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Close, but no cigar for Geely Emgrand

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IOL mot pic jan31 Geely Emgrand 1

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Emgrand is to Geely what Lexus is to Toyota, its quality brand. But well-equipped 1.8-litre EC7 still falls a little short.

WHEEL WOMAN REVIEW: Geely Emgrand 7 1.8 GT EXECUTIVE

Durban - I really wanted to like the Geely Emgrand EC7. On paper, the EC7 makes all other cars in the R165 000 to R175 000 price bracket look like rip-offs.

It’s the size of a Corolla and packed with features, all standard: radio/CD/MP3 sound system, automatic central locking, leather interior, trip computer and a power driver’s seat.

I’m not sure that it quite lives up to its “luxury” tag. Luxury Lite, perhaps.

Emgrand is to Chinese car maker what Lexus is to Toyota and Infiniti to Nissan: its luxury brand.

The EC7 scored an impressive four out of five stars in the Euro-NCAP crash tests, so that takes care of safety concerns, and it comes with a five-year or 100 000km warranty.

IOL mot pic jan31 Geely Emgrand 2

Emgrand comes with the reassurance of a five-year warranty and an impressive safety rating.

That’s a lot of car for R165 000.

Or even R175 000 – that’s what the Executive model costs, thanks to extra features: a “four way directional” driver’s seat, sunroof and side airbags.

The 102kW, 1.8-litre petrol engine delivers adequate, if not exuberant, performance. There’s a slight falter on pull off, but it’s willing enough on the open road, with some working of the gears.

Fuel consumption is a claimed average of 7.6 litres per 100km.

So why drive a cramped little hatchback with cloth seats when you can get about in all that leathery space, with a great big boot for the family and a sunroof too?

PUBLIC PERCEPTION

IOL mot pic jan31 Geely Emgrand 3

Iinterior is not as solid or refined as its far pricier competitors, and the steering is far too light.

Well, there are those who equate Chinese with cheap and nasty and wouldn’t go near a car from that country, no matter how much spec was thrown at it.

But it’s worth remembering that not too long ago, that was the public perception of Korean cars.

They kept their cheap-with-lots-of-spec appeal, lost their bland beige interiors and kitsch touches, got some European designers in, then watched their sales figures take off, and their cars start to win awards.

For now, the Chinese have a way to go in shifting perceptions as Koreans did, and while the EC7 certainly won’t hinder that process, it’s some way from hitting the sweet spot.

It looks and feels like the automotive equivalent of those ornate, throne-like lounge suites which the mass-market furniture stores do instalment deals on.

FAUX GRANDEUR

And something about the driving experience makes you suspect that quality was sacrificed in creating all that car for that relatively low price, and that with a little wear, that will start to become apparent.

It’s not as solid or refined as its far pricier competitors, and the steering is far too light.

That said, Geely deserves praise for getting quite a few things right.

For starters, the EC7 isn’t a shameless rip-off of another car or cars, something which can’t be said for some other Chinese cars.

It’s spacious and comfortable, and comes with the reassurance of both a five-year warranty and a rather impressive safety rating.

So yes, there is lots to like, but while it’s a good effort, the Emgrand EC7 is not quite grand. Yet. -Star Motoring

FACTS

Geely Emgrand 7 1.8 GT EXECUTIVE

Engine: Four-cyl, 1.8-litre petrol

Power: 102kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 172Nm @ 4200

0-100km/h (claimed): – 10.5 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 185km/h

Consumption (claimed): 7.6 litre per 100km

Price: R174 990

Warranty: Five-year/100 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Chevrolet Cruz Sedan 1.4T LS (103kW/200Nm) - R242 100

Hyundai Elantra 1.8 Executive (110kW/178Nm) - R269 900

Kia Cerato Sedan 1.6 EX (95kW/157Nm) - R233 995

Toyota Corolla 1.6 Advanced (90kW/154Nm) -R243 100


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