China has had a long history of knockoff cars in their industry. Rather than be able to put together great vehicles on their own, China simply copies what works in Europe and the United States. A key reason is that China’s manufacturing capabilities are lower than other nations which means many of their cars are pretty cheap. That’s okay for Chinese customers who prefer simply driving in the city or the countryside rather than high performance. A few do gain popularity because of how they cost far less than the original model which makes them more plentiful.
Most Chinese knockoffs are forgettable, laughable and downright pathetic compared to the original models. However, some actually do have fans in the United States. In some cases, it’s how they have a great performance for a lower price while others can be appreciated for their style. A few really stand out more for how they look than how they perform to make them must-drives. Here are 16 cases of Chinese knockoffs U.S. drivers actually like and may even prefer over the real deal.
16 Dadi Shuttle BYD F8
This is almost an identical twin for the Land Cruiser Prado and it’s a pretty good one. The only reason Toyota hasn’t sued is because they don’t want to lose their very cozy contracts in the nation. It actually looks more like a Prado in the front and the Honda CR-V on the sides. It has an impressive 2.8-liter Isuzu engine that produces 57kW at 3,600 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm which means the same power of a Prado at a lower price. It is pretty good at copying the Prado in the best ways.
15 Geely GE
This car gets lots of attention for being the personal automobile for the Chinese President. One would think the man could afford an actual Rolls-Royce Phantom rather than this copy yet it still looks pretty good. The interior is lush with wool carpeting, massage seats, a full bar and not too bad in terms of cost. It’s the throne-like single seat rear that gets major attention and sets this apart. For less cost, someone can ride in even better style than a Rolls Royce.
14 Zonda A9
A knockoff bus may be an odd choice for this list. Yet the Zonda A9 actually is a nice copy of the Starliner and has been a major seller in China. It boasts good interiors with some nice space for a mini-kitchen and bar, plush seating and the ability to put in extras like TV screens. Its performance is also good with much less fuel consumption than a Starliner and while a lawsuit is filed, the Zonda has also won several honors as one of the best travel buses in any nation.
13 Baic BJ80
This take on the Mercedes G-Class actually gets pretty high marks from its owners. For a start, its price is over $75,000 less than a G-Class which sure does help it become popular. Helping is the 4.0-liter V8 engine that's mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic that sends power to all its four wheels. That leads to 250 hp and while the wood and leather interiors may be a bit rough, the chance to get a G-Class copy for such a low price makes up for it.
This is pretty famous among Chinese knockoffs and many older car buffs have a soft spot for it. The Chinese army loved the Benzes so much that they built a copy of their own actually using the platform of a bus for the main body. It had five and three-door variants and powered by a 2.4 liter four-cylinder with 73hp and 172nm. True, most cars today can blow this off the road but those who like an older knockoff do like the Bamin.
11 LONGQI LS5
While it looks like a pure Range Rover, this copy has quite a few very good additions like the chromed dragons in the wheel centers and grille. The name means “red flag” in China which does fit as one of the oldest cars for the nation’s ruling party. Its performance is excellent with a twin-turbo V8 engine that delivers 530 Nm of torque and 380 hp, mated with an 8-speed auto gearbox and sprints from 0-62 in 8.1 seconds with a top speed of 137 mph. That’s a pretty impressive copy at half the price.
10 Yema F16
This is one of those cases of a knockoff mixing in two different models. Obviously, the big one is the Audi A4 Avant with its design and cargo space but it also has elements of the Austin Maestro. It doesn’t have the fancy lamps or tail lights but the slick curves do help it stand out. Also helping is the electric motor which offers 80hp from a set of lithium-ion batteries that offer a top driving range of up to 162 mph. It’s a great price for those who want an Audi copy.
9 Baic B70
Most would prefer an American made Jeep Wrangler but the B70 isn’t too bad a copy. True, it lacks the sleek curves of the original but does pack in some decent power while maintaining such things as the removable roof and rear sections, wheel arches and more. Its power isn’t too bad either with the options of a 2.0- or 2.5-liter engine option, both mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. That makes it a good off-road vehicle and cheaper than a Rover would be.
8 Geely Emgrand EC6-RV
It’s a common line but it still fits: The Emgrand EC6-RV is “the body and the looks of a Mini Cooper but the heart of a Suzuki Swift.” Combining car models can be a risk but the Emgrand actually manages to pull off a great look in size and performance. It comes in options of 1.5-liter and turbocharged 1.3-liter engines which means a very good speed for its size. Also, the company has the latest in high tech features to aid in making this a pretty good buy for those preferring a mini with some speed to it.
7 BYD F8
Yes, it's basically a total copy of the Mercedes SL-Class as it literally has the front of a Mercedes CLK Cabriolet fused with the rear of an Opel Astra Cabriolet. The 103 kW 2.0-liter engine can get 140 hp with a top speed of 180 km, much better than many sports car knockoffs. Nothing speaks to how good a job BYD did then the fact that rather than sue them for this rip-off, Mercedes formed a partnership with them instead to show even they had to admit this is a good copy.
6 Dongfeng EQ2050
Copying a car as infamous as the Hummer might seem an odd choice but somehow, Dongfeng made it work. The complex name is better ignored for things like the Warrior and that does fit. It has a very powerful frame that overcomes the cheaper materials to look impressive driving. Backing it is a Cummins EQB150-20 110 kW/2,700R turbocharged diesel engine combined with an American made V8 diesel. Throw in a 5-shift gearbox and this is a machine ready to handle rough areas and haul things nicely. It’s also much cheaper than the Hummers that still clog American roads.
5 Fengshen AX4
Yes, the Chinese can even do knockoffs of their own knockoffs. The Fenshen AX4 is a knockoff of the MG GS yet it manages to do it with some style. The 1.5 liter engine can provide 120 horsepower with a 5-speed manual and 6-speed automatic. The car boasts a very good entertainment system which aids it for a family ride. The hatchback style is dominated by the huge fog lights and its nice curves make it a good ride for the millenia set.
4 Landwind X7
This Range Rover knockoff gets heat for how blatantly a copy it is but still has some good elements. It boasts the Mitsubishi-sourced 4G63T engine mated with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed auto. That means a top speed of 110 mph, which is pretty good for a jeep. It’s lighter than a Range Rover which does help in some areas and is basically the same performance for over half the price. Grab one while you can as a court recently ordered Landwind to cease production and pay costs for the obvious copy which still stands well.
3 Diablo VT
One has to admire how this was put together. Two car buffs figured that if they couldn’t afford their own Lamborghini Diablo SV, they would just build their own. They put together pieces of a Diablo with a Toyota-sourced V8 engine to get zero to 60 in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 192 MPH. It cost the duo over $800,000 to put it all together but it was worth every penny for a copy that actually outdoes the original in some performance.
2 Youxia X
Whoever designed this must have been a major Knight Rider fan. The glowing red grill at the front is so real, you expect KITT to start talking. It’s actually modeled on a Tesla and many are amazed at how good a job the Chinese did with the engine. The electric motor provides up to 348 hp and 440 Nm of torque with the option of different batteries and a charging time on par with a Tesla. In short, buyers can get the same performance for the price of a Camry which makes this one very sweet deal.
1 Suzhou Eagle Carrie
The curves, the style, the logo on the front, everything about this car looks like a Porsche. In reality, it’s a Suzhou Eagle Carrie, which manages to combine the front of a Ferrari with the rear of a Porsche and makes it fit into one very slick-looking machine. It can go zero to 60 in 5 seconds and a top speed of 80 mph. That may sound bad in some ways yet one has to almost admire the skill in getting this combination car to actually work in any way at all as a mix of two fine cars put together.
Sources: jalopnik.com, autowise.com, carnewschina.com