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Since the new-look Geely made a comeback on our local shores in 2019, I have test driven two of its compact SUVs—the Coolray and the Azkarra Premium compact crossover. So far, it has been 2-out-of-2 in the overall great-value-for-money ratings.

The Filipino motorist, in general, has also taken notice, as reflected in the sales volume from last year. The Geely brand, now marketed and sold in the Philippines through a distribution partnership and after-sales service agreement with Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corp/Sojitz G Auto Philippines, broke into 2020’s top 10 sales list with total vehicle sales of 2,158, just edging out Kia and breathing down the neck of 9thplacing Foton Motor PH (which sold 2,456 units), which makes Geely and Foton the only Chinese brands in the top 10.

After driving the spirited Coolray and the tech-laden and comfy Azkarra Premium compact crossover (2WD), I knew Geely would be performing well in the hotly contested compact SUV market.

And now, after having also recently tested the Azkarra Luxury 4WD (mild hybrid), I can safely declare that Geely could be going for a 3-for-3 success rate.

The Azkarra Luxury 4WD comes with its own set of unique features to differentiate it from its Premium 2WD sibling. True, the Premium offers some of the clearest 360-degree AVM, electronic anti-glare of the rearview mirror, expansive sunroof, and a more compassionate, cruelty-free PVC upholstery that doesn’t use animal skin yet is more comfortable on the human skin, but the Luxury 4WD has a little more “oomph” under the hood: A 48V Electric Motor Synergy in synch with the 1.5L turbocharged gasoline engine that produces 190 hp, 300 Nm of torque, and 0-100 kph in under 10 seconds.

Sojitz G Auto Philippines’ General Manager Froilan Dytianquin explained that the engine management system can intelligently identify the operating conditions, start or shut down (each motor) actively, and supply or recoup the energy output from the engine. The system’s main functions are to increase power, improve fuel economy and NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness). Because of the advancements in battery technology, the Azkarra Luxury’s 48V battery can go well beyond 10 years, while not costing as much as the full-hybrid ones.

While 2020 sales have spoken well of Geely’s performance as a carmaker in the Philippines, what’s the verdict, specifically, on the Azkarra Luxury?  Well, I took things quite literally and asked a young judge who owns an Azkarra Luxury mild hybrid. The judge, who’s based in southern Luzon and opts not to be identified, said he bought his Azkarra just two weeks ago and has run the vehicle only for 900 km so far.

Before settling for the Azkarra Luxury, he considered the Ford Territory, Toyota Altis Hybrid and the Geely Coolray. What made him decide to choose the Azkarra Lux was “the blend of luxurious interior, the mild hybrid system and the value for money.”

He stressed of the Azkarra Luxury: “Nothing comes close to the level of equipment, luxurious interior, tech and an AWD in its price bracket.”

The judge being a judge, he said he dutifully pored over as much background information as he could on the brand. “I did almost a year of research—watching YouTube reviews, the reviews of their other cars from other countries, and scouring internet forums for feedback from owners. All of them were overwhelmingly positive, coupled with the fact that the distributor of the brand here has a proven track record.”

And so far, what he has seen on paper and on screens has lived up to the actual drives. What he likes most about the Azkarra are the reduced NVH levels, saying, “they are the best I have ever experienced in a vehicle, specifically the noise level which is surprisingly quiet. You barely hear the engine, while the ride is really plush.”

The judge also echoes the common sentiment aired by owners/members of the Geely Azkarra Club: The integration of android auto/apple carplay in the head unit should come as standard. He added that the cruise control “should also be adaptive like the Territory, as well as the blind spot monitoring and remote start—both of which the Coolray has—and auto emergency braking.”

I mentioned the “lag” I felt with the Azkarra Luxury compared to the more responsive acceleration of the Premium. He responded that the Luxury’s turbo lag was “nothing new” for him.

“I also own a Montero 2018 model, while my wife drives a 2017 Ford Everest which used to be mine. Both the Montero and Everest are turbocharged diesel engines pulling heavy vehicles and thus, turbo lag is always there.”

Add to that the 95 kilos (nearly 210 pounds) of added weight of the Azkarra Luxury versus that of the Premium variant.

As far as the Azkarra Luxury’s fuel efficiency goes, the readings for me and for the judge have varied widely. My maximum fuel efficiency was 12 km/liter during city drives. The judge hasn’t taken note yet of his city mileage. However, his highway run yielded 17.4 km/liter (without passengers and on Eco mode, with the air conditioning set at 22c). My best highway run on the Azkarra Premium 2WD yielded 14.2 km/liter.

For just a little over P160,000 more, one can upgrade to the Azkarra Luxury (priced at P1.598 million) from the Premium (P1.438 million). That’s a small price to pay to get the added power and fuel efficiency of a mild hybrid system. No judgment, however, if you still opt for the Premium. Personally, I’d choose a more compassionate, kinder heart than a stronger one.

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