Cars > Driven

Changan CS55 Plus Luxe: Understated, competent upstart

All the bells and whistles in a handsome body

A serious contender in the crossover war. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Sometime last year, I reviewed the Changan CS35. Much as I liked the car, I couldn’t get over the intrusive lane-departure warning chime, and I said as much.

So, when Changan Philippines offered to lend me its bigger brother—not to mention my surprise that they still wanted to lend me a unit in the first place—I braced myself for a few more days of incessant chirping and nagging at how I sucked at lane discipline.

But to my surprise, the CS55 Plus gave me no such problems. In fact, the first impression was positive from the get-go, because Changan’s chunky, creasy design aesthetic works better for the CS55 than it does for the CS35.

Looks good from any angle. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The silhouette is familiar and doesn’t stray from the crossover look with the big windows, so it relies on a highly stylized front fascia and 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels to set the tone.

With a bigger footprint than the CS35, the CS55 has a more proportional look that’s just about right for people looking for a compact SUV that’s big enough for most of their needs.

In fact, with an overall length of 4,515mm and a width of 1,865mm, it’s bigger than the Honda HR-V (4,385mm and 1,790mm), not to mention being more affordable.

The CS55 starts at P1,155,000 for the Lite and goes up to just P1,310,000 for this Luxe variant we tested. The HR-V starts at P1,389,000 for the nonturbo S and climbs all the way to P1,739,000 for the RS Turbo.

Look closer and you can see the real tailpipe peeking out from under the bumper. That's a fake exhaust tip. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

So, like other similarly sized Chinese crossovers like the Haval Jolion and the GAC Emkoo, the CS55 Plus has a distinct advantage over traditional Japanese stalwarts when it comes to initial bang-for-the-buck. Long-term reliability and after-sales support?

We’ll find out in a few more years. But for now, we can tell you that the car makes a good and lasting impression.

Decent thrust with this 1.5-liter turbo. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Power from the 1.5-liter turbo four is smooth and quiet, and the seven-speed DCT has three distinct shift and throttle programs to suit your needs: Eco, Normal, and Sport, all working as their title suggests.

In lieu of paddle shifters, the little shifter (which looks like an expensive Thrustmaster, by the way) has a plus/minus shift gate.

Engaging manual mode isn't as tactile as it could be, but at least you can with this DCT. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

You’ll hardly ever use it in everyday use since the transmission computer is rarely ever flustered. When you do decide to use it, you’ll find that it’s never going to be as satisfying as banging a longer shift lever used in older cars.

It’s still better than nothing, of course. Given a light foot and favorable driving conditions, urban fuel economy hovers in the 10km/L range.

The oval steering wheel looks great, but takes some getting used to once you twirl it and the radius constantly changes in your hands. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Similarly, the steering has the same anesthetized, overboosted feel so common among Chinese cars that you can barely tell how much grip you have left until the traction control kicks in.

There are no surprises with the softly sprung suspension either, and while it doesn’t wallow in fast corners, neither will it inspire you to get frisky.

The 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels are distinctive and won't be a pain to clean. Good tire spec, too. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Props to Changan for speccing quality Dunlop Grandtrek tires, sized 225/55.

To be fair, nearly all Chinese crossovers handle the same, which is to say the engineers seem to really dial in a cloud-like ride at the expense of responsiveness. You want a great-handling crossover without having to upgrade the suspension? Pay up for the Honda.

The e-shifter and the e-brake free up space underneath for a small shelf. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

On the other hand, the cabin is beautiful. The dashboard sits low, and the oval steering wheel has a touch of sci-fi to it. The instrument panel and the infotainment screen rise up from the dash, and there are just enough leading lines, curves, and textures to create a minimalist, organic look.

There are physical buttons for the A/C blower and the temperature (yay!), but all stereo functions can only be accessed with either the touchscreen or the steering-wheel buttons. On the flip side, the cockpit has an uncluttered look while still providing decent space for your things. There’s a shelf beneath the center console large enough for a small bag, and it also supports wireless charging.

The all-digital instrument panel can be configured several ways. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen supports Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink connectivity, as well as voice control. Crucially, this is where you’ll spend a few minutes before driving off so you can set your preferences for the driver-assist system.

The Luxe variant gets all the latest tech such as adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, forward collision warning, traffic jam assist, and autonomous emergency braking.

These are aside from the front and side airbags, traction control, hill hold, and stability control with rollover mitigation. Naturally, the lane-departure warning and the lane-keep assist were the first two things I deactivated with ease.

The 360° camera system even has a recorder function. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

However, even if you keep them on, they’re not as obnoxious as in the CS35 Plus. And full props to the 360° camera system. It’s hard to go back to a car without the latter; it just eliminates blind spots when you’re parking in tight spaces. The Changan even has a drive recorder function.

The cabin is roomy enough for five adults, and will easily fit long cargo if you fold down the rear seats. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

There’s decent space at the back for three Asian-sized adults, and the cargo area has a flat floor when you fold down the rear seat backs.

Comfort-wise, the front seats have side and shoulder bolsters to keep you in place during hard cornering, but the two-tone leather might not age well after several thousand kilometers and who-knows-how-many spilled drinks and crumbs.

Changan even throws in a power moonroof. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Fit-and-finish is right up there with its peers, so long as you don’t mind perennially wiping off the piano-black and satin-silver panels. The paint quality, for example, shames one or two Japanese brands.

Our demo unit was at around 7,500km and felt solid as a rock—no telltale squeaks or rattles to ruin the good mood.

Even in Luxe trim, there’s no denying that it’s a screaming deal for anyone willing to give Chinese brands a whirl. It’s not inherently sporty, but its cosmopolitan style and long list of features make it worthy of consideration.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline
Transmission7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power185hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque300Nm @ 1,500-4,000rpm
Dimensions4,515mm x 1,865mm x 1,680mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideComprehensively specced. Classy style. Very good fit and finish. Comfortable ride.
DownsideLackluster handling dynamics.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.