So-called crossover cars are popping out of vehicle factories with ever more regularity, and the Chinese are getting in on the act.
The Geely LC Cross was recently launched in SA as a more rugged-looking version of the Geely LC five-door hatchback that was released here in April last year.
The cute Panda bear “face” is replaced by a more aggressive honeycomb grille and chunkier bumpers, while a slightly increased 160mm ride height, a rear-mounted spare wheel and roof rails add to the overall mini-SUV look.
But it’s no SUV, as it’s mechanically identical to the hatchback and is still pulled along by only its front wheels.
We took the LC Cross on a 400km weekend trip in an effort to test its “family car” capabilities, and while the car got four people and our luggage there and back, the exercise underlined that this is really a city car.
With 63kW and 110Nm, the power output figures of the 16-valve 1300cc petrol engine make this Geely a viable urban runabout but out on the open road it sometimes feels chronically underpowered, especially if it’s a hot day and the aircon’s running, sapping what little power there is.
With four people on board the car proved to be a real hill detector, and on some freeway inclines it was screaming away in third gear and battling to maintain 95km/h.
Reaching the claimed 165km/h top speed seems possible only if you drop the Geely out of an aircraft.
A saving grace is that the five-speed gearshift is very slick, which is handy with all the downshifting that’s necessary to stay in the power band.
Fuel consumption suffers as a result of keeping the throttle pinned to the floor in the quest for cruising speed, and the 35-litre fuel tank doesn’t make for a great range. Bottom line, this is a short-distance commuter.
In terms of fit and finish the interior doesn’t look overly cheap, as in some other Chinese cars. The materials are hard plastic and cloth, but it’s all neatly finished.
However, there are quality issues. For instance, an airbag warning light comes on, and every new Geely we’ve driven has had the same problem. Also, the Vin number on top of the dash was peeling off.
The good part is that you get a lot of spec for the money and this is one of the cheapest ways to get a car with features such as aircon, power steering, electric windows, electric mirrors and a CD/radio system.
All these features, as well as ABS brakes, are standard across the three-model range, starting with the basic GS version selling for R91 990.
Dual front airbags are found in the middle GL model selling for R97 990. The top-of-the-range GT derivative we tested, attractively priced at R104 990, ups the airbag count to six and comes with a Park Distance Control system.
The GT also has a six-speaker MP3 CD/radio with a USB input, but the port is set deep into the dash and we were unable to plug in a memory stick without an extra cable being required.
The boot isn’t very large but having the spare wheel mounted on the outside of the door frees up valuable loading space, and we were able to fit four people’s overnight bags without any hassle.
The car has tidy handling and reasonably good ride quality, and handled rough dirt roads without threatening to come undone. That said, the torsional rigidity’s not great, and this is an area where most Chinese vehicles still have room for improvement.
The Geely LC Cross could be tempting to budget car buyers seeking a large number of bells and whistles for the price, and who don’t plan on spending too much time on the open road.
More features don’t always mean more car, and the niggling quality issues are reason for wariness, but some peace of mind is provided by a 3-year/100 000km factory warranty including AA Roadside Assistance. -Pretoria News Motoring