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November 19, 2023

Review: 2023 GAC EMKOO 1.5T GL

It’s hard to take a car called “EMKOO” (yes, it’s properly stylized in all caps) seriously. At first, you’d think it’s some shoddy cosmetic brand you get at a tiange or maybe it’s the name of the latest boba pearl or yogurt drink fad from God-knows-where. Whatever mental image you come up with, the last thing you can think of is a car. But here it is. It’s the second in GAC Motor’s “Shadow” series (after the EMPOW); does it drive as well as it looks? Read on.

The styling is single-handedly the best part of the Emkoo. GAC Motor has put an official name to it: Hi-tech Industrial Aesthetics, but we prefer to call it eye-popping. The intersecting gashes and lines at the front put it in danger of being labeled as “over styled,” but it matches with the angular body work. The rear though is, without a doubt, the best part thanks to its sharply-raked hatch, vertically-set taillights, and a rear spoiler that’s made to visually intersect with the roof rails and window molding. Who cares if designers forgot to put a rear wiper? Ask anyone, even an Emkoo owner, and they’d probably not notice its absence. Except maybe during a thunderstorm.

GAC Motor’s insistence to prioritize style over form also happens to heavily influence the Emkoo’s interior design as well. From a glance, everything seems to make sense—there’s a 7-inch digital screen for the driver, a 10.1-inch screen for the infotainment, a thick-rimmed steering wheel, and a couple of switches (including the gear lever) on the floating center console—pretty standard stuff on a modern SUV. Unfortunately, the execution is less than desirable.

For example, in our preferred seating position, the steering wheel blocks out the upper corners of the digital gauges. That would have been alright if they’re blank, but that’s where the left/right signal indicator lights are. Then, there’s the infotainment system itself. As with other Chinese brands, the Emkoo relies on its touchscreen too much even for basic controls. If everything is just a tap away, I’d be okay, but because they’re buried either in sub-menus or hard-to-tap on-screen buttons, simple things like adjusting the climate control or activating/deactivating the ventilated seats become a chore. It’s even worse when you’re using CarPlay—you’ll have to exit back to the native interface to do things like switch driving modes. Oh, and yes, there are numerous instances of “Chinglish” here too. Now, designers did try to sneak in a couple of physical controls, but because of the way they’re laid out, they feel more like Easter Eggs. You see that large cylindrical toggle on the passenger side? That’s to lower or raise the cabin temperature. Weird stuff.

Then, we get to the quality of the switchgear itself: it’s inconsistent. The Emkoo has some quality stuff like the crystal-like electronic shifter, the leather wrapping on the steering wheel, and the synthetic leather on the seats. Unfortunately, there are some not-so-good bits too like the light/wiper stalks, the steering wheel controls, the interior door handles, and that one vent that tends to point down after getting subjected to some jolts.

It’s a real shame because the Emkoo does school most other compact SUVs in terms of overall space. Seating position is alright with the steering providing appropriate amounts of adjustment. The front seats are generous and supportive as well. Storage options upfront are plenty with the large glove box, deep arm rest storage bin, and two cup holders of various depths. There’s even a storage area for a smartphone beside the shifter too, but take note that despite looking like a wireless charger, it doesn’t have that functionality. The rear bench is just as good, if you’re willing to forgive the fact that there’s no center arm rest. The floor’s flat too and together with the generous cabin width, makes seating three adults side-by-side possible. On paper, the luggage compartment holds about 420 liters, but take note that because of the sharply-raked hatch, fitting tall objects may prove challenging.

When it comes to the drive, the verdict depends largely on your expectations. If you’re expecting it to drive as well as it looks, you’d probably be disappointed. That’s to say, it’s not sharp nor sporty by any measure. However, if you expect it to be a cruiser, then it hits the mark there.

On paper, the turbocharged and direct injected 1.5-liter 4-cylinder “Megawave” engine delivers 177 horsepower and 270 Nm of torque—matching this price point’s benchmark, the Geely Coolray (177 horsepower, 255 Nm) and close enough to the CR-V 1.5 V Turbo (190 horsepower, 240 Nm). However, don’t expect to go hunting Civic SiRs any time soon.

Despite a quoted sub-seven second 0 to 100 km/h time (6.95 seconds to be exact, says GAC Motor), there’s always a split-second delay before the engine decides to act on any throttle response. However, for as long as the turbo’s kept singing—peak torque hangs on from 1,400 to 4,500 rpm—the Emkoo does feel quick. The powertrain too is darn quiet with just a hint of the turbo’s psst giving you hints as to what the engine’s doing. Matching the subdued nature of the engine is the shift quality of the dual clutch automatic: it trades quick shifts for a smoother feel. With 1,540 kilograms of curb weight to carry, the Emkoo’s fuel mileage is average: 8 km/L (17 km/h), moving up to around 11 km/L (30 km/h). The fuel cap says to go for a minimum of 92 octane, but since typical regular gasoline here is rated at 91 octane, you’ll have to go straight to a 95 octane formulation like Petron XCS.

As for the ride and handling aspect, the Emkoo doesn’t send hearts aflutter too. Instead, its job is mostly isolating its occupants from the worst of Manila’s roads. The ride is mostly soft and smooth, except at the very end of suspension strokes. It’s at these times, when going over obstacles like deep ruts and badly sunken drain overs, that things can get crashy. The steering, for as long as it’s kept in the Sport setting, is pleasantly weighty and offers a sense of directness. The chassis it’s attached to though does tend to roll through corners a lot. Thankfully, the brakes do a great job of scrubbing speed when things get too hairy.

In the worst-case scenario, the Emkoo also comes with GAC Motor’s ADiGo advanced driver assist system. This gives functionalities such as autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, and even all-speed cruise control with, get this, traffic sign recognition. So, it will automatically adjust speeds not just based on trailing distance with the car or motorcycle ahead, but it’ll even do so based on the road signs the system can read. It works for the most part, but there are some instances, like its automatic high beam, that could use some adjustment (it’s too aggressive). It also comes with a 360-degree camera with a clear enough resolution, but only rear parking sensors.

Priced at P 1.498 million, the Emkoo certainly has a lot going for it: bold looks, a solid spec sheet, and a smattering of smart tech. It also manages to deliver on the basics like a competent engine, smooth DCT, and a spacious interior for five. Sadly, it falls in areas like interior build quality and ergonomics. The GAC Emkoo may not drive as well as it looks, but keep the price in the equation and it’s still a solid, well-valued compact SUV. It may not be able to do the high-tech sci-fi stuff just yet, but for as long as you don’t expect it to, it’s actually quite alright.

2023 GAC EMKOO 1.5T GL

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Bottom Line
Pros Eye-turning looks, spacious interior, solid tech specs
Cons Hit-and-miss control scheme, inconsistent interior fit and finish
TL;DR Doesn't drive as well as it looks, but still a competent compact SUV.
Year Introduced 2023
Warranty 5 years / 150,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Compact SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
Maximum Output (PS @ rpm) 177 @ 5,500
Maximum Torque (Nm @ rpm) 270 @ 1,400-4,500
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~93
Transmission 7 DCT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 8 km/L @ 17 km/h,
10.98 km/L @ 30 km/h
(fueled with Petron XCS)
Fuel Tank Size (L) 55
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,680
Width (mm) 1,901
Height (mm) 1,670
Wheelbase (mm) 2,750
Curb Weight (kg) 1,540
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Giti GitiComfort 225 V1 235/55 R 19 V (f & r)
Recommended Tire Pressure (PSI) 34 PSI (all)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Forward Collision Warning
Autonomous Emergency Braking
Evasive Steer Assist
Lane Keep Assist
Traffic Sign Recognition
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Auto High Beam
Fog Lamps Rear (LED)
Light Operation Automatic
Wiper Operation Rain-Sensing
Tailgate Electric
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Manual
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 4-way
Seating Surface Synthetic Leather
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold
3rd Row None
Sunroof Yes
Multi-Information Display / Size Yes, 7-inch
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Automatic, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type A
USB Type C
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay (Wireless)
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. This is a disposable car. From the 1.5L turbo, to the electronics and DCT. After warranty, this will fall apart. Treat it like a xiaomi or oneplus phone

    1. How do you know? Do you own one?

  2. I remember that you liked the driving dynamics of the GAC GS4. Between this and the EMKOO, in terms of driving feel, which is the one that you prefer?
    Hope you can also review the GS3 EMZOOM. :)

    1. They're more or less the same. The biggest advantage of the GS4 is that because of its modest looks, the driving dynamics match its looks and price. The Emkoo doesn't drive as well as it looks, but it's "okay."

  3. Emco Design wont age well, semi classic design of gs4 is better. Emco wet dct not good, gs4 aisin 6 speed trans very good.

  4. The DCT is smooth? Even on stop/go/crawling traffic?

    1. That's how I found it. Yeah. It's smoother than your typical almost behaves like a conventional AT. There's still some lurching, but it's easy to's almost non-existent when you put it in "Eco" mode.

  5. Why do Chinese automakers usually offer small engines and DCTs?

    1. In China or in the Philippines? Whatever the case, it's because of taxes. The import duties of vehicles with displacements of 1.5 liters is just 5 percent. If it goes up to more than 1.5 liters, it goes up to 30 percent. The DCT part, it seems, is down to suppliers available in China and the local Chinese market's preference to DCTs.

    2. In the Philippines. What the Chinese offer, even though they're cheaper, seem sub-par as compared to offering from Japanese and Korean automakers. The Chinese offer the fanciest and latest technology. But when it comes to reliability and longevity, I believe they're clearly not one of the best. They choose to be cheaper but it comes at a price.

  6. I really hate it when automakers put that huge black plastic piece instead of glass on the C-pillar of the car. It's just annoying. Feels like they're trying hard to complete a shape with compromise.

  7. Good alternative to the Azkarra and Territory
    One of the best selling vehicle of GAC Astara Philippines


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