News Detail

iCAR 03: No, This Is Not The Apple Car

Issuing time:2024-06-03 20:00Author:Ethan Robertson

What is it?

Imagine a world in which Apple didn’t give up on their plans to create an EV, and instead gave us a compact electric off-roader. I’m willing to bet that the results would have looked absolutely nothing like this, the Chery iCAR 03. iCAR is fully aware of what they’re doing with this brand name. When Apple recently announced that they were giving up on their plans to make an EV, iCAR announced on Chinese social media, “Don’t worry Apple fans, we’ll make the iCAR for you.”

It’s a silly name for a brand, and takes me back to a time when people were slapping the letter “i” in front of every single product in a sad attempt at associating themselves with the iPhone and iPod. Do you really think you can fool me into the thinking the iUmbrella or the iTable came from Apple? What you think, iStupid? At least we can say with confidence that the iCAR 03 is cheaper than any vehicle that would have come from Apple, with prices ranging from 15,400 to 23,500 USD.

iCar 03.png

Small box, big presence

Allow me to address the giant, yellow, sticker-covered elephant in the room. We borrowed this car from a dealership where it was being used for test drives, hence all the stickers. Clearly, they thought it wasn’t eye-catching enough in its original green paint color, so they wrapped it in this yellow color, including the wheels.

Look past the goofy name and the eye-searing wrap, however, and you’ll see that the 03 is a big square breath of fresh air in a world of jelly bean-shaped SUVs. Everything is in service of making this thing look squarer, including the way that the DRL and headlight units stick to the corners of the front end. Im ashamed to admit it, but while I dislike the brand name, I like the logo. Clearly so does iCAR, because as you’ll see, they’ve integrated it all over the 03.

All 03s come standard with a roof rack, and you can have your choice of 18- or 19-inch wheels. It only measures 4.4m in length, but it has the presence of a much larger vehicle. Credit that to the square shape, but also the fact that they didn’t just settle for slapping some black body cladding on this car, they gave it real fender flares that are sculpted into the bodywork.


I promised you more iCAR logos, and the rear is where I’m going to deliver. There are no less than five of them between the badges, the taillights, and the big box, though it’s hard to tell it has an iCAR logo thanks to the black wrap. Hit the dot at top of that big iCAR logo and you will discover that the box on the back isnt an undersized spare wheel cover, but rather a storage box. Don’t worry, it does lock along with the rest of the 03’s doors, though I have a feeling the little elastic straps that keep it from flopping all the way open are going to wear out in no time.

The 03 has a barn-style rear door with soft close that you can open it to any degree that you would like and it will stay open. For extra security against unwanted closing, you can open it all the way and then lock by twisting the door strut. Space behind the seats isn’t very deep, though it is quite tall, as is the load floor. There is an advantage to that, however. Having a tall floor allows you to have a completely flat rear cargo area when you lift up the seat bottoms and fold down the seat backs. Useful if you were hoping to sleep inside your 03 while camping, though you better be comfortable leaving the rear door open, because adults wont be able to stretch all the way out when its shut.


Not over-the-top

I am relieved to report that the interior designers of the 03 managed to resist the urge to create something that cartoonishly manly in appearance. Chinese 4x4s tend to fall into that trap and the result is interiors that look like they were designed by a 15-year-old boy. There are certainly some square touches, like the air vents, and you also get a variety of grab handles for both driver and passenger, but it doesn’t look like it’s overdosed on testosterone.

The iCAR 03 comes standard with a 15.6-inch screen, with lower spec models using a Qualcomm 6155 chip, and higher specs upgrading to an 8155. Before you ask, no, there is not an English menu available from iCAR as of yet, but the operating system does support Huawei HiCar.

All 03s get an instrument cluster screen, but only higher spec cars get a full color unit. Lower specs have a much simpler, black and white version. Good news is that all but the cheapest version of the 03 are equipped with a 50W wireless charging pad, and the top two specs also get a 60W type-C fast charging port.


The seats of the 03 are electrically adjustable, but the available seat functions are somewhat confusing. There are available heated, ventilated and massaging seats, but our trim level only has heating. No problem there, but I can’t figure out why they are offering adjustable leg bolsters on this spec, but not adjustable lumbar support. One of those things feels much more important than the other. The 03 has an 8-speaker sound system as standard, but a 12-speaker Infinity system is available for those with enough cash.

Second-row leg and headroom are more than adequate for someone of my stature, which is 1.75m or 5’9”. What keeps it from reaching that next level of comfort, however, is the very short seat bottoms. Overall, not a place I’d like to spend a long drive. Underneath the second-row seats is 24L of extra storage space, and while it’s not exactly well-finished, but I appreciate the effort to maximize utility.


Much better than expected

iCAR currently only offers the 03 in pure electric form, but it does have three different LFP battery packs; 50.6-, 65.7-, and 69.7-kWh. Those will get you a CLTC range of 401 to 501 km.   

If you’ve watched our reviews of other Chery products, you’ll know that the driving experience is generally not the reason you buy one. Imagine my surprise then when I jumped behind the wheel of the iCAR 03 and found that it's actually pretty darn good!

You can get this thing with a single rear motor, or the dual motor setup in this car, which delivers 205 kW and 385 Nm of torque (275 hp/285 lb-ft). That’s not mind-blowing power for a dual motor EV, but the 03 still manages to reach 100 km/h in a very respectable 6.5 seconds.

It feels even faster than that due to the soft suspension tuning, which allows the front end to rise into the air under hard acceleration. I’m not complaining about the suspension, however, because it delivers a very solid ride for such an affordable vehicle. That includes the damping, which that what I experienced in the Chery Tiggo 7 Plus.


We didn’t take the 03 through any serious trails, but it’s McPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension were more than up to the task of handling a bumpy dirt and gravel road. Ground clearance isn’t particularly impressive at just 17 cm, but iCAR does encourage you to take the 03 off-road, because dual motor models have a bunch of off-road driving modes for slippery surfaces, loose surfaces, and rock crawling, as well as available all-terrain tires.

Dual motor models also have trail turn, hill descent control, and trail cruise control. Remember when I said that the dual motor powertrain wasn’t that powerful? I think that’s because the real goal was simply to make this thing more capable off-road, and you don’t need 400 kW and a 0-100 km/h below 4 seconds to do that.   

The 03 can be had with everything from standard cruise control, to radar-guided cruise control, to level 2++ ADAS from DJI. That version forgoes the ultrasonic and millimeter wave radar of lower specs in favor of a vision-only system offering highway NOA. Even more interestingly, iCAR claims that the system can imitate the city NOA capabilities of brands like XPeng and Huawei by memorizing up to 10 specific routes measuring up to 150 km in length, even in city environments. They call this system MOD, or memory on driving. I’m also told that there are very few 03s that have been equipped with this sytem, whether due to a lack of interest from consumers, or difficulty in actually manufacturing or tuning the system, I do not know.

It will come as no surprise that the square shape of the 03 has serious implications for wind noise above 100 km/h. Driving that fast with a very boxy shape is also going to hurt your range considerably more than it would on a smoother design, so I recommend that long journeys in an 03 be taken a leisurely pace.



The iCAR 03 is a nice little electric SUV with interesting looks, good interior features, and driving experience that out-classes every other Chery product I’ve ever driven. What a shame it is that they chose to give it such a stupid name.   

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