– Good looks inside and out
– Cabin trim and features
– Comfortable ride
– Needs a better engine
– Rubbery steering feel
– Average boot space
Remember the time when the mere mention of Chinese cars would invite jokes and taunts? That mentality is still around, even as several new Chinese carmakers have entered the UAE market in the space of a few years. And it’s kind of exciting to see their transformation happen at the rapid pace that it is, even quicker than the Koreans.
Up until a couple of years ago, Geely was still making cars with derivative styling and cheap interiors. Meanwhile, they ended up purchasing Volvo, and poaching designer Peter Horbury. The fruits of that labour are obvious in the new Geely Emgrand X7 Sport. Handsome yet conservative and totally original, the compact X7 Sport has a swept-back profile like a crossover, but rides high like an offroader.
But inside is where the real surprise is. With extensive use of soft-touch materials, actual leather upholstery and real metal surfaces, Geely has managed to give a budget crossover the interior of a premium car. Sure, the fake “stitches” on some of the door panels are just moulded into the rubber, but it all looks very attractive. The Porsche Cayenne-inspired metal grab handles are a bit much though, as are the excessive unnecessary graphics on the LCD in the gauge cluster, such as the image of a radio that appears when you want to change stations.
Cabin space in this 5-seater is pretty good all round, although the boot is a bit on the compact side. Still, it’s very practical with numerous pockets as well as covered cup-holders. The front seats are well-bolstered and optionally power-adjustable, while the rear is a typical split-folding bench that can extend cargo volume. The two-part rear seatbacks not lining up is about the only minor flaw we could find in an otherwise impeccably-built car.
Tech features in the top “Flagship” model are extensive, with the aforementioned 7-inch colour LCD between the gauges, a mostly-responsive 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system with AUX and USB ports, a good Dolby Surround Pro-logic II stereo, navigation, Bluetooth, rear parking camera with front/rear sensors, smart keyless entry, cruise control, power-folding mirrors, LED headlights, a half-sized panoramic sunroof, and a dual-zone climate control a/c with a single rear vent which seems good, although we tested the car in cool January weather. Standard safety features include ESP, ABS with EBD, tyre-pressure monitor, electric parking brake with auto-hold and up to 6 airbags (with 4 even in the base model). It received a 5-star crash-safety rating by China’s NCAP agency, which apparently follow Euro NCAP procedures now.
Powered by a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, the motor offers up 153 hp at 5300 rpm and 225 Nm of torque from 3900 to 4400 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed automatic and optional all-wheel-drive, the specs aren’t particularly impressive and neither is the performance — we managed a 0-100 kph time of 12 seconds in the best possible weather. The gearing is tall and the shift-points are conservative even in sport mode, so we had to use manual gearshifts a lot to get to the power. Considering this, fuel economy wasn’t impressive either, at 12.5 litres/100 km.
That said, the handling is pretty good with limited body roll and good grip from the 225/60 tyres. It feels mildly floaty and a bit top-heavy, the latter because of the offroader-like ground clearance and high-riding stance in a tall narrow car, but there is no unstability in mildly-aggressive street driving. It rides pretty smooth and is fairly quiet at legal highway speeds. The steering is light with an artificial rubbery action and almost no feedback. The brakes are decent, with a light pedal feel.
We didn’t take this crossover offroad because, well, it’s a crossover. While there is no low-range gearing and a lack of power, it can potentially traverse mild sand dunes thanks to its good ground clearance and all-wheel-drive, provided you keep the engine on boil by manually holding lower gears.
The Geely Emgrand X7 Sport is so close to playing with the big boys that it’s not a joke any more. Build quality is as good as the Koreans, handling is as good as the Japanese, and the cabin trim is as good as the Europeans. The only thing severely lacking is a good engine, and we don’t know why Geely didn’t just take one from Volvo. Once that is done in the coming years, a Geely product may finally find its place on our recommended list.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: