First things first – Geely is pronounced the way you say G in OMG, and not like how you say Guilly’s, the popular night club in Quezon City. Okay? Okay.
For this week’s review, we have the Geely Coolray. If that brand name sounds familiar, it’s because Geely was here in the Philippines a few years back. Unfortunately, the Chinese automaker didn’t take off. But now it’s back and the Coolray, known as the Binyue in China, is the forefront of its return under the management of Sojitz Philippines Corporation.
Now, based on the online reactions we got during and after the Coolray’s launch this year, the subcompact crossover has piqued the public’s interest, to say the least. It isn’t hard to see why. The car looks good and has a lot of tech features to offer, packaged in an affordable price tag. But can the Geely Coolray stand by the hype it created? Let’s find out.
One thing I’ve learned in years of attending car launches is that event lights can be deceitful. There are cars that look grandiose at launch but has a disappointing demeanor under natural light – much like that hot person you met online but looks horrid on your first date.
The Geely Coolray isn’t that car. It looks cool and hot at the same time, whether under bright lights or under the blistering heat of the sun. The design might look busy as there are several elements that you’ll have to digest but that’s part of its appeal. The whole package screams sporty, plus the roof-integrated spoiler and quad-exhaust pipes (yes, four!) are great finishers to what Geely is trying to accomplish with its styling.
And oh, the LED DRLs, taillights, and headlights make the Coolray look great at night as it is in broad daylight.
This is probably where all your money would go if you’ll buy the Coolray. Again, the design is busy and a little overwhelming at first, but the materials found inside the cabin are something you’ll expect in a Volvo, one of the car companies that Geely owns. In fact, the gear lever looks like something lifted straight out of a Volvo parts bin.
Overall, the cabin gives a heightened feeling, such as the soft-touch leather, the brushed aluminum finish, and some tidbits of hard plastics that are hidden in plain sight. I specifically love how the leather on the steering wheel feels, which is something most of us should consider since that’s the part we touch the most.
If there’s any caveat, though, that would be the bulk of red leather inside that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The clear “casing” of the rear-view mirror looks a bit tacky, too, plus the right elbow rest for the driver slides into place but at the expense of one cupholder. There are no rear A/C vents, as well. Nevertheless, the air-conditioning works fine at any point of the day and having a panoramic sunroof is a surprising feature to see at this price point.
The Coolray’s ride comfort is quite expected from a crossover – pliant and doesn’t easily succumb to road imperfections. It rides like a sedan but with the advantage of an extra 196mm ground clearance which allows you to tackle rough roads with ease. With that said, expect some, albeit controlled, body roll when tackling twisties at speeds. The seats are also soft and well-bolstered, so long drives aren't tiring at all.
As for NVH isolation, road noise understandably started to creep in at around 80 km/h, while I felt a little shudder when idling and when coming to a halt – a little but not intrusive. Geely also did a notable job in isolating engine noise from the cabin.
For a subcompact crossover, you would expect the Coolray’s rear seats to have limited legroom but it doesn’t. It’s like this crossover is between a compact and a subcompact in terms of cabin space. I stand at 5’6” and I had an ample space beyond my knees while sitting comfortably at the back. Wiggle room’s a party, too, especially for two passengers, but a third person can be a little tight but still possible. Trunk space, on the other hand, is at 330L by default – huge for a subcompact, and can still be expanded by folding the rear backrests and removing the tonneau.
This is where the Coolray’s cool factor comes in. Geely didn’t hesitate on giving its crossover several tech features despite its price point. A high-resolution 360-degree view monitor tops the list, which by the way displays a 3D version of the vehicle on the 10.25-inch screen when you use your turn signals. Not needed? Yes, but still a point of conversation. Another point of conversation is the fully-automated parking feature. It works just so long as you learn how to keep faith with the sensors and let the car park itself.
Almost everything inside the Coolray is electronic, including the parking brake with auto-brake hold – getting off from the brake hold needs a bit of refinement, though. The infotainment system doesn't have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it’s responsive and connects seamlessly via Bluetooth. You’ll also love the nifty placement of the USB ports under the center console tray, just like the Civic’s. The 6-speaker setup is average sounding, too.
Lastly, what other subcompact crossovers at this price point does have steer-sensitive headlights and remote engine start? That’s right, nothing; except for the Coolray.
With all the nice cabin materials and techie stuff added to the Coolray, Geely didn’t cheap out on safety features as well.
The range-topping variant gets six airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat tethers, five 3-point seatbelts, and front seatbelt reminder. It also has blind-spot monitors on top of the array of proximity sensors and 360-degree cameras, which will keep your car safe from dings and scratches.
Driving & Handling
Under the Coolray’s hood resides a turbocharged 1.5L gasoline engine with three cylinders, which explains the subtle shudders when idling. This mill produces high numbers in black and white – 177 hp and 255 Nm to be exact. These are sent to the front wheels via a 7-speed wet dual-clutch transmission, which is quite fitting as the torque figures here would require a gearbox that can handle numbers beyond 250. It also has three driving modes, which defaults at Comfort mode. The main differences between the modes lie on how quickly the revs go up and the response to accelerator inputs.
Now, we’re not talking about a sports car here, but the Coolray drove well and delivered power when you need it. I was in Comfort most of the time and in this mode, the turbo kicks in as early as 1,000 RPM, allowing the car to get up to speeds easily. The DCT also responded well to accelerator inputs and downshifts by itself intently. However, if you decide to use the paddle shifters for manual downshifting, there was a 1-second delay before it executed the command. With that, engine braking was challenging so I ended up just using the brakes, which bit sufficiently great, by the way.
Driving visibility was okay but at the lowest driving position, the window belt lines were a tad high and the A-pillar seemed to increase the left-hand side blind spot. Beyond that, the steering felt really light but not without sufficient feedback, which made the Coolray a joy to drive on zigzags, especially when in Sport mode where the suspension and steering stiffened up. For a front-wheel drive, the Coolray handled winding roads really well but could have been better if not for the lazy manual downshifts. On the flip side, maneuverability in tight spaces wasn’t a problem at all because of the car’s 360-degree-view camera and bevy of sensors.
I may have enjoyed driving the Coolray too much but during the more relaxed fuel efficiency testing I did, it returned relatively good numbers on provincial roads and on the highway. At an average speed of 60 km/h, I was able to get 13.3 km/L. On the highway with the cruise control set at 90 km/h, the Coolray registered 19.6 km/L.
In the city, however, amidst the chaos of Metro Manila traffic, I was able to clock in 7.2 km/L at speeds around 10 to 15 km/h.
The reintroduction of a rebranded Geely brand this year brought new light to what was once forgettable cars. Now, can the Coolray stand by the hype it created? It can, indeed, with all the things I mentioned here considered and the unbelievable P1,198,000 price tag for the range-topping Sport variant. Looking at the Coolray at a normal car buyer’s standpoint, I just have to say this – this car is so good, it’s weird. A good kind of weird, especially when you compare it to other similarly-priced crossovers or even against pricier and bigger ones.
The question now is the car’s reliability, which is something that we can’t measure at this point but for what it’s worth, the Coolray comes with a 5-year warranty or 150,000 km, whichever comes first. Parts availability is another, which Geely promises to provide in its sole showroom (for now) in Quezon City. But just to let you know, Geely will open several dealerships next year, which should give you more places to go to if spare parts are needed.
With that said, I can't be more excited about what Geely has to offer in the years to come.