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Whenever this writer picks up a vehicle for a test drive, I always make sure to locate the lever that would open the fuel tank and the USB port where I could charge my mobile phone before leaving the showroom. Since the Geely Azkarra’s fuel tank cap unlocks once you turn off the engine (hence, no need for a lever), I only had to worry about the USB port’s location.

It took me a while but it turned out the USB port was neatly hidden under the Azkarra’s floating center stack. Peter Horbury quickly came to mind and realized that the Azkarra I am about to drive benefited so much from the former styling boss of Volvo Cars (the floating center stack was first featured in the 2004 edition of the Volvo S40 sedan and V50 wagon).

Apart from the floating center stack, another Horbury influence is the Azkarra’s “Expanding Cosmos” grille design that would certainly remind us of the Volvo Concept Universe that was revealed during the Shanghai International Auto Show in 2011.

If you’re wondering why the Azkarra has so much Volvo influence, Horbury happens to be the current global head of design for Geely, the Chinese car brand that, in 2010, acquired the Swedish luxury car brand. Since then, Geely has grown to become China’s third-biggest car maker with stakes at other important global car brands including Lynk & Co (next-generation mobility provider), Lotus (British sports carmaker), LEVC (maker of London’s black cabs), and even Daimler.

Geely’s Volvo DNA

And this is great news for the buyers of Azkarra as they will drive home a five-seater crossover that carries traces of Volvo DNA—timeless elegance, expressive shapes, high-tech interior, and exceptionally remarkable driving experience.

In fact, the Azkarra’s underpinning, engine, and safety technologies are the outcome of Geely’s more than a decade of collaboration with Volvo engineers and design teams. All the great qualities for the price of P1.438 million (the Premium variant that I drove).

At this price point, the Azkarra Premium is definitely a steal. It’s P160,000 less than the Luxury variant, which is an all-wheel drive as well as a mild-hybrid. The Premium, on the other hand, is powered by a 1.5 turbocharged gasoline engine mated to a six-speed automatic and generates maximum 177hp and 255Nm of torque (for comparison, the electric motor-assisted 1.5 turbocharged gasoline engine of the Luxury generates maximum 190hp and 300Nm of torque).

Other than engine performance and drive system, seat material (the Premium has soft leather-like PVC while the Luxury has Nappa leather) and the availability of wireless charging that is exclusive to the Luxury, the two Azkarra choices are identical when it comes to exterior/interior designs, amenities and safety features.

Endearing qualities

Just because we’re in a global pandemic doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t have nice wheels like the Azkarra Premium. Indeed, Horbury’s team and Geely engineers spent a lot of time in giving the Azkarra its endearing qualities—one that offers a level of luxury and competitive features set, especially in-car electronics.

Once settled behind the steering wheel, there are several things you will immediately notice: deep shaped seats and high side panels for both the driver and front passenger. The driver’s seat offers six-way power adjustment.

Everything is digital as you look behind the flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel—the 7-inch main instrument cluster that changes appearance depending on the selected drive mode and that extra wide 12.3-inch infotainment panel on your right that is neatly integrated to the dashboard design. This GKUI infotainment system could project a crisp 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings, which could serve as a blind-spot monitor as well as parking camera.

Safety is of course paramount. Like its more expensive trim, the Azkarra Premium, is similarly equipped with several safety features including six airbags, full LED headlamps, daytime running lights, multi-around view monitor, corner sensor, overspeed warning, ABS+EBD, traction control system, electronic stability control, hill start assist, and hill descent control. To deal with the current health situation, both trims are now equipped with CN95 cabin filters to deal with airborne microbial and inert particles.

E-shifter

Completing the Azkarra’s very modern-looking cabin is of course, the floating center console where the jet throttle-inspired e-shifter serves as the centerpiece. A friendly piece of advice: since everything is done via flicks and push of the buttons, practice the e-shifter’s forward and backward functions, when to push the button on top (to set the Park function) and the one underneath (to unlock button that engages the Reverse). For added safety, the instrument cluster also flashes which gear function you are currently engaged to.

For the passengers at the back, they should appreciate the Azkarra’s panoramic sunroof that extends to their heads. While the second row rear seats can accommodate up to three individuals, it makes sense to just let two so they could enjoy the full comfort of having deep seats. Besides, the center seat hides the beverage holders.

With great specs and a reasonable price, choosing the Azkarra makes sense these days. If your daily commute consists of bumper-to-bumper traffic, then it’s important to have a ride that’s comfortable enough for a lengthy drive and can get you to work and home safely. While there are many crossovers on the market that can do just that, I found that the Azkarra Premium takes it up a notch.

Photos by EUGENE ARANETA

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