I kept the best surprise for last…
We are coming to the end of the first batch in this new Series, detailing Test Drives of Chinese or China-only cars in China. I have had the opportunity, both in the context of the Beijing Auto Show and through my temporary Chinese driver license to test drive five cars. We started with the most successful new nameplate launch in the world the Baojun 510, then went on to China’s best-selling SUV for the past five years the Haval H6, China’s most successful new launch in the past 12 months, the Baojun 530, and finally Geely’s new premium Chinese brand’s latest arrival, the Lynk & Co 02. We end this series with the best-seller in China of the most popular Chinese brand at home: the Geely Boyue. Geely is currently on a streak of 25 consecutive months of double-digit gains at home and became the #1 Chinese brand in China for the first time in 2017.
“Performance Drive” of the Geely Boyue
We are still in Yinchuan, where I have just tested the Haval H6 in a very abrasive (and welcome) way in the company of a Formula 1-style pilot (Yes I have reshuffled these test drives in a different order). Turns out, there is a Geely dealership just next door to the unopened WEY one, just as I was aiming at test driving the Boyue SUV. This is now Geely’s best-seller, having reaching almost half a million deliveries since its launch in March 2016 (to be exact, 490.935 wholesales as of end-April 2017). The Boyue has been slightly facelifted earlier this year with new headlights and bumpers. Contrary to Haval and WEY which have, respectively more grassroots and sportier images, Geely is more mass market and family-friendly and has consistently and spectacularly improved over the past three years, especially when it comes to the quality of materials used in its cockpits. As a reminder, Geely purchased Volvo in 2010 and is now actively involving the Swedish brand’s designer, Peter Horbury, in its new vehicles.
More stress-testing of the Geely Boyue
Accordingly, the welcome I received in the Geely Yinchuan dealership – filled with Borue sedans, Boyue SUVs and Vision X5 SUVs – is by far the warmest so far, with only a few bemused eclipsed looks but a very professional attitude all through. All the salespeople kept their cool at the arrival of the only foreigner they would see today (this month?), I was allocated one who quickly proceeded to sit me down, get me a piping hot “Cha” (Chinese for milk tea) and photocopy my license so quickly I only had time for one sip. A few pictures of me getting into the car and off I am accompanied with three Geely kids in the car. I say kids because none of them could have been more than 25, and they were all soberly excited to be the ones showing the Boyue off to me.
What I am driving is close to being the top-of-the-range Boyue: at 151.800 yuan (US$23.700 or 20.150€), it is just 6.000 yuan below the maximum 157.800 charged to the top-notch Boyue whereas the base version goes for just 96.800 yuan (US$15.100 or 12.850€). This price puts it in the same sandpit as the 133.000 yuan Haval H6 I just drove, the 142.000 base Lynk & Co 02 and the 150.000 base WEY VV5. But then again, this is a car that is more focused on interior comfort than sportiness. Right? I have the opportunity to verify the quality of all materials on the dashboard, with a neat rear view camera, smooth controls on the central console and a smart stop start button. Bonus: in a similar way as the all-new NIO ES8 (although not with a human-like interface), you can ask the car to do a whole lot of things, such as GPS directions or opening the windows, by initiating the conversation with a “Ni Hao Boyue” (Mandarin for “Hello Boyue!”)
Geely Boyue interior details
I knew it before but it is confirmed to me in real life: Geely currently produces some of the best interiors for any Chinese cars available. How does it feel on the road? Smooth but sharp, I try a few harsh turns and braking and the car responds in a docile but poised way, and its behaviour seems to me to be a lot more agile than its size and weight would have suggested. Ticks all marks, and could even add a bit of zing to a dad that doesn’t want to give up its love of driving just because he now has a family. A bit of zing? Nothing could have prepared me for what was coming next…
Once I have completed a couple of two-ways on a quite but large street of Yinchuan, one of the sales kid presents his phone with the following translated into English: “The driver will now demonstrate the performance drive. This is ute intense, so please hold your phone and hold onto the overhead handle. If you want to stop or feel sick please signal the driver.” Ummm ok, there’s no easy way for me to say this, but I’ve just come from a pretty muscular drive with an actual Haval pilot so to be fair I don’t think you measure up. These were my thoughts before the “performance drive” started, which I quickly swallowed back. Oh how wrong I was! The driver (still a kid in my eyes) suddenly goes full throttle in reverse and turns the car around! Then speeds up to 100 km/h to proceed brutally turn left and right and demonstrate a few of the safety features on the Boyue! The Boyue’s tyres screech to their heart’s content but the car remains in control despite the extreme stress test. All this is illustrated by the five videos at the start of this article.
To say that I wasn’t expecting that is a gross understatement. Geely numbed me by dispatching all-too-bland-looking sales kids, one of those turning out to show better driving skills than my Haval “Formula 1” driver, all the while wearing casual white shirts and black pants. This was by far the most exhilarating China test drive I got the luck to take part in during this trip. Geely managed to completely surprise me with an SUV that, under a polished interior and discreet demeanour, is a tiger in disguise. If I was a Yinchuan punter looking for my next car, what the Geely sales kids did, by totally bluffing me, would go a long way in helping my decision. I loved how flattered but professional the dealership welcome was, how respectful and eager to communicate the sales kids were in the car, and how matter-of-factly the driver took the car to its extremes in a matter of seconds. Geely is definitely on the right track.