Want to get an early angle on the next Chinese car to come to Singapore? We’ve got you covered…
On April 11th, Geely Auto unveiled its new standalone brand dedicated to electric vehicles (EVs), Geometry, at a glitzy launch event at Marina Bay Sands. Unfortunately, with more than 300 members of the Chinese media in attendance (compared to just six from Singapore), opportunities to get an up-close look at Geometry’s first car, the A, proved near impossible.
Thankfully, Hong Seh Motors, which secured the rights to represent and distribute Geometry’s products in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and a few other Southeast Asian countries, managed to secure a couple of units of the A for display, and we went around, into and under it (ok, not really) to bring you the low-down on the first Chinese car you might actually want to take seriously.
What’s in a name?
Quite a lot. If you have bad memories of the dismal Geely (and other Chinese-made) models of a decade ago, the good news is that you won’t find any Geely badging on a Geometry to serve as a reminder. Remember, Geometry is a standalone brand. So this new car is a Geometry A, not a Geely Geometry A.
Think back to when Toyota launched Lexus to sell luxury cars. Its first product was a Lexus LS400, not a Toyota Lexus.
As for why it’s called A, Geely gives a number of reasons: It’s the first letter of Archimedes, “the father of mathematical physics”; it’s also the first letter of the alphabet, which we suppose Geely wants to imply as being at the forefront of its game; finally, according to Mr Victor Yang, VP of communications at Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (the parent company), Geometry models will follow an alphabetic naming standard, so having its first car named the A is entirely logical.
What kind of car is it?
As you can see, it’s a conventional four-door sedan, not surprising given China’s overwhelming love for the body style. Apparently in 2018, contrary to pretty much the rest of the world, sales of sports utility vehicles actually fell, while sedan sales grew. If you ask us, that’s not a trend we’d mind seeing over here too.
In terms of size, the A can be considered a C-plus segment car. In other words, it’s slightly larger than a Toyota Corolla Altis, but smaller than a Camry. It’s also decently larger than the electric Nissan Leaf, which will be the A’s closest rival in Singapore and should arrive here by mid-year. Here’s how they compare:
Length | Width | Wheelbase (mm)
Geometry A: 4736 | 1804 | 2700
Nissan Leaf: 4480 | 1790 | 2690
Toyota Corolla Altis: 4620 | 1775 | 2700
Skoda Octavia: 4670 | 1814 | 2686
What’s under the bonnet?
A 120kW (161hp) and 250Nm electric motor, which gives a century sprint timing of 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 150km/h. That’s about average for an EV. In comparison, the Nissan Leaf, with its 110kW (148hp) motor, will hit 100km/h in 7.9 seconds before topping out at 144km/h.
Two battery options are available; the base has 51.9kWh of capacity, while the longer range one is rated at 61.9kWh. On a full charge, the company claims a maximum range of 410km and 500km respectively, on the NEDC testing cycle. Both batteries are capable of charging up from 30 to 80 percent in half an hour, if you have an appropriate power source.
Anything else interesting to note?
Apart from being zero emissions, Geometry is also going big on the A being technologically advanced, and that’s apparent from the moment you walk up to the car. With the key in your pocket, the A unlocks automatically, with the door handles, which are normally flush with the body for slipperier aerodynamics, popping out for you to grab.
Unsurprisingly for a product coming from such a digitised country, the interior seems more gadget store than automobile. A 12.3-inch touchscreen takes care of infotainment functions, while a 4.2-inch unit sits upright as the instrument display. There’s also an 8-inch head-up display on the higher trims.
In addition, all the controls in the centre console are touch-operated. That includes all the climate controls, and forward of the rotary gear selector, the miscellaneous driving functions such as sport mode, hill descent control, and brake auto hold function. This last one is called the E-touch Central Touch Zone, and lights up only when the car is turned on.
Alternatively, you might even able be to control most of the functions with nothing but your voice. The A comes with its own version of Siri (or for a closer automotive example, Mercedes’ MBUX), though with our woeful mandarin speaking skills, we weren’t able to effectively test this out.
Surely the tech isn’t limited to looking cool?
Indeed. There’s a boggling amount of active safety gizmos too, certainly more than you’d normally expect to find in a mainstream family car: adaptive start-stop cruise control, lane keep assist and departure warning, front collision warning, rear collision warning (rapid flashing of hazards and taillights if another car is closing too quickly from behind), and door opening warning (so you don’t obliterate a passing biker).
Though the A is a long car, parking it shouldn’t be too difficult, as a reversing camera is standard, while a 360-degree surround view camera is available on the top-spec trim. If even that’s too difficult for you (should you really be driving, if that were the case?), the A can park itself at the touch of a button.
Ok, so it certainly doesn’t seem lacking on paper. But what’s the car actually like in the flesh?
Quietly impressive. The Geometry A is conclusive proof that the Chinese have all but caught up to more established car makers from other countries, at least to see and touch in a showroom.
Without a side-by-side comparison, fit and finish seems on par with the mainstream Japanese and Korean competition.
The choice of materials used inside the car on the other hand, are a slight cut above; none of the main touchpoints feature plastics of the cheap and scratchy variety, and there’s an appealing mix of tones and textures throughout the cabin.
Best of all though, are the seats, which are upholstered in a special fabric that the company says is not only great at maintaining its temperature (an important factor, given the size of the panoramic roof and rear windscreen, which extends fore of rear passengers’ heads), but is eco-friendly too.
That said, we do have some reservations regarding how so many functions are dependent on touch operation. It’s bad enough that touch is nearly always more finicky to use than physical buttons, but in the A’s case, the screens and touch “buttons” could certainly be a lot more responsive.
Coming from a country that demands cars with plenty of legroom (a plethora of China-only long wheelbase models is proof, such as an L version of the Audi A6 and Mercedes A-Class), it’s no surprise that rear occupants are generously provided for in the A, a trait which Mr Edward Tan, executive director of Hong Seh Motors thinks makes the A particularly suited to taxi and ride-hailing work.
Chinese cars used to be bargain basement, but surely all that tech doesn’t come cheap?
Nope, it certainly doesn’t. But then again, on paper the A seems like pretty good value considering what’s on offer.
At current COE prices, Hong Seh expects the car to be priced around S$150,000, give or take, which is on par with the Nissan Leaf. In case you were curious, pricing for the A in China ranges from RMB210,000 (about S$42,000) to RMB250,000 (about S$50,000) before rebates and subsidies.
So when can I actually buy one?
Unfortunately, that’s still a bit of an unknown. Singapore is one of the five initial launch markets (the others being China, France, Norway, and Argentina), and will be the first right-hand drive market the A will be sold in.
Hong Seh is hoping the car can come in time for the 2020 Singapore Motorshow, but Geometry’s official stance is that right-hand drive takes time to develop and homologate, so they refuse to be drawn into giving even a very rough local launch date.
Given the reception the A has received thus far though, there’s a chance that excessive demand might push that date even further back. In less than a month, Geometry received nearly 30,000 pre-orders from, long before anyone had seen the car, or even learnt of its spec and pricing. And judging by the enthused reaction of the massive Chinese crowd at MBS that night, it’s safe to say the Geometry A won’t have any difficulties finding ready buyers.