Driving and testing cars is common with our line of work, but more often than not we get loaner cars for just a few days or even for a week. Rarely do we get cars that we consider to be long-termers; the ones that you really get to live with for months or even a year so we can report on the bad, the needs improvement, and the good.
Good, we say? Does a budget-oriented GAC GA4 from China sound good to you?
Honestly, this read may raise more good points than eyebrows. Previously we reviewed the 2019 GAC GA4 1.5 M/T sedan, and if you indulge us, you’ll see that it got pretty high marks. And all of that comes with good reason: it’s a good car. The difference with what you’re reading now is that the little GAC has been with us for almost a year now, and it’s been driven as a daily car since then (and even driven fairly fast by our EIC on his daily commute).
With a lot more kilometers logged in, how did this Chinese car hold up to the daily rigors of traffic, potholes, and the overall in-and-out-of-the-Metro driving experience?
First, let’s have a short re-introduction to the GA4. With sedans getting bigger and bigger, this model from GAC was not left behind. It has a huge black and chrome grille dominating the front. Right in the middle of the 3-slat design of the grill is the GAC emblem, a simple chrome “G”. Following what GAC calls “Iconic Flying Dynamics”, the top of the grille flows into the inner edges of the headlights, making it all look like a single piece on the front end. The whole idea is to give the GA4 a more masculine look, and it does so rather well.
The muscular looks continue well onto the side profile of the GA4. With a high beltline, an angular character line from the fenders all the way to the back, wide doors, and a rakish roofline, it all gives the notion that this is a go-fast car (we’ll get to that later).
The rear is probably the simplest part of this car. The trunk itself is pretty bare, with only the same aforementioned “G”, a GAC and a GA4 stuck on. Honestly, none of these elements make for a gaudy appearance. If anything, it’s simple, and it’s elegant. Along with some nice creases and angles, most notable of which is the top of the trunk jutting out back like a ducktail (or flat) spoiler. Good, more sporty accents.
Well, that’s about it for what’s on the surface. Now let’s get to the meat of this review.
Starting with the interior, we mentioned the fact that the fit and finish of the panels were top-notch. After a good 4,000 or 5,000 more kilometers, it’s still the same. While many people are on about China cars’ quality, there’s not a single rattle nor are there lifting bits anywhere in the cabin. This particular car has had its fair share of covered and open parking spaces, and it’s good to know that materials and build stood that facet of the elements.
The seats remained as comfortable as they were when we first got the car, too. The car’s used primarily as a vehicle for one, but we never shied away from loading the inside with people and equipment. What’s more important, though, is despite on-and-off-loading, the leather held up well; there were no chips, no cracks, no tears, and this despite a pending interior detailing session. The same can be said with the brushed aluminum bits. A lot of hands would usually come into contact with these touchpoints, but there were no unsightly stains or dulling of the finish on the dashboard, locks, and door handles.
There were some things that needed fixing, though. One of which was a worn-out shifter bushing. The GA4’s route involved a good number of hours in stop and go traffic. This being a consumable item, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The repair was quick, and it’s not an expensive piece to deal with. Could it have withstood more of a beating? Yes, perhaps it could have. But it’s not as if it’s a make or break deal, considering how, again, this is literally a daily-driven vehicle.
The second one is the spring-loaded arm of the center console cupholder. For some odd reason, and despite not always squeezing a bottle or container into the receptacle, one of the arms is now permanently retracted in its recess. You could try picking it out, but from what we see and feel, it's the spring and mechanism itself that broke. We've yet to confirm if it's user-replaceable or if it has a quick fix, but as of writing, this bit of wear and tear is well worth taking note of.
Outside, one of the first things to normally get a beating would be the plastic material of the headlights. That, or you'd see a nice (insert sarcasm here) little pool of water in the taillight assembly. This GA4's lighting pieces both up front and up back seem to have withstood the elements pretty well. There's not a spot of craking or yellowing in the headlights, and the rear units are just as clear as they were out of the factory. Considering how some better-known car brands' lights would web or accumulate water or moisture, GAC did a good job with theirs.
At this point, let’s move on to the GA4’s suspension and its engine.
Normally, you’d start to hear the dreaded “kalampag” close to about 10,000 kilometers on the odometer. With the GA4, we have none of that. This doesn’t mean there was no noticeable degradation, though. The ride is not as supple as it was when new (duh). Previously we mentioned that the ride was more on the stiffer side, and now you’ll feel the shocks compressing just a little bit more, especially on rougher patches of roads. It’s not unsettling, but you know that there’s a change of ride quality in that aspect.
On the flip side, having passengers and/or a fair amount of cargo still does even out the ride. The good news is when you look at the car from the outside, the car doesn’t bottom out (now that’s bad news if it does), so we’ll attribute this to normal wear and tear. It hasn’t become an uncomfortable car to drive or ride in, though, that’s for sure.
Another thing we noticed is that the steering wheel is off-center ever so slightly to the left. At this point, we can only surmise the bushings starting to soften up as well. Oddly enough, there isn’t a noticeable veering of the GA4 when you straighten the wheel, but this is something to take note of nonetheless. Keep in mind that these pieces do take a beating, and as long as they don’t break and stay within what can be considered “wear”, the GA4’s suspension is still quite durable.
As for the engine and its performance, we can sum it all up with about four words: it remains the same. During our previous review, we were making about 8.4 kilometers per liter in heavy traffic. As of this writing, we are already on General Community Quarantine with a good number of vehicles already allowed back on the roads. While traffic might have gotten worse, the GA4’s fuel consumption remains the same. In all honesty, we weren’t able to get on the expressways to test highway fuel mileage (because pandemic, sadly), but something to take note of is that coming to and from work and the occasional errands during stricter Quarantine rules, we were also doing somewhere in the 11.6 kilometers per liter range.
In the course of having the GA4, it’s already had one PMS, with its second one coming up very soon. Fuel consumption aside, has there been a change in the engine audibly or even visibly (note: shaking and vibrations)? Yes, there has, but only so slightly. If you remember, we mentioned that the power delivery is felt at about 2000rpm. Now, you’ll have to punch the throttle a little bit more to get those revs up quicker. The feeling of torque still tops out at the same aforementioned 4500rpm, but power seems to have taken a tiny dip, which you can feel more of on an incline. Is this a bad thing? Considering that we’re due for a more stringent Maintenance Service, I’d say no for now. Trust, though, that we will update all of you more on what happens after said maintenance.
Here's an added bonus. Concerning after-sales service, this GA4 was involved in a minor accident - the rear left portion of the bumper was hit by a motorcycle, and that resulted in damage to it and the small reflector piece found aft. That was during the time of MECQ, so one would expect some troubles when it comes to scheduling repairs, right?
Here's the rub: the only problem was that the service center's painters weren't able to come to work because of said quarantine. While we can't have the bumper replaced just yet, the parts were readily available, and to make for better news, GAC was hard at work improving their in-house spray booth facility. Fast forward to when we were finally able to schedule the repair, it took all of one week and we were able to get the car back. The quality of work: very good. The people were helpful, very easy to deal with, and again, the car looked good as new after its post-fender bender fix.
So what’s the deal with the GAC GA4, then? Is it still as good as when we first got to review it? Did it hold up well to the elements, pockmarked roads, stop and go traffic, and the rigors of daily driving in general? As with our answer before, we still say: Yes.
The idea is that so many brands and manufacturers are out to outdo each other. For the GA4, its presence in the equation is not so different. But if we were to point out the obvious, this car is from China brand GAC. It’s common knowledge that the stigma still exists towards products from our Asian neighbor, but we’re here reviewing a car, nothing more, and nothing less.
Putting aside old notions and preconceptions, the GA4 truly does well with its intended purpose. And dare we say it: yes it can go toe-to-toe with the more famous brands we’ve come to know in the Philippines. Given its good looks, its still-comfortable ride, its economical engine, and most importantly its price point, it’s easy to admit that GAC has come up with a solid contender in the GA4.