Geely Coolray: New world order

If there’s a vehicle that’ll single-handedly overturn the compact crossover pecking order, it’s this: the 2020 Geely Coolray. The name is stupid and nonsensical, but the car it’s attached to is most certainly not. It doesn’t carry the same gravitas as the more established brands in the market, but its impressive specs and performance are enough to make it a topic of conversation.

For one, there’s the way it looks. With the exception of the body cladding on the lower part of its body, the sharp, angular style actually passes more for a racy hatchback than a family-oriented crossover. The timelessness of the design is up for debate, but for the here and now, it fares better than most of the soap bar designs seen from other makes.

If there’s one criticism that can be hurled its way, it’s overstyled. Geely says they’re targeting millennials and young buyers with the Coolray, but they didn’t have to add every single design trend to make it noticeable. With its two-tone color scheme, carbon fiber accents, extended WRC-style rear spoiler, and quad tailpipes—there are too many things going on, and most of them detract from the neatly styled body.

While the exterior connects to the buyer based on his sense of style—is he the Supreme, Off-White sort or does he prefer the Lacoste shirt (tucked in) and chino pants combination—one thing’s for certain: the interior passes even the most stringent standards. With almost the entire dashboard covered in simulated aluminum trim, there’s a genuine danger of looking chintzy. Thankfully, this never happens. In the Coolray, their concept car-like centerpiece shows the level of care Geely’s taken. Metal applique aside, the black and red interior combination does wonders in creating a high-class feel without looking contrived.

The high-set center console, small-diameter steering wheel, and heavily bolstered seats create a racy vibe, but more importantly, there’s no shortage of space. Front or back, there’s enough room to fit full-grown adults. The cargo hold though is, admittedly, on the small side.

For its price point, the Coolray’s well-loaded with tech. It’s got a digital gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch floating multimedia system (sorry, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), passive keyless entry, and even a panoramic sunroof. Oh, and for those who aren’t too confident of their parking skills, hands and feet-free automated parking.

The Coolray stands as one of the segment’s best because it manages to get the driving part right. Credit Geely’s global team and/or a genuine Volvo connection with this platform, but this is one solid feeling crossover. With close to 7,000 kilometers already clocked in, it’s absolutely free of any rattles.

Running through the city, the suspension is always refined and supple, absorbing even the worst of haphazardly repaired concrete joints. As some speed’s added, the body initially feels floaty, only to regain its composure with progressive grace. This may look like a crossover, but it can also be made to hustle down a set of twists. Even more important, it doesn’t lose sight of what it is: it’s a family-oriented vehicle. For that, it’s comfortable to be in and at ease with itself.

World class as the platform is, the Coolray has also inherited Volvo’s penchant for making things easier for the driver. Automated parking aside, it has blind spot detection which helps in spotting wayward cyclists. Moreover, Geely’s made an ingenious use of its 360-degree camera. Not only does it activate during parking situations, but engaging the right turn signal automatically switches the right camera on—projecting either the front curb or rear curb (speed dependent). It’s similar to Honda’s Lane Watch, only way more cleverly done.

Seemingly built for safety, it still knows how to have fun, and a big part of that is because of its engine. With 177 horses under the hood, the Coolray can reach the 100 km/h mark in less than 8 seconds. Admittedly, it’s not the best sounding engine out there, but thanks to the copious amounts of insulation, unwanted NVH is kept in check. Hints of unevenness would enter the cabin during full throttle applications, but these are uncommon. Fuel economy reaches double digits too—10.98 km/L, though this figure was done with traffic still light (average speed: 26 km/h).

The accompanying seven-speed dual clutch is also mighty refined. Audible gear shifting in stop-and-go traffic aside, there’s no jerkiness. There are paddle shifters here too, but they’re largely superfluous because the gearbox knows exactly what it’s doing. Ditto the selectable driving modes—“Eco” neuters the performance too much, and “Sport” makes the throttle response too rowdy. It’s best to keep things in “Comfort.”

Overall, the Coolray is like the latest Huawei phone—it doesn’t carry the same street cred as those from Apple or Samsung, but it can sure as hell blow the best of them out of the water. Now, buying a P40,000 Chinese-branded smartphone for its impressive camera is very different from buying a P1.198-million crossover, but putting brand prejudices and even its impressive list of toys aside, it actually ranks with the best of them.

It doesn’t score a perfect 10 out of 10 just yet, but it can get pretty close at times. Sure, there will be those who won’t be caught dead driving what could be a nickname for their private parts, but its silly name aside, this is a crossover that anyone in the market should consider.

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