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Goodbye and good riddance, Chery J1

The reality of life with the $9990 Chery J1 was not good.

Good riddance, we say. It's been outed by the latest regulations on compulsory electronic stability control, which have also netted and rejected the Great Wall X240 and Suzuki Jimny.

The bottom line is that ESC - a breakthrough system that uses computerised control of a car's braking system to maintain control in a potential emergency - is now fitted to every car in Australian showrooms.

Because ESC is linked to a car's anti-skid braking system, basically working it in reverse to pull a car straight if it wobbles out of line, it means we also get the benefit on ABS to prevent wheels locking and give us the chance to steer around a potential disaster.

Victoria went early on compulsory ESC but now the whole country has joined the latest safety party, triggering memories of my one-and-only outing with a J1. I spent a morning in Sydney with the Chinese cheapie and, although there was some promise, the reality of life with the $9990 newcomer was not good.

It was slow away from the lights, had wonky brakes and wobbly cornering, and I compiled a list of 18 flaws in the assembly work, from body parts that were only undercoated to a dashboard that appeared to have been made using parts from at least four companies who had never spoken about anything, let alone the need to make all their bits and pieces with the same colours and textures.

Chery changed the gearing of the J1 within a week, but that was about it. There are still some stocks of J1s in dealerships, and Suzuki says it has enough Jimnys until March of 2014, but those cars are part of the past and we're thinking about the changing safety picture in Australia in 2013.

The bottom line for the Carsguide crew is pretty simple - if a car does not score at least a four-star ANCAP safety rating then it is not tested. That's partly about protecting the test team, but mostly because the bottom line for any Carsguide verdict is whether we would recommend a car to our own family or best friends.

No-one at Carsguide is going to tell their best mate to buy a two-star car. It's the same on the secondhand side, and we also take a huge interest in any safety development work that could make our roads a better place to drive.

Feedback from the Carsguide crew alterted Mercedes-Benz to a flaw in one of its new safety systems, which uses the next development of ESC to keep a car in its lane, and we had big smiles when the latest S-Class and E-Class cars arrived with a tweak that's directly linked to our driving and writing. But we're smiling for a very different reason when we reflect on the J1.

This reporter is on Twitter: @paulwardgover