Geely Boyue SUV benefits from Volvo makeover

The Chinese car maker is on track with an SUV that leverages the inspiration of former Volvo designer Peter Horbury

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 2:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 9:50pm

Geely once epitomised all that was wrong with Chinese cars, but these days it seems it can do no wrong. The Hong Kong listing of Geely Automobile Holdings has more than doubled in value over the last year, and at the end of September the British Bloodhound supersonic car project announced the company as its major sponsor.

This progress has been built on a slew of new products. Last year’s GC9 saloon went on to be named the 2016 China Car of the Year in an awards ceremony at the Guangzhou Auto Show. It was a bold departure from the company’s older and smaller generic looking products thanks to former Volvo designer Peter Horbury, who now heads Geely’s design studios. This new direction has continued with the Boyue, GS and GL, which all launched this year.

With prices starting at under 100,000 yuan and the top-of-the-range going for 158,700 yuan, the car is a steal

Geely’s new spiralled grille helps lend the Boyue a reasonably distinctive look. However, the front end of the mid-sized SUV seems to work better than the rear. We tested the top of the range Luxury front-wheel-drive version – a four-wheel-drive is also available.

Open the door in the dark and a Geely logo is projected onto the ground, giving the car a dash of panache. Inside it is a similar story, with generally good quality materials. While perhaps not to everyone’s taste, the brushed aluminium look trim on the dashboard helps lift the design. The handlebars on the central tunnel between the front seats are one of the more unique features. However, the catch on the central compartment doesn’t feel that solid. Chinese design elements can be seen with the G-shaped grid pattern over the speakers on the doors. There are a total of three 12V power outlets: one in the centre tunnel cubby hole, the other in the rear below the air ventilation and finally one in the boot.

Rear passengers get decent head and legroom, and on the folding armrest there is further brushed aluminium effect on the compartment, which doubles as a drinks holder. The floors and sides of the boot are impressively sturdy. Thanks to the skylight sunroof, the cabin is light and airy but the flimsy feeling thin material cover is a let down.

For the Chinese market, two engines are available. There is an older 2-litre unit only available with six-speed manual transmission, and then there is 1.8 turbo engine. The manual version gets the same engine as used in the GC9 with 120kW of power, while the six-speed dual-clutch version gets the up rated 135kW unit. For the Middle East market, a 2.4 litre is offered in lieu of the 1.8T.

The dual-clutch unit produced by Geely’s Australian DSI subsidiary has Sport and Eco modes along with standard. Of these, Eco is the most obvious, really dulling the throttle response. With Sport, you have to floor the accelerator to notice any difference. While there are no paddle shifts, the gears can be changed manually through the selector. The drivetrain is certainly adequate, but is not going to provide much in the way of thrills.

Unlike the Qoros 5, a similarly sized competitor, there is no discernable body roll under normal driving conditions. Road holding is good although the steering seems a touch on the light fuzzy side, but not enough to lose confidence. Driving, it seemed equally at home on the highway, smaller roads and in city traffic.

Geely is the first Chinese carmaker to offer Apple CarPlay and the Boyue is the first model to feature it. If you have an iPhone you can access it by plugging your phone into the USB jack in the centre tunnel compartment. It gives a screen displaying Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Now Playing, Podcasts and Audiobooks. Using Siri, you can access many of these things via voice command and can dictate text messages. As the system uses the phone rather than the car’s GPS, however, it can lead to added charges.

The screen for the infotainment system at 8 inches seems rather lost in the dashboard and could be bigger. Also, the angle at which it is mounted means that it is difficult to see in bright conditions. When reversing, the screen splits in two, showing the rear view and, in the second half, a 360-degree representation of the car. With constant all round movement in China from ebikes and pedestrians, this is a really useful addition.

There are also additional safety measures such as adaptive cruise control plus, when you get too close to the car in front, a warning displays in the centre of the digital speedometer, along with both visual and aural warning when you break the speed limit.

With prices starting at under 100,000 yuan and the top-of-the-range going for 158,700 yuan, the car is a steal, and so it is little wonder that currently there is an order backlog of 80,000.

This car represents much better value than the comparable Qoros 5 or MG GS. The equipment level is far superior to either, the drivetrain and looks are highly competitive, and the quality level pips the Qoros 5. Geely, with cars like the Boyue, is now biting at the heels of the international OEMs.