Geely in a battle
Would you give a suitor a second shot, especially if it spent the last eight years doing everything to be an astoundingly better version of itself?
While that much time away might make the party being wooed a bit skeptical, Chinese automotive brand Geely went through incredible lengths in readying its new “portfolio” for the Philippine market, starting off with their all-new subcompact SUV, the Geely Coolray.
The Zhejian Geely Holding Group (ZGH) of which Geely Auto in China is under, has awarded Sojitz Auto Philippines exclusive distributorship of the Geely brand in the Philippines; and eager to showcase as much as humanly possible what essentially would make up Geely’s rebirth rather that a mere “return” in the Philippines, the doors to Geely Auto’s cutting edge manufacturing facilities in Hangzhou Bay were opened wide for us for close examination.
The brand’s been quite busy
Inaugurated just three months ago, Geely’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) plant looked more like an oversized clinically-clean, almost totally automated laboratory, compared to your typical modern car factory. Watching massive robotic arms moving so fast and precise to sort, position, and weld car components is almost unsettling- especially since humans make up only about 5% in the process, mainly for checking and ensuring error-free operation. The CMA plant actually has four sectors, and three of them are 100% automated. It’s built in close proximity to Geely’s 8,000 people-strong research and development campus in which a “digital twin” of the plant exists, a virtual simulation that’s constantly monitored and studied closely for quality control and improved efficiency, down to a “proper torque on a single bolt” accuracy. We (the Motoring Media) were then brought to their futuristic Geely Experience Center, where the full line-up of their most current nameplates, special-purpose built and concept vehicles are on display. Impressive is an understatement, even despite chucking aside the cliché about Chinese cars “coming of age”.
Raring to get a good close look, and of course a thorough hands-on experience with what’ll represent Geely’s new revolution in the Philippine market, top execs from Geely Auto expounded on the proverbial cherry on the cake, which we sort of knew of beforehand- that their mother corporation ZGH, has acquired under Geely Auto, the Swedish auto brand Volvo (among several like Proton, Lotus, and the London Electric Vehicle Company- makers of the iconic London Taxi).
Now that makes for more than a sensible strategic move, that goes far deeper than the presumed “reverse-engineering with consent”, but a close collaboration between Geely and Volvo with regard to further development of cutting-edge automotive technology and stunning design. What can be safely presumed would be the direct and significant infusion of Volvo DNA into the brand. So are we convinced yet?
See if you can “catch some ’ray”
Bold enough for a side-by-side comparison, we saw what makes up the competition in the Philippine market lined up in Geely’s crosshairs: The BMW X1, Honda BR-V, Hyundai Kona, and the Ford Ecosport baking under China’s summer sun in a portion of a racetrack in Hangzhou. After a brief walk-around, spec talk and brief Q&A on the Geely Coolray with their product specialist, we finally, and oh-so-briefly had our seat time in its cockpit, and on the track.
Specs first: the Geely Coolray is equipped with a 3-cylinder Turbo-charged 1.5-liter Gasoline engine, mated to a 7-speed (wet type) dual-clutch automatic transmission. Now if the 3-cylinder configuration sets off an exclamation point in your head, the power rating of 177hp and 255 Newton-meters of Torque with a claimed 0-100 Km/h sprint of under 8.0 seconds might reassure you. Oh, and an average 15Km per liter of fuel mileage also tends sweeten the deal.
With a maze of traffic cones made up of a short straight, sweeping to tight turns and a final switchback, we tested each and every vehicle lined-up, of course in vivid comparison to the Geely Coolray. I’d love to say more, but the test drive was quite short- still, the differences were glaring. Right off the bat, the Coolray’s straight line acceleration tops the whole bunch. Smoothness of the ride pertaining to the engine, handling and ride comfort are so characteristically Volvo-like. I quipped on my Fb live broadcast then that it’s akin to an ice-cube sliding on a glass table. In that short drive exercise, the Coolray shone overall. My only niggle is that when driven aggressively, it seemed to have the most pronounced body roll. I foresee it’ll be easily tweaked and corrected based on our feedback prior to its release in the Philippines on the last quarter of this year.
’d need a lot more column real estate if I were to touch on its technology like smart-automated parking etc., so I’ll save that for my next article. The Geely Coolray will come in two trim variants, utilizing a single engine type for both, and will have an estimated SRP of P1.2-1.3 Million. Well Geely, it looks like the local market stands to be positively zapped by the Coolray.
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