros 3 Sedan, a model that came out at the Geneva Motor Show. It was the same venue where I saw the Lamborghini Veneno, LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, so you'll excuse me if I didn't care about the Chinese car for very long. But oh how wrong I was. A thick slice of humble pie for me please!

Just like I expected, Qoros lacks the marketing and sales network of a European brand, but I'll get to that later. However, what I didn't expect is that it's actually a good car. While most Chinese imports have failed miserably to meet Euro NCAP requirements, receiving only 2 or 3 stars, Qoros has just received the maximum of five.

That wasn't huge deal to me until I started reading the details of the crash test results. In the compact car class, Euro NCAP has tested 8 other cars under the more stringent 2013 regulations, and while all got a five-star ratings as well, none of them managed 95% adult occupant protection like our Asian friend. The crashers and smashers even mentioned the cell of the car was amazingly strong.

The Qoros 3 compact car is the first Chinese-built model to ever receive a 5-star rating from Euro NCAP and has received very high scores in all categories. The real eye opener was when I compared it to the 2013 Skoda Octavia test. Little miss China scored 87% for child occupants(+1% over the Octavia), 77% for pedestrian protection (+11% over the Octavia) and a massive 81% for safety assist (+15% over the Octavia).

How has an unknown Chinese car managed to top one of the safest cars in its class? Think that's Skoda's fault? No, the closest match I was able to find in Euro NCAP's compact car crashes is the BMW 3 Series, but that's been tested under 2012 regulations and much more expensive as well.

The Qoros brand is a joint venture between Chery Automotive and an Israeli company. Right now, they are selling for €21,000 only in Slovakia through a multi-brand dealership in the capital Bratislava. It will be at least three more years until they can sell them in most major European markets, and even then it won't be anywhere near the hundreds of thousands of Skoda Octavias sold every year.

Meanwhile, I think, Skoda is doing quite well in China. Ironic isn't it?

While the little Chinese model has won me over, the same can't be said about the rest of Europe. This is a very brand-focused corner of the world where its kind has never been acknowledged. MG Motors, Geely and Great Wall all sell vehicles in Britain. Great Wall also has a factory in Bulgaria where it makes pickups, while MG makes the MG6 from imported kits in Britain. Boring aren't they?

The Qoros 3 has something they don't which is top European executives. Klaus Schmidt, Executive Director of Vehicle Engineering, was formerly a senior manager at BMW M-Power. They also have some top branding people, like Volker Steinwascher, a former head at VW USA, and Gert Hildebrand, former head of styling at MINI, responsible for stuff like the Paceman and Rocketman.

Hearing the Qoros 3 scored 5 Euro NCAP stars is like hearing that rewarding "clink" sound in baseball – it's the first part of a successful home run. These underdogs have worked hard and I'm rooting for them.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
Mihnea Radu profile photo

Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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