Testing the 2020 Geely Azkarra: Refinement doesn’t need a name

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I’ve always wanted to review the Geely Azkarra. Ever since the brand announced the model for the Philippine market and saw one on display in a mall in BGC right before the pandemic, I’ve wanted to get my hands on one. It’s not because of the Azkarra’s design itself, but more of to test if Geely was able to release a proper follow-up to the highly successful Coolray crossover.

You see, the Coolray has become Geely’s flag-bearer, and by the looks of it (and segment-topping sales number recorded for the first half of 2020), it was a good move for the marque. Now, the question is, how can Geely follow through with that success – and that’s where the 2020 Azkarra enters. And of course, we took one for a quick spin to find out.

Exterior

Whether under brisk sunlight or the faint lighting of the mall, the Azkarra’s design is consistent. It deviates from the sporty character of its smaller brother. While the Coolray is aggressively designed — over the top even — the Azkarra has a clean and classy look. It’s like the Coolray’s mature older brother that’s well-endowed in the corporate world.

That maturity comes with uncompromised build quality and several cool features, too. LED lights are found upfront and at the back, plus the LED turn signal lights run sequentially, which is something you’ll find in pricier cars. A very nice touch.

As for size, well, the Azkarra slots above the Coolray in terms of price point and class, so it’s on par with its compact crossover segment rivals, dimensions-wise. Its ground clearance is up for debate, though, as the 163mm space from the concrete is even lower than the Toyota Wigo’s. That works rather than hurt the car, though, but more on that later.

Interior

Hands down, the Azkarra upends every compact crossover out there (Japanese or Korean) that’s sold at mainstream pricing. The materials used are great, and you’ll likely find yourself touching several parts of the car in amazement. My favorite is the Nappa leather, which is found on the Luxury model I tested; the blue-brown combination is a match made in heaven, I must say.

As with other compact crossovers, the Azkarra’s cabin space is adequate for five individuals, accompanied by a cavernous 320 liters of default trunk space – one of the very things I love about this segment. Partnered with a supple ride, cool air-conditioning, and a panoramic sunroof that adds ambiance to the cabin, expect your passengers to doze off when you’re in a long drive.

The only qualm would be the bevy of piano black plastic trims added to the cabin. Sure, they’re nice to look at but they’re also prone to unwanted scratches and fingerprints, so you need to be extra careful with them.

Technology & Safety

Remember what makes the Coolray great? The amount of driving nannies that come standard with the car at its affordable price point. That pretty much transcends into the Azkarra – a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a digital instrument cluster that’s nice to look at, a 360-degree view camera, and a handful of other tech toys that fill the Azkarra to the brim.

A bit of a drawback, though, I can’t seem to make the wireless charger work during my testing period, plus the huge infotainment system is intermittently wonky. Minimal caveats that won’t otherwise affect your whole ownership experience.

Safety features are expectedly complete, which include six airbags, parking sensors to go with the around view monitor, ABS with EBD, traction control, stability control, ISOFIX child seat tethers, and five three-point seatbelts. There’s not much to ask for, but Geely throws in an additional CN95 filter for a spotless blanket of air inside the cabin.

Driving & Handling

The Azkarra’s driving characteristics is like a double-edged sword. It can work for or against it, depending on the driver’s preferences. Acceleration is subdued, and you’ll feel the delay when pressing the accelerator, even when in Sport mode.

That’s the thing – the Azkarra isn’t like the Coolray, and though both cars use the same 7-speed wet dual-clutch AT and 3-cylinder 1.5-liter gasoline engine (with roughly similar outputs, the Azkarra at 177hp and 250Nm torque), the Azkarra is obviously heavier. 

And you’ll feel it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The lack of extra oomph makes the drive comfortable and unrattled, which are things your passengers would thank you for. The Geely-developed platform works wonders in absorbing road imperfections with dignity, making every drive a pleasure rather than a task. Body roll is minimal, too.

The 48V mild-hybrid system isn’t much help with the power boost, though. The effect of the combined 190hp and 300Nm output isn’t phenomenal, plus the hybrid system will only work when the system’s not overloaded. That means lower A/C temp and Eco mode. Guess you shouldn’t take the word “mild,” err, mildly when going for the top-spec Luxury trim.

Fuel Consumption

The Azkarra’s 48V EMS mild hybrid system is a joy to have if you’re one for fuel-efficiency. I was able to test the electric cruise on the highway. The system turned off the engine at around 80 to 90 km/h on the highway (at 22ºC and Eco mode), allowing the electric powertrain to take over. This immediately increased the fuel economy by around 2 to 3 km/L in average reading. All in all, in a whole 10 kilometer stretch of highway testing that involved regular and electric cruising, I was able to clock in 22 km/L.

In the city, combined heavy and light traffic (mostly heavy) returned decent figures, too, at 8.9 km/L at an average speed of 15 km/h.

Verdict

It’s obvious that the Azkarra caters to a different set of car buyers than the Coolray. While the latter brings the fun back in driving, the former is more of a sophisticated vehicle that cradles its occupants with refinement – both good in their own way.

When you talk about refinement, European car brands would be the first ones to come to mind. Volvo, for example, would be one of the first, along with other German luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. The Azkarra is almost on that level, and dare I say, it’s even more urbane, albeit marginally, than Mazda vehicles – a Japanese brand known for refinement. Even better, its P1,598,000 price tag isn’t heavy on the pocket, considering all the standard niceties it comes with.

That is the Azkarra’s main selling point, though admittedly it lacks the grunt that you might expect from this hulking crossover. Whether that bothers you or not would be entirely up to you, but for mundane and usual motoring needs, the Azkarra fits the purpose – beyond, even.

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