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China’s cheekiest copycat cars

Car Buyer logo Car Buyer 15/04/2017 Carbuyer
China’s cheekiest copycat cars © Carbuyer China’s cheekiest copycat cars

China is one of the fastest-growing economies on the planet and a huge market for upmarket European cars there is rapidly emerging. Prestigious, internationally renowned brands such as Mercedes, BMW and Audi are experiencing huge success in the country and growth shows little sign of abating.

The year 2016 was a bumper one for car sales in China. Almost 25 million buyers took a new car home, many of which were built by Chinese production arms of companies we’re familiar with, such as Honda and Ford. However, the country’s indigenous carmakers are becoming keen to cash in on the increasingly westernised tastes of Chinese motorists.

However, rather than creating rivals to the most desirable western cars, some manufacturers have taken to imitating them instead. Many of the best-known cars from Europe and America have Chinese doppelgangers, but while many are all-but-indistinguishable from the originals, their Chinese makers aren’t necessarily breaching any law. Unlike counterfeit watches or consumer electronics, these cars are sold under their own manufacturer branding and are, therefore, not pretending to be something they aren’t.

Of course, these uncanny resemblances are entirely deliberate. Many of these cars have a similar visual appeal to their well regarded Western counterparts and can be sold at a far lower price to suit increasingly aspirational – though cash-strapped – Chinese buyers. The lower price means that construction standards, technology and safety are often far less sophisticated than similar-looking western models, which typically hit the market after a more extensive development programme.

Here’s our rundown of the most blatant examples of Chinese copycat car design, and the European and American cars that ‘inspired’ them.

LandWind X7 and Range Rover Evoque

The LandWind X7 is notorious for being one of the most conspicuous examples of Chinese imitation. It’s impossible not to spot the design similarities between the X7 and the Range Rover Evoque, even down to the positioning of the LAND WIND lettering on the bonnet. This has caused considerable anger from Jaguar Land Rover, maker of the Evoque, particularly as the X7 sells locally for around £14,000, undercutting the imported Evoque on the Chinese market by £35,000. The X7 is actually a larger car than the Evoque, but as convincing as it looks on the outside, its interior and general quality is a far cry from that of the British-built original, while the engine is a Mitsubishi design.


...and here's its Landwind X7 double (Photo credit to Navigator84 via Wikipedia commons) © Provided by Car Buyer ...and here's its Landwind X7 double (Photo credit to Navigator84 via Wikipedia commons)

Zotye E30 and. Smart ForTwo

The 2015 Shanghai Auto Show was positively heaving with small electric cars and the Zotye E30 was one of the most widely discussed. Its resemblance to the Smart ForTwo is immediately apparent – although the Zotye is markedly smaller than the German original, its body shares the look of the Smart’s individually painted Tridion safety cell and wheel-in-each-corner layout. With a driving range of around 93 miles and a top speed of almost 50mph, the Zotye is no Tesla, although it does imitate the Model S’ large centrally mounted tablet-style control screen.

G Patton and Spartan APC

The name of this bulky SUV pays tribute to George S Patton the famous, highly decorated US Army General and commander of the Seventh Army in World War Two, but the G Patton is far from an all-American hero. The 19-foot long vehicle takes its influence from a number of North American off-road-capable vehicles, not least the Canadian-built Spartan APC from Streit Group, a specialist in armoured military and civilian vehicles. However, while the Spartan uses a 6.7-litre Ford diesel V8 engine, the G Patton uses a 6.8-litre V10 of unspecified origin.


... and the Chinese G Patton has all the looks, but does it have the strength? © Provided by Car Buyer ... and the Chinese G Patton has all the looks, but does it have the strength?

Eagle and Porsche Cayman

The Eagle is one of the more glaring examples of a Chinese carmaker being ‘inspired’ by the looks of a product from a respected European marque. It’s an electric car, which is reportedly powered by a compact and relatively unsophisticated battery pack, to provide a top speed of around 70mph. Although its apparent range of 160 miles is reasonable, its performance won’t give Porsche management many sleepless nights – even with a shield-shaped badge that seems very similar to that of the Stuttgart giant.


...while the 70mph electric Eagle from China may share looks, but its performance is a way off © Provided by Car Buyer ...while the 70mph electric Eagle from China may share looks, but its performance is a way off


JAC A6 and Audi A6

It’s one thing to imitate the looks of a car, but quite another to steal its name as well. Yet this is exactly what JAC did with its Audi A6-inspired large executive car, which is also named the A6. Its external resemblance to the German car is striking, particularly around the grille and headlamps, which are near identical but for the badge. Inside, though, any similarities end and the JAC car exhibits a rather less Germanic look with an dashboard that’s more Aldi than Audi.


...and a rather pricier one than the Chinese JAC A6 which shares not only looks, but a name, too. (Photo credit Navigator84) © Provided by Car Buyer ...and a rather pricier one than the Chinese JAC A6 which shares not only looks, but a name, too. (Photo credit Navigator84)

BAIC X424 and Jeep Wrangler

In designing the X424, BAIC seems to have distilled the characteristics of an entire brand into one impenetrably named SUV. You can see all manner of Jeep style references in the X424, starting with the previous-generation Cherokee around the headlamps and grille, and continuing along flanks that closely resemble those of the long-wheelbase Wrangler, complete with exposed door hinges. However, BAIC previously had a relationship with the American brand that saw it build Jeep models under license, so it may have a legitimate claim to using their likeness.


...and the BAIC X423 does more than hint at the Chinese company's previous relationship with Jeep © Provided by Car Buyer ...and the BAIC X423 does more than hint at the Chinese company's previous relationship with Jeep

BYD S7 and Honda CR-V

Here’s another example of the imitation being virtually indistinguishable from the car that inspired it. Every external feature seems to have been reproduced in minute detail, which is no doubt very flattering to Honda’s designers, although its marketing team is likely to be rather more alarmed by this cut-price imposter. As with most cars in this list, though, it seems that an authentic look is more important outside than in, where the BYD car is rather different to its Japanese progenitor. There’s a traditional floor-mounted gearstick rather than the Honda’s dash-mounted item and the CR-V’s split-level dashboard design is nowhere to be seen.


...which gives the near-identical Chinese BYD S7 rather a head start © Provided by Car Buyer ...which gives the near-identical Chinese BYD S7 rather a head start


Geely GE and Rolls-Royce Phantom

When a car is as game-changing as the Rolls Royce Phantom was when it first stunned onlookers back in 2003, it’s hardly surprising that it should influence the future designs of other luxury car makers as they rush to catch up. In the case of the Geely GE, it’s the proportions that must have struck a chord with the designers more than anything else. Of course, what a car with this much gravitas really needs is a distinctive grille to really set it off – so Geely has employed one that’s a dead ringer for the Phantom’s. But did the company really have to take the Spirit of Ecstasy emblem, too?


...So Geely imitating it with the GE is a pretty brave move. © Provided by Car Buyer ...So Geely imitating it with the GE is a pretty brave move.

Lifan 330 and MINI

The Lifan 330 isn’t actually a slavish reproduction of a famous European car design, but it does pastiche the second-generation MINI – and other iconic European cars such as the Fiat 500 – in rather too many ways to be seen as an entirely independent design. Unusually, although the headlamps, ‘floating’ roof and rear light positioning recall the MINI on the outside, the similarities are actually more acute inside, right down to the design of the door trims and the way the stereo is housed in a circular pod reminiscent of the MINI ‘central instrument’. The Lifan 330 website even says “Three-spoke sport steering wheel design and mini-style leather are more fashionable and classic”, which is pretty brazen by anyone’s standards.


...but the Lifan's interior puts you in no doubt as to what its designers were 'inspired' by. © Provided by Car Buyer ...but the Lifan's interior puts you in no doubt as to what its designers were 'inspired' by.

Zotye T600 and Volkswagen Tiguan

There’s little denying that the Zotye T600 looks extremely similar to the Volkswagen Tiguan, right down to its nose styling that closely follows VW’s very latest corporate design language. The similarities are less marked at the rear and dissolve further when you sit inside. However, a Sport model adds another level of intrigue to the interior – there’s a VW-style driver-configurable dashboard instrument display and a rotary gear selector that rises from the centre console in the style of that used by Jaguar and Land Rover. Power is from a 1.5 or 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine – not believed to be related to the Volkswagen engines of the same size.


So Zotye seems to simply copied theirs from Volkwagen when styling the Chinese T600 SUV © Provided by Car Buyer So Zotye seems to simply copied theirs from Volkwagen when styling the Chinese T600 SUV

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