Monday, June 8, 2020

Review: 2020 Geely Azkarra Luxury 4WD


Listen, this isn’t a history lesson of how Chinese manufacturers have leveled up over the recent years. This isn’t also about how this particular one, Geely now happens to own brands like Volvo and Lotus. Instead, it’s best to discuss the matter at hand: the Azkarra. See, Geely’s made inroads in the Philippines thanks to its mix of high specs and low prices. It’s a great way to draw the curious to, at the very least, check out their cars. But does all that new-fangled really translate to a world-class drive?

Ummmmm, sadly no. Sure, there’s a high degree of polish to the Azkarra’s performance—and it’s something that most drivers would need or recognize, but for the more discerning, it still can’t hold a handle to what the best compact SUVs offer.



The biggest problem of the Azkarra is down to its uneven, unpredictable dynamics. When you think it’ll behave sportily, it’ll serve up understeer; when you think it’s going to glide through a pothole, it comes crashing through—it’s hard to gauge what exactly Geely engineers wanted this compact SUV to be. Most drivers accustomed to a home-work-home commute won’t find a fault in all this, but a handful will recognize that the chassis is just too stiff, while the body frame is too soft. It’s this handful of people who won’t like having to constantly correct steering inputs be it when cruising on EDSA or taking a sweeping bend a bit too spiritedly.

Be that as it may, the Azkarra does fulfill the need of daddies with a need for speed. With a 1.5-liter inline-3 mated to an electric motor, it’s sufficiently punchy even from a standstill. Mash the accelerator, and the digital speedometer quickly reaches triple digits. The Geely G-Power engine doesn’t let out the most pleasing voice, but it’s easily covered up by the excellent sound-deadening. There’s some low frequency howl emanating from the tires, but they’re not enough to detract from the otherwise excellent NVH.



Coupled to this engine is a 7-speed wet-type dual clutch—the same sort of transmission found in high-performance European cars. Compared to other DCT setups, the Azkarra’s is much more refined. There’s some audible clunking in stop-and-go traffic, but at least there’s no accompanying physical jerkiness. Geely has also given this compact SUV selectable driving modes, though keeping things in “Comfort” results in the most balanced experience.

As the segment’s first hybrid (mild or otherwise), there’s some expectation attached to the Azkarra’s fuel economy. In that regard, the results are mixed. On one hand, the hybrid system is finicky. It won’t work when certain engine parameters aren’t met like when the Driving Mode is set to “Sport” or when the ambient temperature (basically Manila’s midday heat) is too hot. On the other hand, when it does decide to work, the entire process is seamless. It switches between power sources smoothly, though hearing the engine shut down when coasting to a stop is unnerving at times. Oh, and the resulting fuel economy? Not stellar, but not bad either: 13.15 km/L in light traffic (average 36 km/h) and 8.33 km/L in heavy traffic (average 15 km/h).



If there’s anything that Geely’s managed to nail right with the Azkarra, it’s the design. Both exterior and interior lines are clean and elegant. There will be confused looks and doubletakes from passersby, but it’s all for the right reasons. Outside, the shield-like emblem and expanding cosmos grille aren’t recognizable marks yet, but anyone with an eye for beauty will appreciate the excellent proportions. Fit and finish is already at par with the best, though after careful examination, there’s one badge loose in this particular unit—and that’s with less than 1,000 kilometers on the clock. Still, Geely Philippines assures this issue is a one-off, limited to this prototype model. The same prototype issues plague the interior as well, but it’s limited to just misspellings and bouts of Chinglish in the displays.

Speaking about the displays, the Azkarra uses a 12.3-inch infotainment screen housing Geely’s in-house GKUI interface. The Android-based system is lovely to look at with its high-definition display, and easy enough to navigate with large, easy-to-read icons. However, the lack of physical controls can make certain commands like increasing or lowering the volume a challenge. Some commands can be customized in the menu using on-screen gestures, but this doesn’t beat the tactile feel of real knobs.



The infotainment system aside, the Azkarra receives brownie points for its interior. The fit and finish, particularly on the commonly used touchpoints is superb (there are even Volvo interior parts thrown in for good measure), and the material selection such as the metallic trim and seats is top-notch. Poke around hard enough though and there are still some cheap, scratchy plastics but they’re limited to places that are hardly seen or felt save for two: the window and steering wheel switches.

Ergonomically, the Azkarra gives off a big car feel thanks to its small diameter steering wheel and flat dash. The front seats feel overly bolstered at times, but they’re mighty comfortable even after two hours of continuous driving on EDSA. Even at its lowest position, the driver’s seat is mounted high affording anyone a commanding view of the road ahead. The greenhouse is generous and the mirrors large, minimizing blind spots all around. That said, it’s odd that there’s a small degree of haze-like distortion coming from the windshield itself.



This same high seat feel is found at the back, so climbing aboard takes some stretching. Once aboard though, there’s generous amount of space thanks to the almost-flat rear floor. The rear bench itself can be reclined in two positions, improving the comfort for those at the back, but the headroom isn’t as generous because of the panoramic sunroof. The cargo area itself is deep, flat, and free of protrusions making it a family-friendly vehicle.

Priced at P 1.598-million, some will balk that this is a hefty price to pay for what’s a Chinese car, Volvo connection notwithstanding. Yet, when looked at from a purely product perspective, the Geely Azkarra is an impressive piece of tech. It’s well-loaded with features, and of course, comes with the segment’s first hybrid powertrain. These are enough to stir the conversation and generate buzz around it. But at the end of the day, is it any good? As a technological piece, yes. As a conversation starter? Sure. As a Chinese car? Absolutely. As a world-class compact SUV? Not yet. The non-enthusiast set can and will be swayed by all the toys, but until such time engineers correct weakness that is the Azkarra’s chassis, the Coolray may be more representative of the best this Chinese brand has to offer.





2020 Geely Azkarra Luxury 4WD
Ownership 2020 Geely Azkarra Luxury 4WD 1.5 Turbo 48V EMS
Year Introduced 2020
Vehicle Classification Compact SUV
Warranty 5 years / 150,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Turbo
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I3
BHP @ rpm 190 @ 5,500
Nm @ rpm 300 @ 1,500-4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 7 DCT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.33 km/L @ 15 km/h,
13.15 km/L @ 36 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,544
Width (mm) 1,831
Height (mm) 1,713
Wheelbase (mm) 2,670
Curb Weight (kg) 1,745
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Giti GitiComfort F50 Advanztech 225/60 R 18 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear, with 360-degree Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Tire Pressure Monitoring
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps No
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Nappa Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes, Dual with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB
Bluetooth
Easy Connect Smartphone Mirroring
# of Speakers 8
Steering Controls Yes

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