Geely has been the hot topic in the auto industry for the last 4 years. Their cars are impressive, and I say that without the need for a qualifier like for the money or for a Chinese car. Their cars are impressive even compared to the Japanese and Korean brands, so much so that many customers who normally wouldn’t consider a Geely couldn’t help but give them serious consideration.
In the last year, months, and especially days, Geely has also been the hot topic… or in hot water. Actually, they’re in water so hot that you only need to wait 3 minutes and the noodles are done. I’m talking about recent issues surrounding Geely's aftersales service that has blown up on social media.
Needless to say, they’ve been needing some kind of redemption. Something they can drive forward with and grow. Could the GX3 Pro be what they seek?
On first impressions alone, I’m not going to lie: many were underwhelmed when they first saw the GX3 Pro at MIAS. We’ve been spoiled by good-looking Geely models like the Coolray, the Azkarra, Emgrand, and the Okavango, and then suddenly the GX3 Pro comes along. It’s not going to be upping the ante, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad car.
What we have to understand is the GX3 Pro doesn’t belong to the new generation of Geely models like the Coolray/Binyue, Okavango/ and Emgrand. Instead, it is part of the older generation of Geely models that also includes the Azkarra/Boyue, but has been updated and facelifted.
That’s also why we tend to describe it as a compressed or shrunken Azkarra rather than a smaller Coolray. You can see it in the design which looks a bit more dated, though the dimensions and proportions are very much compressed. The GX3 Pro occupies real estate that’s about 4 meters long and 1.7 meters wide, though minimum ground clearance is a bit low at 185mm which does make us hesitate to refer to it as a crossover. Still, what will be interesting is going to see how it stacks up against the Raize; the vehicle that will be the most obvious benchmark for the GX3 Pro.
The interior of the GX3 Pro is something that underwhelmed many who saw it at MIAS. Coupled with the lackluster lighting at the venue, it looked drab and basic. But when you actually sit inside it in the sunlight, the cabin looks fine. The dashboard -while not as nice or as futuristic as the Coolray’s- does appear well-designed and well-built. The panels fit together well, and there’s no squeaking from the interior when you drive it around like what we experienced in the Chinese-made T-Cross.
The gauge cluster is a conventional one with a tach, speedo, and a multi-info display in the middle. Rising up from the dash is a touchscreen system that has USB and Bluetooth, among others. It also serves as the central control panel for some vehicle features. The steering wheel has cruise control and audio controls. You’ve got power everything (except the seat adjustment). There’s a digital A/C system and a push-button ignition system too. Look up and there’s a retractable sunroof if you want some outside air. They’ve covered almost all the features we need and want… well, except for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Perhaps the glaring thing you notice when you step inside the GX3 Pro is the compact space, particularly in the back seat. It’s not going to be as spacious as other models in the minicompact crossover class because of one key design choice: the hood. If you notice, the silhouette of the vehicle shows a hood that is fairly long relative to the vehicle’s overall length.
The front almost looks sedan-ish with the A-pillar starting a bit further back. Together with the respectable cargo area, the result is a passenger compartment that can feel tight, depending on your height. For the next model, perhaps they could adopt what Honda does by moving the A-pillar forward (similar to the older Jazz/Fit) to generate more space inside.
Having a small cabin, however, is expected. This is a car that only measures 4 meters. But what wasn’t expected was how it drove. That’s where the GX3 Pro does better.
For such a small car, the vehicle is comfortable even though the tires were inflated a bit high by about 3 PSI. Cars with short a wheelbase tend to be very bouncy and rough, and this one just isn’t either. Once I lowered the pressure to proper levels, the GX3 did well to control the motions even on a road such as EDSA. No, it won’t be as comfortable or as quiet in the cabin as larger models like Coolray or Azkarra, but it can hold its own if you compare it to Raize which feels very Daihatsu (tinny and noisy inside) on the same roads.
Being that the drivetrain is comprised of a 1.5-liter non-turbo mated to a CVT, the GX3 won’t impress you when you floor it like the Coolray’s 1.5-liter turbo or the Raize’s 1.0L turbo; this GX3 has just 102 PS and 142 Nm after all. What it does do better than the Coolray and Raize turbo is smoothness: it’s a 4-cylinder. Engines with an even number of cylinders tend to have far less vibration than engines with an odd number of cylinders, and that is certainly the case here.
Perhaps the impressive thing about the GX3 Pro is the fuel economy. Even at much slower average speeds in the city, I was getting almost 10 kilometers per liter (km/L). On the highway 15.4 km/L is easily doable.
The GX3 Pro Comfort isn’t perfect. There are things that I’ve noted that need improving, and there are a few more. But perhaps the biggest drawback is not really the fault of the car, but a matter of perception. The car feels a bit dated by Geely’s standards, and there lies the rub: Geely really spoiled us with one impressive model after another, so much so that many expected them to deliver another vehicle that is premium for the price. The GX3 Pro is not, but it is certainly a good car for its class and price of PHP 878,000, and definitely great at the intro price of PHP 798,000.
Cars are defined by the work that goes into the design and engineering, and Geely did fairly well with the GX3 Pro. Given the progress that Geely has made, I’m looking forward to when they do a new generation of this model to see what kind of improvements we will experience. The only real issue is with Geely’s management here which has resulted (er, exploded) with problems regarding aftersales. There is definitely work to be done in that respect, and we certainly hope they’ve addressed these issues moving forward.