The Geely LC has a rounded, somewhat blobby outline - but then, so does a panda.
The Geely LC has a rounded, somewhat blobby outline - but then, so does a panda.
The rounded, black-and-cream panda motif is repeated throughout the interior.
The rounded, black-and-cream panda motif is repeated throughout the interior.
The "panda paw-print" tail lights may be a little OTT but the Geely LC is certainly original.
The "panda paw-print" tail lights may be a little OTT but the Geely LC is certainly original.

Geely's all-new LC entry-level hatch - which Jesse Adams drove on its home turf in Shanghai recently - has landed in South Africa, with a choice of three variants, each with 63kW, 1.3-litre motivation.

Standard kit includes ABS brakes with electronic brake-pressure distribution, up to six airbags, air conditioning, power steering, sound system, electric windows and mirrors, front and rear fog-lights, and remote central locking.

But A-segment cars sell mainly on price, so we'll go there first:

LC 1.3 GS - R79 999

LC 1.3 GL - R84 999

LC 1.3 GT - R89 999

Geely says the LC's distinctive styling is inspired by that quintessentially Chinese creature, the giant panda. It also asserts that this is only the second car - after the Volkswagen Beetle - to take its design cues from a living creature.

Ferdinand Porsche would have been insulted: the VW Type 1 was derived, not from any scatter-footed scarab, but as a scaled-down version of an earlier, very streamlined design Porsche had penned for Czech automaker Tatra.

But back to the Geely…

The LC has a rounded, somewhat blobby outline (but then, so does a panda) with distinctly panda-like headlights outlined in black and a large, rounded grille as a mouth - even the door mirrors are shaped like a panda's ears.

The tail light cluster was inspired by a panda paw-print and the ignition key and (separate) remote door and boot opener are shaped like a smiling panda face.

Now all Geely has to do is to get it to run on bamboo shoots.

But seriously, the LC is the first Chinese car to earn five stars in C-Ncap crash testing. All three derivatives have ABS and EBD, the GL has driver and passenger airbags and pre-tensioned seat belts, and the top-of-the-range GT comes with side and curtain airbags as well.

A beeper sounds when the car exceeds 120km/h (which we suspect will not be a selling point in South Africa) and the rear doors have child-safety locks (which will). The GT also has rear parking sensors, which makes a lot of sense on a car with no sharply-defined corners to gauge distance.

The 35-litre, plastic fuel tank has an average thickness of 5mm and is designed to flex, rather than crack or burst open, in a crash.

The LC's 1342cc, 16-valve, DOHC engine develops a claimed 63wW at 600rpm and 110Nm at 5200rpm, driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.Geely doesn't quote fuel-consumption figures but the car only weighs 1060kg so it shouldn't be too thirsty.

Suspension is by Macpherson strut on a separate sub-frame (which is unusual in very small cars) at front, and torsion bar at the rear. Braking is entrusted to ventilated front discs and rear drums, while 14” rims (steel on the GS, alloy on the GL and GT) are shod with 165/60 radials.

The LC has a 2.3-metre wheelbase - generous in a car less than 3.6 metres long - and Geely promises comfortable seating for four, with a metre of vertical clearance over the front seats and 900mm over the rear bench.

The rear seat back is split 60:40 in case your shopping is too much for the size of the (very small) boot - which Geely carefully doesn't quote in the specifications.

The rounded, black-and-cream panda motif is repeated in the centre console, air vents and instrument faces, with the upper section of the dashboard and instrument panel dark to reduce glare and the lower part cream to give an impression of spaciousness, as well as the fabric-upholstered seats with their half-moon black “cut-outs”.

The six-speaker radio/CD/MP3 player has an auxiliary socket on the base GL model and a USB port on the GL and GT.

The LC comes with a 36-month or 100 000km factory warranty and AA roadside assistance. Optional service packages of 24 months or 60 000km and 36 months or 90 000km are available at R4 150 and R6 950 respectively.