After a six-month delay meeting exhaust gas and noise emission regulations, the first Chinese car is on sale in Brazil.

It is the compact Changhe Ideal whose name had to be changed for after Fiat objected to the similarity to its Idea minivan.

So the little car is now called the Effa M100. It is a five-door hatchback, 3.56m long on a 2.34m wheelbase, and powered by a Suzuki-designed, one-litre, 47 bhp engine. At R$23,300 (US$14,500), it's the lowest-priced car on sale here.

The two-door Fiat Mille (an updated 1980s Uno) sells for R$200 ($125) more but is sparsely equipped. The Chinese car has air-conditioning, front power windows, remote locking and radio/CD player, among other goodies, as standard. However, the M100 feels fragile and finish is very poor.

Effa Motors, the local group that represents Changhe, plans to start cautiously by offering just 200 units monthly through six dealers in the Greater São Paulo area.

The cars come in via Uruguay yet are subject to full  35% customs duty. There are plans to produce it in the neighbouring country, with no start date so far.

Effa is also importing a Hafei Auto light utility line: a pick-up and two vans - delivery (780kg payload) and seven-passenger with the same engine as used in the M100, but longitudinally mounted.

For Brazil conditions, all three are underpowered which is likely to result in shortened mechanical life.

Fernando Calmon