A Chinese brand, in South Africa, waving the flag for ‘luxury motoring’ has got to be a first, but Geely’s pushing the envelope with the launch of its Emgrand EC7.
Emgrand, with its distinctive red and black Cadillac-like badge, was launched at the 2009 Auto Shanghai as a more upmarket addition to the Geely range. ‘What Lexus is to Toyota’, local MD Henri Meistre illustrated.
Truth is, the Emgrand EC7 is not new. It’s been available since 2009, although South Africa is the first right-hand drive market to receive this Corolla-sized sedan. This situation, according to Meistre, also explains the relative dearth of product from the East. ‘There’s very little right-hand drive product,’ Meistre said. ‘Geely has a lot of products, but not many are right-hand drive.’ This, he assures, will change.
For now, among a clutch of firsts is Geely’s distinction as being the first Chinese carmaker to offer a 6.5-inch navigation unit with a reverse camera (an option at R8500) on EC7, which is also offered with a five-year or 100 000km warranty.
There’s only one powertrain available – a 1.8-litre petrol mated to a five-speed manual transmission – with Luxury and Executive trim levels. We drove the Luxury model which, on first acquaintance, was rather pleasing on the eye.
Driving the EC7 was another demonstration in how the Chinese brands have evolved over the past years. The car seemed pleasant enough with my only real gripes relating to the cabin comfort – between the oddly-angled steering wheel and the seats’ unnaturally-positioned seatbacks, both my partner and I struggled to get truly comfortable behind the wheel. The annoying beep unleashed by the system once you’ve hit the 120kph mark also takes some getting used to…
Other than that, the ride was compliant, the 1.8 provided sufficient motivation to get us up the hills and through the dales dotting the south coast’s Garden Route, and the gear lever comfortably slotted into all the allotted bays.
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels and a full-size spare wheel are standard, along with automatic headlights and follow-me-home lights, MP3 compatible audio system, and trip computer. As for its safety, the EC7 is fitted with dual front airbags, ABS and EBD.
Furthermore, Meistre revealed a Golf-sized hatchback version of the EC7 will be previewed at the Johannesburg International Motor Show from October 18 through 27, 2013. A six-speed automatic, developed in-house by Geely, will also be made available by mid-2014.
Prices range from R149 990 for the Luxury, to R164 990 for the Executive spec and service plans varying from two to four years can be bolted on to the price at costs of between R6225 and R14 665. Pricing the EC7 from beneath R150 000 is a shrewd move from Geely, which no doubt understands the value-driven South African buyer, but it would probably also be wise for those who consider the Emgrand as an option to also take a look at used cars from more established carmakers before signing on the dotted line.