Photo: Li Shi Guang Mi
As China settles into its role as the world’s largest car market, domestic car manufacturers are working overtime to find ways to satiate the needs of the country’s increasingly mobile populace.Unlike the West, however, China’s car market doesn’t have the 100+ years of automotive history we benefit from, which leads its domestic car manufacturers to build some, well, interesting vehicles.
Though China’s car industry has evolved past carts powered by lawnmower engines, it still produces vehicles that leave us Westerners a bit dumbfounded.
Here are 10 modern Chinese cars that leave us scratching our heads.
Great Wall's Hover π (yes, that is the pi symbol) is a stretch-limo SUV that you can buy from the factory, and, yes, the interior is a combination of horrid plastics and the terrible décor of a 1980s hotel.
But this is China, where the ultimate display of wealth is having someone else do the driving for you.
So while the Hover π may look like a cheap prom-night special to us, it surely carries some status in its native land.
Conflicted car buyers who long for a 1999 Mazda Protégé but find it a tad too attractive and too powerful should be stoked on Haima Auto's Happin sedan.
Haima Auto is a joint venture between China's First Auto Works (FAW) and Mazda, so it's safe to say that the Happin is made from genuine -- if not ancient -- Mazda tooling.
What perplexes us about this car, though, is that Haima also sells its own version of the Mazda3 -- the successor to the Protégé and a much better, much more attractive car.
The Happin does only cost 60,000-70,000 yuan, which, for the equivalent of only $9,500-$11,000, gets you a 1.5 liter engine with a whopping 112 hp and 108 lb-ft of torque.
Similar to the Haima Auto Happin, Soueast's V3 Lingyue is the result of another legitimate joint venture, this time with Mitsubishi.
Yes, this car uses the old Lancer tooling, and as most car guys know, the Lancer forms the base of the awesome Lancer Evolution.
All V3s are powered, however, by an underwhelming 1.5 liter four cylinder with 118 hp.
The car also features fender gaps large enough to house a small family in but that doesn't stop Soueast from trying to brand the V3 as a genuine, thrilling racecar with available EVO-inspired wings and body kits that let the car at least look like it can hit the speed limit.
But we can't see the point of the V3 when Soueast already distributes the actual Mitsubishi Lancer in addition to a custom variant of the current Lancer called the V5.
While technically not a production vehicle, the HNUSP L-DDC -- built by the National University Science Park of Hunan Provence -- is one of the more infamous vehicles to hit the Chinese auto show circuit.
Though its odd layout -- two wheels on the side, one wheel in front and one in the rear -- was designed with a low drag co-efficient in mind, the result is a car that appears to be as stable as a Reliant Robin.
A quick look at the BAW site shows that the bulk of its product line is Jeep knockoffs, with the Zhanqi looking to be the most unfortunate of the bunch.
The Zhanqi can best be described as a stretched Jeep Wrangler. Only uglier. And with less power.
And just worse in every way imaginable.
Not all Chinese cars are ripoffs of Western machines, nor do they all look like something out of the feverish dreams of a hamburger-shilling clown.
Some, surprisingly, exhibit the progressive styling of the Soviet Bloc circa 1982. Case in point: the Zotye Auto JN Model, a car built to sub-Yugo standards.
With three cylinders and just 35 horses under its questionably designed bonnet, the JN is a car that struggles to maintain speed even in gridlock.
But this JN Model isn't about speed; it's about practicality: the not-at-all Photoshopped promo materials show that the JN Model can carry an elephant in its hatch, so at least it's got that going for it.
Li Shi Guang Ming's Detroit Fish became an internet sensation when it was shown at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
An electric car designed to establish a unique Chinese design language, the Detroit Fish looked instead to be the adult-sized version of the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe.
Guys looking to make up for a lost childhood can have one for just $6,800, or they can spend a bit more on something even stranger.
All of Li Shi Guang Ming's cars are more than worthy of being included on this list, but it's the company's The Book of Songs (and, yes, that's its actual name) that is the oddest.
For just a hair under $8,000, you too can drive an electric car that boasts both the sex appeal of a clown shoe and the thrills that only a 28 mph top speed can bring.
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