I know of some people who would rather take a bus than be caught driving a car like a Chery QQ, but Mediacorp artiste Jerry Yeo feels no humiliation in driving his bright orange QQ around.
He calls it a "moving deathtrap" due to the poor technicalities (it doesn’t even have an airbag because Jerry didn’t include that option when he bought it), but he loves it all the same because it is his and they have been through a lot together.
Big on cars and its technologies, Jerry spends a lot of time reading up on cars and even races radio-controlled cars for a hobby as a way of better understanding the setup of a car.
This way, he built up his knowledge on cars and it helps him to understand the driving dynamics behind his QQ, which he says is “necessary to survive in this car”.
Thankfully, the QQ has not caused him to lose any chances with the girls he dated.
Read more about Jerry and his QQ…
Why did you choose to get the Chery QQ?
A: It’s mainly because of the cost. When I got it three years ago I was still a student (at Nanyang Technological University) and I wasn’t sure how stable my career would be so I wanted something with the smallest liability. Back then I had a 20-over-year-old Toyota Starlet already but it was wiser to get a new car then, so I traded in my Starlet for the QQ.
Do people often ask you why you choose this car?
A: Most people say it doesn’t suit me. They say a JDM tuned car like a Subaru Impreza WRX STI would suit me more, maybe because of the bad boy characters I often play in dramas.
Do you feel embarrassed driving the QQ?
A: To be frank, not really. Only in rare circumstances, like when I’m with a girl I want to impress. For example, I am doing all the right things and I’m getting all the right responses from the girl and then I have to send her home or something and she has to see my car.
Another occasion is when I attend events in this car, especially those of luxurious brands that are held in grand hotels. I will drive right up in my QQ and feel a bit embarrassed but I usually arrive dressed in style.
Does the QQ get attention on the roads?
A: It is quite a head turner actually. It gets all kinds of responses – from people sneering and mocking at it to families with children pointing and laughing. They might be laughing at it not for its cuteness though.
How is it like driving the QQ?
A: I have to say I prefer the driving experience of the Starlet over the QQ. The QQ gives a very challenging drive. People may think there is no need to understand the car dynamics of this underpowered car, but actually this car requires good driving skills. In order to stay alive in this car, the two most important things you have to know are the different braking techniques and weight transfer.
This car is not forgiving, especially when you make mistakes. For example, when I was still new to the car, I struggled with the braking and once I lost traction in my rear wheels on the highway and I skidded. Another time I couldn’t stop the car in time and I was braving myself for a crash when the car in front moved off suddenly, to much relief.
Over time I’ve mastered the car. It is such a simple car to drive but at the same time it is very rewarding to drive it, especially when you get to your destination in one piece. In Singapore, we have the luxury of safe roads and safe cars that we tend to take them for granted. Few people will understand how it is like to have every drive as a challenge.
I do everything in my car myself and I’m quite proud of it. I run the wires myself and remove the dashboard when I put in the various gadgets. I also washed and changed the air filter myself, as well as did tyre rotation myself.
How did it feel switching over to the QQ?
A: There is a difference between an old and new car of course – a new car is always cleaner, more modern and more convenient. The QQ has all the essential things I need like four power windows and two power mirrors. It is also light and uses less petrol, hence being more environmental friendly. Most of the time I drive alone or with just one other person so a small car like the QQ was enough. It is a very cute car and it has a smiley 'face' so I gave it 'eyelids' by sticking over half the headlight covers with black stickers.
Why did you choose to get a manual car?
A: I’m a control freak when it comes to driving. I want to know everything about the car. But I don’t pamper my car like some people do. The car serves me and I don’t serve it; I just service it reasonably. The most frequent I wash it is once a month and I’m not mindful about where I park. I’ve even taken it off-roading in Malaysia.
Have you ever thought of changing your car?
A: I almost changed my car four to five times. I found the right pre-owned car deal and have already agreed on the right price. But each time when I’m 90 percent decided on changing my car, my QQ will ‘talk’ to me when I drive it next. Everything will be in place and it makes me feel like there is no reason to change it. I have to say I’ve grown attached to this car already. Every worthy driver who respects his car will know what I’m saying.
So when will you change your car?
A: When the need outweighs the attachment I have for the car. For the time being I will just drive my car all the way till its COE life ends. Since the COE prices have gone up, I decided to spend money to upgrade my car instead. Note that when I say upgrade I don’t mean illegally upgrading its performance, but upgrading of its amenities such as getting a rear view camera, a remote start system with engine push start button and keyless entry. I even gave my QQ its first polish. I am looking to get offset rims for it next to make it more stable.
What car would you ideally like to have?
A: The Suzuki Lapin SS or the Subaru Vivio RXR. I like these kinds of 'kei' cars.
In your line of work, you’ve had the chance to drive different types of cars. Which car left the deepest impression on you?
A: The Toyota MR-S. It feels like an overpowered go-kart and it was such a joy to drive. It’s a true rear-wheel drive sports car that is practical, not over-engineered, but a masterpiece.
Do you have a nickname for your QQ?
A: I don’t have any special names for it but it does have a nickname that changes with each girlfriend I have. Some of my ex-girlfriends have called it ‘Orange Bubble’, ‘Little Mandarin Orange’.
Do you think driving a nicer car will increase your chances of chasing girls?
A: Yes, a nicer car is a headstart to chasing girls. A sports car that is manly would be something to impress the girls, but only at the beginning.
Have you ever been rejected or snubbed at by girls because of your car?
A: No, it has worked out fine so far. If the girls are Singaporeans, they will understand. There was only one girl I gave a lift to before – who was not local and from a rather prosperous family – that seemed to mind the QQ. The rest never minded and instead they liked the car, saying that it’s cute and has a happy ‘face’.
Do you let your girlfriends drive your cars?
A: None of my girlfriends were keen on driving manual cars. Anyway I don’t encourage them to drive unless they are very familiar with cars; otherwise the QQ is a death threat.
Is the cost of car ownership in Singapore very high?
A: I think it is very justifiable compared to other very congested cities where you don’t even have a choice to get to your destination quickly. Our traffic here is considered very good compared to places like Beijing.
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.