Let’s face the truth: compact crossovers have become a niche market in the Philippines, primarily because of the average price within this segment. With prices that range between P1.6 million to P2.0 million, even beyond in some nameplates, car buyers are turning their attention to midsize SUVs that are not only within the same price range, but also offer more seats, more versatility, and yes, diesel engine.
But then again, the time will come when a nameplate will enter to change the game. Case in point: the 2018 GAC GS4. With a sticker price that’s just a bit north of a million pesos, it offers the same value as with the segment mainstays. With that, the GS4 has become the most popular GAC in the Philippines since the brand’s local launch last year.
Backed by popular demand, here’s the 2018 GAC GS4 under our proverbial microscope.
Obviously, chromes. Lots of it – on the fascia, at the sides, and even at the rear outlining the dual exhaust tips that are integrated onto the bumper. Even the projector headlights have chrome outlines, as well. While the presence of chromes was a pass in the GA4 sedan, it’s a bit unsettling in the GS4 because of its sporty demeanor brought about by the black under claddings, roof rails, and spoilers. It’s like an identity crisis. That, or the sparkling plum body color doesn’t really go with chrome.
Disregarding the shiny things, there’s a lot to love about the GS4’s styling. The vertical strips of DRLs near the fog lights look good, as well as the huge 10-spoke 18-inch rims. The latter matches the fender flares, giving the GS4 a beefy stance. Also, I’ve got to admit that I’m a sucker for floating C-pillars. Well, the GS4 has a well-executed one, sans the Trumpchi badge.
There’s a flush of high-quality materials inside the GS4, spearheaded by the lot of black and brown leather that highlights the cabin. The leather is smooth, except for the steering wheel, while the plastics are soft and masked with a matte finish. The buttons and controls are clustered nicely together, idiot-proofing the car. They have nice feedback, too, except for the side mirror adjuster that’s a bit flimsy.
Despite the lack of telescopic adjustment, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the GS4. As a compact crossover, space is cavernous even at the rear seats. There are also air-conditioning vents at the back; not that the GS4 needed them as the automatic climate control works like how it should in a tropical country. It has a sunroof, too, for added ambiance especially at night. At the trunk, the generous amount of space is there, but what I love about the cargo area is that the second row folds completely flat to the floor even with the already-low loading height of the car. I just wish that it’s a flat lip entry, though.
Ride comfort is also relatively good as the McPherson (front) and multi-link beam (rear) suspension setup leans towards comfort rather than performance. As such, road inconsistencies are absorbed well and aren’t felt in the cabin.
One of GAC’s main selling points is the plethora of high-tech features at an affordable price point. The GS4 went beyond providing the essential driver-convenient features such as speed-sensing door locks, cruise control, parking sensors, and reverse camera – it also has tire pressure monitoring system, electronic parking brake, brake hold function, and huge touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Auxiliary, and iPod connectivity. I specifically like how the infotainment looks and its seamless smartphone integration. Handsfree calls are also clear on both ends of the line.
Although, one thing can be improved: the user interface of the head unit isn’t very intuitive. For instance, going back to the main menu after tweaking the EQ would need two steps, which is a bit annoying at times. Still, the GS4 has the presence of two USB charging ports at the back, just below the A/C vents – something that this gadget-driven generation would really appreciate. The speakers sound decent, as well.
Lastly, the GS4 has an around view monitor that shows a top view of the vehicle. This gives the car maximum visibility, easing out the maneuverability within tight streets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The GAC GS4 is fully loaded with safety features. It has dual front and side airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stability program, hydraulic brake assist system, hill hold control, hill descent control, and ISOFIX child seat anchors. The driver and front passenger also get seatbelt reminders while an impact-sensing door unlock system is in place. That’s a pretty solid safety lineup, really.
Driving and Handling
The GS4 has an intriguing powertrain setup. It has a turbocharged 1.5-liter gasoline engine, which is a bit small when compared to the popular nameplates in the compact crossoversegment. The force-induction allows the GS4 to have a healthy power output of 151 horsepower and 235 Nm of torque. Interestingly, these numbers were even greater than the 2.0-liter gasoline Honda CR-V’s.
On the actual drive, the engine performed well. It’s responsive to every accelerator input, albeit, with a little bit of turbo lag as expected. The force induction kicked in at around 2,000 RPM, which gave the car a healthy boost to keep it up to speed. The six-speed transmission upshifted quickly but there’s a little hesitation when downshifting. The turbo lag would take some time to get used to, as well, especially in the city, and moving from brake hold was a bit harsh so you would need to ease up on the accelerator.
I must say, the GS4’s handling has seen better days. The steering feel was light yet there’s considerable understeer felt especially when tackling curved roads at speeds. There’s also a bit of a wobble, jarring even, when flooring the accelerator after coming from a tight turn, so you would need to be really careful with that.
It’s great that the GS4 has put up some decent numbers when it comes to fuel efficiency because it validated the use of turbochargers. City drives at around 15 km/h average clocked in 6.9 km/L, while faster paces at around 60 km/h gave back a reading of 12.0 km/L. Highway runs with the cruise control set at 90 km/h registered an impressive 18.2 km/L.
Indeed, at P1,188,000, the GAC GS4 changes the game by offering at par, if not better, vehicle amenities and tech features that aren’t likely found in the more popular Japanese and South Korean compact crossover nameplates. If you could look beyond ‘Made in China’ and some of its imperfections, the GS4 is easily a bang-for-the-buck car that you could turn your attention to.