Geely is on a roll these days. Their Coolray is a sales success, and the Azkarra is doing rather well too. It also helps that the products aren't just good, they're fantastic. With that, we have high expectations for their third offering, the Okavango.
In some ways, the Okavango is like the all-important third album for a band. Its reviews can either make or break Geely in the country, and if it doesn't please the critics, it might flop in the sales chart. To say a lot is riding on Geely's biggest offering is an understatement. So, will it be three for three?
But first, the look, and it follows the marque's current design language. You won't mistake it for anything else other than a Geely with its three-bar 'Expanding Cosmos' grille and angular proportions. But at over 4.8 meters long and nearly two meters wide, it's a massive vehicle. To give you an idea of its size, it's about the same size as truck-based mid-size SUVs.
The slab-sided doors, along with the creases and lines on the side make it look like an off-roader. But here's the thing, it's not. Regardless of what variant you choose, the Okavango is front-wheel drive only. As for the rear, it could you a little more flair with its rather plain-looking tailgate. At least it makes up for it with those slim LED taillights and a wide opening.
Speaking of variants, what we have here is the range-topping Urban model. That means it comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, and chrome trimmings.
Step inside, and you get a vast amount of space. At the front, you're greeted by the wide dashboard, along with a flat design that makes it feel even more spacious. However, there is more hard plastic in here compared to the Coolray and Azkarra. It's not necessarily a deal-breaker, but the smaller models made us expect more from the Okavango.
That said, you do get a digital instrument cluster and a massive 10.25-inch touchscreen. The infotainment system houses most of the vehicle's functions, but it doesn't have Apple Carplay or Android Auto. However, it has a feature called QD Link, which is essentially a phone-mirroring application.
Other highlights? The Urban variant comes with a 360-degree camera, which should make parking a lot easier. A rather novel feature is its ability to change the display car's color when it's projected on the screen. It also has a floating center console that frees up a lot of space for a sizable cubby hole, and it's great that it comes with a cool box.
Given its size, you expect a lot of room in the second row. Well, you won't be disappointed because there are acres of space back there. You can easily stretch out from the middle row, and it's almost impossible to brush your head against the ceiling.
What's fascinating about these seats is the configuration. Instead of a bench, it has three individual chairs, so even the one seated in the middle will be comfortable. Geely claims up to 19 configurations, and it's believable. However, that also means you don't get an armrest or center cupholders. Instead, you'll have to make do with the drink holders on the doors. Thankfully, they're massive enough to hold a one-liter bottle.
But what's even more surprising is the third-row space. Normally, that area is best reserved for children or small adults, but not in the Okavango. There are still loads of headroom, and legroom is similar to what you'll get in a subcompact hatchback. With that much room, we can almost forgive it for not having a 12-volt socket back there. Almost.
Because it's not based on a pick-up, the Okavango has a bigger cargo area than some SUVs. Fold all the seats down and you get over 2,000 liters of volume, and you still have 1,200 liters behind the second row. With all seats up, there's still about 250 liters left, which is similar to something like a Toyota Wigo or Honda Brio. The Okavango may look like a crossover from the outside, but it's more like an MPV inside with its space and versatility.
Under the hood of the Okavango is a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder turbo engine. You may be thinking it's too small for a car this size, but it delivers 190 PS and 300 Nm of torque, figures we wouldn't call lacking. As mentioned, it is front-wheel-drive only, and it shifts with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It's worth mentioning that it is also a 48-volt mild-hybrid vehicle.
The result of that combination is a smooth and serene driving experience. The three-cylinder is hushed, and it doesn't feel strained when you step on the accelerator. It still pulls well even when going uphill with a fair bit of load inside too. That three-cylinder turbo shouldn't be underestimated. Sure, it's not sport sedan fast, but something this big achieving 100 km/h in less than 10 seconds is impressive. Making drives relaxing with the Okavango is that transmission. While dual-clutch transmissions have tendencies to be jerky, there's none of it in this family hauler. That's because it uses a wet clutch instead of a dry clutch.
So, the engine performs well, but what about fuel economy? Around the city, it does 8.8 kilometers per liter. You may think that's thirsty for a 1.5-liter with just three cylinders, but you have to remember that it carries a lot of weight. If anything, its fuel consumption is comparable to mid-size diesel SUVs. When you take it out on the highway, the fuel economy bumps up to 15 kilometers per liter, while mixed driving showed an average of 12 to 13 kilometers per liter. The Okavango has the performance and economy of a turbodiesel but without the clatter.
As for the ride, you'll feel the bumps. Now that doesn't mean the ride is harsh; it's far from it. The Okavango's suspension can best be described as supple with excellent tuning to keep things level. No matter where you're seated, you can be comfortable in the big Geely. There is a noticeable thud at the front when you hit humps at speed, but it's not worrisome. That's just the sound of the front dampers rebounding.
Handling is good but not exciting, but what did you expect? Besides, the Okavango doesn't have spirited driving in mind. Its road-holding ability is commendable given its size, and it doesn't feel out of its depth when you're taking on the twisties. To put it simply, it doesn't feel ponderous or truckish behind the wheel.
The Okavango drives well, offers surprising performance, has good fuel economy, and versatility. Sure, some things can be improved such as adding charging sockets, putting in more soft-touch materials, and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But as a whole, the Okavango impresses.
At PHP 1,328,000 for the top-spec Urban variant, it presents fantastic value given its features, space, and size. But if you want to save a bit more, the entry-level Comfort model retails for PHP 1,208,000. To put that into perspective, the top-spec Okavango is about the same price as the most affordable diesel-powered Toyota Innova with an automatic transmission. That also means it's hundreds of thousands less than two-wheel-drive pick-up-based SUVs.
With that, it looks like the Okavango is another home run for Geely.
- Make: Geely
- Model: Okavango Urban 1.5L Urban 48v EMS
- Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC 12-valve Inline-3 turbo intercooler w/ 48v EMS
- Max Power: 190 PS @ 5500 rpm
- Max Torque: 300 Nm @ 1500-4000 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
- Price as Tested: ₱1,328,000