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You’d think that the idea of adding some outdoor machismo to a car as cute as the Geely LC would result in something of a dog’s breakfast, but if you can live with its looks the Geely LCX (LC Cross for the less acronym-savvy) could prove to be quite a handy proposition.
Styling and Packaging
Chinese carmakers have had to navigate a veritable flak barrage due to their initial propensity for (ahem) borrowing designs from more established Western manufacturers. So, it was with a mixture of admiration and almost saccharine-induced winces that we greeted the LC (dubbed the Panda, much to Fiat’s ire, on the Chinese market).
For the LCX, Geely has decided to ditch the standard car’s po-faced nose for a more purposeful (but still quite cute) front end, replace the bear-paw brakelamps with more conventional items, tack on the seemingly de rigeur crossover accouterments that are plastic cladding on the front and rear aprons, a ride height raised to 180 mm and sticking the spare wheel on the rear hatch. In our unit’s bold red paintwork it’s not exactly subtle, and the combination of dinky proportions with rounded corners and spare wheel being toted on its back does give off a sort of “jellybean gone hiking” vibe. Still, styling is a subjective matter and some will be quite content with the less feminine treatment doled out to the LCX – factor in a colour such as blue or white/silver and it won’t be quite as shouty.
The interior is much like that of the standard LC, with a circular central instrument pod and small dial binnacle. Shiny, hard plastics are the order of the day here and the high driving position means that a taller driver’s left knee will become closely acquainted with the edge of the facia hang-down, but it feels well screwed together (no creaks or rattles evident) and there’s an acceptable amount of passenger leg- and headroom. The same cannot be said of the boot, which is still on the pokey side, but at least Geely has fitted what look like beefed-up struts to the hatch so that hoiking hatch/spare wheel to get at the luggage bay won’t be a vertebra-popping task.
On the road
The same fuel-injected 1,3-litre petrol unit as the standard LC developing 63 kW and 110 N.m of torque powers the LCX. It’s a rather vocal unit, but it does a fair job of punting the car along at pace with the rest of the traffic. As with most Chinese cars, the gearshift is something of a weak point. It’s offset position means that fourth gear sits at your hip, while the long-throw action feels a bit baggy and gives the impression of feeling a bit fragile. Thankfully the brakes feel solid and the ride, although a bit wallowy when tackling corners and rough surfaces, is generally fine.
The steering is town-friendly light, but there’s a lot of play in the steering around the dead-ahead point and this, when combined with the raised ride height, means motorway speeds will probably be tackled with a bit of circumspection. Still, that ride height does give the car some dirt road credence – a short stint on rutted gravel, although bouncy, didn’t see anything dislodged – and it’s generally a pleasant little thing to pilot.
Here’s where the Geely starts to claw some points back. Our GT-specced model sells for R104 995 and is very well equipped. Among the standard features are; 14-inch alloy wheels; front and rear foglamps; power steering; ABS with EBD; electric windows all round; electric mirrors; remote central locking; CD sound system with USB port; six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), which is virtually unheard-of at this price point; rear park distance sensor and air-conditioning. It’s covered by a 3-year/100 000 km mechanical warranty and a service plant will set you back between R5 175 (2-year/60 000 km), R8 000 (3-year/90 000 km) and R11 740 (4-year/120 000 km). Whichever way you cut it, the LCX does represent a lot of kit for your money.
If you can live with the looks and make peace with the fact that Geely hasn’t yet established a track record in terms of reliability and after-sales service on our market, the LCX makes a fair case for itself as a handy little runabout with a modicum of dirt road ability and lots of kit thrown in. We’ll see what the rest of the CAR team makes of this quirky little number when a full road test is conducted for the October 2012 issue of CAR magazine.
Model: Geely LCX 1,3 GT
Engine: 1,3-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 63 kW/6 000 r/min
Torque: 110 N.m/5 200 r/min
Fuel consumption: 8,28 L/100 km
CO2: 164 g/km
Top speed: 145 km/h
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 14,99 sec
Price: R104 995
* Please note that the performance/fuel economy figures are those attained during the March 2012 CAR magazine road test of the mechanically similar Geely LC 1,3 GT and are presented to give an impression of the performance one can expect from the LCX. CAR has just received its LCX 1,3 GT test unit and will provide performance figures for that model in due course.