It’s ironic that the first car launched by Geely in the Philippines wasn’t my introduction to the brand. I first had a date with the Azkarra which was very pleasant and surprising, to say the least. When I borrowed that, my friends at Geely were telling me that it’s good that I took that first before the Coolray since the Azkarra is more mature and well-mannered, while the Coolray is the bibo kid in their lineup who’s too feisty. After my drive with the Coolray, I think they were being modest.
The Coolray is a young beast that knows how to wear a suit and tie. Even in its normal mode, you can feel it has so much vigor as it zipped past other cars easily. Corners are tackled with minimal body roll and ride comfort is good, especially when going at speed. Once you push that Sport mode to unchain the 1.5L turbo engine, it goes off like Looney Tunes’ Road Runner. The steering wheel firms up, the digital instrument cluster changes its design, your head is buried on the headrest, and the engine roars around 4,000 rpm—though it will differ depending how deep you are on the throttle. For a while, you’re back in your early 20s, fresh out of college, full of energy, ambition, and passion. It might be cliché but the Coolray really felt young and blissful.
Once my little jaunt with the Sport mode was over, I stopped for a rest and appreciated its looks. I remembered how stunned I was when it was launched back in 2019. It didn’t look like anything else in the market, and the ‘Cosmos’ grille was certainly a unique touch. Looking at it under the sunlight, the distinct aggressive stance of the Coolray certainly goes against the modern classy aesthetic of the grille, yet it blends well. The sides and rear might be a bit over the top, but if you’re a relatively young driver I’m sure this will appeal to your senses.
Inside, you wouldn’t think the Coolray roars the way it does. It’s very modern, implementing brushed aluminum accents on many panels, red leather on the dash, seats, and doors; rectangular shapes on the dashboard, and Geely’s signature joystick shifter at the center console. The buttons are also placed flush on their surroundings to avoid visual clutter, and they are grouped intuitively to lessen the learning curve. I also like the physical volume buttons above the center air vents which are easier to operate than if they are on the touchscreen assembly itself.
The backseat area is in contrast with the front, since it’s a lot plainer than expected. There are cup holders in the center armrest but there are no air vents for the rear passengers. In lieu of that, there’s a single USB port for charging. Space-wise, it’s very generous for three adults in all areas. The panoramic sunroof doesn’t stretch to above the head of the rear passengers though, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.
As for its toys, to be honest, I had my doubts about the 360-camera and the automatic parking features back when it was launched. I just thought, it won’t be as smooth as Ford’s self-parking or Nissan’s 360-camera; but I was wrong. It was just as good here in the Coolray, and you’re getting them at a much cheaper price point. You just have to be careful with the self-parking because while it sees the cars around it, it also relies on visible lines on the ground so if the lines in your area are faded or non-existent, it will have a harder time doing its job. Other significant toys include the stellar brake hold system like in the Azkarra, tire pressure monitoring system, cruise control, and smart keyless entry, among others.
The Coolray also puts your mind at ease every time you drive. It ensures safety for all occupants thanks to 6 airbags, a rigid frame, and blind-spot monitoring, among others. It also has a lane-watch camera that activates whenever you use the turn signals; but it has two quirks. First, it only lasts a few seconds even if you still have your turn signal on, and second, it shows the side of the car, and not the blind spot by the rear quarter like what the CR-V does. It’s still useful, but just not what I expected it to be. Still, having these safety features lets me enjoy driving it more.
The only thing that’s missing in the Coolray is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I guess there really is no perfection in this world. But its absence doesn’t take anything away from this Geely. It’s still this mannered beast that knows when to rip and where to sip a glass of whisky, averaging 8km/l in traffic and around 13km/l when the roads are spacious.
That’s the anomaly of the Coolray. How can something so fuel efficient be this thrilling to drive? Normally you’ll have to choose between something efficient, or something performance-oriented. The Coolray walks both paths with such ease.
While other crossovers from China that came before this were at par with the competition and tried to undercut them in pricing, the Geely Coolray kicked the doors and made itself known from the get go. At P1,198,000, it definitely raised the bar in value for money in its segment and aimed straight for the jugular of its rivals—that is giving a great drive while keeping everyone safe and comfortable. It didn’t wait for another generation to make its mark and its enemies can only look on.