Geely’s second attempt at making an impact on the local market seems to be going a lot better than when the manufacturer first set roots here a few years ago. It launched the funky LC and LCX last year and now it’s hoping that its Corolla-sized EC7 will further cement the Geely and Emgrand (think Lexus to Toyota, Infiniti to Nissan) brands in South Africa. Kelly Lodewyks drove this newcomer at its local launch to see what it’s about.
The EC7’s styling is, clean, simple and inoffensive. It’s not extravagant, but, thankfully, it’s largely unique in its execution; the only throw-backs I could find was that the rear is reminiscent of the previous S-Class and the front headlamps slightly Suzuki Kizashi looking.
The 1,8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine felt surprisingly strong in low gears. It delivers 102 kW at 6 000 r/min and 172 N.m at 4 200 r/min. Overtaking in low gears is an easy enough task, but at higher speeds and in higher gears some downshifts were required, especially going uphill. The shift action of the five-speed manual transmission was smooth and precise. The travel between the gates is shorter than what I would like, but I never found myself hooking the incorrect gear, so it’s just something that takes a bit of getting used to.
A small part of the launch route included a gravel stretch. On those broken surfaces the EC7 felt well sprung and the occupants aren’t subjected to all the bumps and imperfections of the road. The driver, however, feels some of this coming through the steering. There is a lot of vibration and the car can feel a bit jittery over uneven pieced of road. Also, the steering is light and feels somewhat disconnected from the front wheels.
This vehicle only costs R150 000, so it would be unfair to expect Volkswagen Jetta or Toyota Corolla levels of comfort and build quality. I detected a few rattles here and there in the cabin and there was quite a bit of wind noise that came through. Geely has made use of a lot of plastic inside the cabin and to some degree it looks as though the manufacturer has cut corners. That said, most of the trim looks well put together fits together and the quality of the plastics does not feel inferior to that of other vehicles at this price level. Another positive is that the EC7 is surprisingly comfortable and is, arguably, one of the most spacious passenger cars in this price bracket. It measures in at a length of 4 635 mm, a width of 1 798 mm, a height of 1 470 mm and a wheelbase of 2 650 mm.
It also offers a lot when it comes to specification, with alloy wheels, electrically operated side mirrors, climate control, leather seats, and an MP3-compatible audio system among the standard items.
Getting serious about safety
Geely placed a great deal of emphasis on the high safety levels of this vehicle in its business presentation to the press. Those who are considering purchasing this vehicle will gain some peace of mind knowing that the EC7 has dual front airbags (plus side curtains on the Executive model), park assist, ABS with EBD and it is the first Chinese vehicle to get a four star EuroNCAP safety rating.
Of all the Chinese vehicle manufacturers currently doing business in South Africa, Geely is perhaps one of the companies doing the most to change public perception of its brand. It seems to be building more solid cars than before and it’s equipping these vehicles with more safety features too. What’s more, the company is clearly confident in its ability to deliver high quality vehicles. This shows in the 5-year/100 000 km warranty that it offers with the EC7. And, in all honesty, I don’t think this is a bad vehicle. Could you get better vehicles at this price? For sure. But there aren’t many other new cars of this size, at this price and with all the features that the EC7 offers.
Price: R149 990 (R164 990 for the GT Executive)
Engine: 1,8-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 102 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 172 N.m @ 4 200 r/min
0-100 km/h: 10,5 seconds
Top speed: 185 km/h
Warranty: 5-years/100 000 km
Service plan: Optional