In November 2020, Sojitz G Auto Philippines (SGAP) formally introduced what it described as its “7-seater game changer for SUVs and MPVs”, the Geely Okavango crossover. The Okavango had then become the third model Geely would launch since the brand’s entry to the Philippine automotive industry in September 2019.
Three months later, in February 2021, SGAP followed up with a new Okavango variant, the Urban Plus. Just like the Urban and Comfort variants, the Okavango Urban Plus is powered by a 1.5L turbo gasoline engine, and features a spacious interior where full-grown adults could sit comfortably in all three rows. On top of that, the Okavango Urban Plus shows versatility with 19 seat configurations, 42 storage nooks and compartments, double-layer console, and triple-zone air conditioning system enhanced by the CN95 filter. Loads of creature comforts and safety features are included, such as: 60-inch panoramic sunroof; 3-layer shading materials to completely block the sun’s harmful rays; rainfall sensor with automatic shutdown function; ADB (Adaptive Drive Beam); Matrix LED headlamps; four lighting modes; self-adjusting high and low beams; adaptive front lighting system (steering linkage), automatic headlight leveler, and; 12.3-inch digital instrument panel.
For all the technology this SUV showcases, the name “Okavango”, however, doesn’t go without a small sense of irony. The actual Okavango is located at northwestern Botswana’s vast inland delta, also known as the Okavango Delta. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) recognizes the Okavango Delta as its 1,000th World Heritage Site, and has also been declared as among the seven natural wonders of Africa.
Nothing about this delta, which is primarily an intricate landscape of floodplains, rivers, channels, islands, grassland and woodland, romanticizes anything about trendy-looking sport utility vehicles, especially of the non-4×4 kind. But trust the Okavango SUV’s Chinese makers to make that connection somehow. “The Okavango is aptly named after the Okavango River Delta in Africa, a vast and pulsating wetland which converges and diverges with a unique ecosystem and a myriad of species. Our Okavango embodies this energetic spirit with technology, to bring you a crossover with extended space”, Geely’s Shanghai Design Center General Manager Guy Burgoyne said.
Talk of convergence, the Okavango’s 1.5L turbo gasoline engine was jointly developed by Geely and Volvo, and matches well with the 7-speed wet-type dual clutch transmission, and the 48V Electric Motor Synergy (EMS) technology (with which all Okavango variants are equipped).
Geely’s 48V EMS that characterizes its mild hybrid technology works to complement the engine, increasing horsepower, improving fuel economy and mitigating noise, vibration, and harshness. As Froilan Dytianquin, Sojitz G Auto Philippines/Geely Philippines’ sales and marketing general manager explained, “the 48V battery can go beyond 10 years, and it doesn’t cost as much as the full-hybrid batteries.”
The multi-layered icing on the technology cake may be seen in the Okavango’s safety features: The six SRS airbags; 360-degree panoramic camera which boasts of “best-in-class guidance system” and dynamic auxiliary lines; speed warning; electronic stability control; hill start assist; central locking with speed-sensing auto lock; and hill descent control.
It’s no wonder, then, that “tech geeks” such as Richard Santos, an information technology professional, and Alvin Fernandez, a senior software engineer, would gravitate to Okavango.
For Richard, 40, the Okavango’s technology, especially the 48V EMS and the 360 camera (which he said was among the clearest he had seen in automobiles), was the bonus feature that he could especially relate to. What sealed the deal for him was the spacious interior. The fact that he could comfortably seat his entire family (wife and two kids) during weekend trips, while also carry their luggage and his professional cargo (as he offers photo booth services, he often carries around bulk photo equipment, as well as other business tools in his PasaBuy enterprise) to and from his home in Nagcarlan, Laguna, was the main consideration for his purchase of the Okavango.
Richard, who uses the handle “Qurai Ryu” in his Okavango vlog on Youtube, has had his Okavango Urban for almost three months now, and has logged 3,000 km. He disclosed that his fuel mileage in city drives was at 6 to 8 km/liter, topping out at 19 km/liter on highway runs.
Alvin, 39, on the other hand, has been using his Okavango Urban for just over a month now. Like Richard, Alvin was attracted to the Okavango for its high-tech features. He also said that after researching Geely, He was convinced of its credibility when he found out that the brand “now owns European brands.”
Alvin’s Okavango Urban has been running for just 1000 km. So far, during his one-month ownership, his city drive has been yielding around 6 km/liter during city drives, and about 12 km/liter on the highways.
Richard’s Okavango is feeling just at home in its new habitat in Laguna, where it is used daily for Richard’s professional work on weekdays and for weekend trips with the family.
Richard said that his Okavango is often a “head-turner”, and random people at parking lots approach him and ask to take a closer look at his SUV, whereupon they are surprised at the spacious and relatively luxurious interior.
Richard has nothing bad to say about the driving experience, either. “It has been a pleasurable drive, especially the long ones. Through my Okavango diaries vlog in my YouTube channel, I’ve met proud Okavango owners around Manila and South Luzon and have created a small but helpful FB group community.”
His only wish for the Okavango for now would be that the SUV introduce Apple CarPlay, and then have better front shock absorbers installed.
Alvin, for his part, says he’s “still discovering more features and amenities” of his Okavango. He’s amazed to learn lately that a lot of the SUV’s features are automated, such as the windshield wipers.
Maybe that’s another similarity the Okavango SUV has with the Okavango Delta in Africa. Even after many expeditions in them, one still discovers new things there.