Of all the China car-brands entering the country, perhaps the one carmaker that’s really growing in leaps and bounds, expanding their fanbase (and of course customer base steadily) is Geely. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the brand is doing very well: excellent, well-built, featured packed, technology-laden products that drive very well, all at very good price points, with very good after-sales service to match. So despite their initial and modest 2-car offering (the Coolray and Azkarra), the brand is definitely on everyone’s radar when shopping for a new car. 

So when Geely announced their latest offering, the third model in their three-pronged assault on the Philippine automotive market, everyone knew it was going to make a huge impact. Enter the Okavango.  

The Okavango has big steps to follow after the Azkarra and the Coolray. It straddles two segments, the 7-seat MPV and cross-over SUV segment. But it comes with a price that undercuts most rivals despite being the usual feature and technology filled product the brand is known for. Power comes from a 1.5 liter 3-cylinder direct injected turbocharged gasoline engine outputting 190ps and 300 Newton-Meters of torque. Drive is sent to the front wheels via a smooth-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch wet-type transmission. The DCT is so smooth, you’d think it was utilizing a regular torque-converter equipped automatic transmission. Ditto the power; you feel there might be an extra 50 or so horses secretly hiding but assisting you when needed, along with an extra 100 Newton-Meters of torque. The Okavango moves effortlessly easy on the highway, on undulating and winding mountain roads and in cut and thrust traffic driving. 

There’s a 48-volt mild hybrid system that assist in cruising, so on very long drives, you see even more improvements on the registered fuel economy indicated by the in-car trip-meter. We saw a steady 13.5-14km/liter on our mostly long drives down south, and a decent 7.8-8.2 km/liter in city driving with a tight engine barely broken-in. 

The Geely’s real secret is its dimensions: there’s a generous 194mm ground clearance, enough to instill confidence for light off-roading and crossing light floods, now a constant worry Metro Manila motorists face. The overall width of 1900mm means it’s narrower than most typical 7-seat SUV’s, allowing you to nose into tight parking spaces and get ahead in traffic easily, and the 4,835mm overall length is easily managed even by drivers stepping up from a small B-segment vehicle to the Okavango, the kind of market Geely hopes to capture thanks to its P1,208,000 starting price for the Comfort variant, and P1,328,000 for the top-spec Urban variant. For comparison’s sake, that overlaps with the price of a typical C-segment Japanese sedan and even top-tier B-segment cars, but you get so much more with the Okavango, foremost of which is its 7-seat capacity and 2,050 liters of cargo space with the 2nd and 3rd row seats folded flat. Meanwhile, in 7-seat configuration, you get 257 liters cargo capacity while in 5-seat configuration, that expands to 1,200. Let’s see your 4-door sedan match that space and versatility. Additionally, the middle row seats slide forward and back with reclining seatbacks to give extra space and legroom for all but the tallest of passengers on long drives. 

We had the top-spec Urban variant for a few days and was left impressed with all its features. LED headlamps, 360 degree camera view, six airbags (front, side and curtain), ABS-EBD brakes, traxction / stability control, hill-descent control and hill-start assist, coupled with a 10.25 inch multi-media infotainment system display with QD Link. Leather is standard on the Urban model, as are 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat. Eight speakers deliver an impressive surround sound experience as we enjoyed the latest hard hitting tunes from Black Pink on our drive, kept cool with a 3-zone climate control system coupled with a CN95 filter that cleanses the air of almost all known viruses and bacteria. Perhaps the only major gripe I have with the car is the lack of Apple CarPlay, which would have made navigating in traffic far easier with the large LCD display on the center console, and of course streaming music via Spotify. Bluetooth Telephony isn’t intuitive and can try your patience, especially when you’re rushing to get moving. 

The Okavango rides firm, but with generous compliance on poorly surfaced provincial roads. It’s sneaky fast, as there’s minimal body roll even with four adults and gear on board, allowing you to tackle corners surprisingly fast, without worrying about a jarring riding experience despite running on large 225/55R18 tires and wheels. Out on the highway, the Okavango feels relaxed, thanks to its generous 2,815mm wheelbase. It doesn’t feel top-heavy at all and crosswinds don’t affect it too much on Skyway despite having an overall height of 1,785mm. The brakes are equally strong, providing excellent feel and feedback with fade-free performance going downhill to beat the Luzon-wide government imposed curfew. 

Geely has a homerun, a smash hit with the Okavango. It is exactly what the market wants, moving up from a B-segment sedan to something bigger and roomier for a growing family that, as soon as the COVID19 pandemic passes, is itching to travel all over the country, family in tow. It’s well priced, drives very well and looks sophisticated to boot. It feels solid, not something you’d expect from a China-branded car, and reinforcing that premium, quality feel from a well-sorted product. Because of the Okavango, you can expect to see a lot more Geely cars on the road really soon.