China's Geely LC is great value for money
It took a good 15 minutes to pick myself off the floor following fits of laughter last week when our editor related her story about the recent launch of the DFSK range of LCVs.
In case you missed it, a quick recap. DFSK is the second biggest motor company in China, but its products are being distributed in South Africa through the recently re-launched Geely network. So far, so good.
But when Mabuyane went to get into the DFSK panel van for a test drive, she was just about pinned to the ground as the door was hanging precariously by one hinge. Keep in mind this happened on a vehicle being showcased to the local media, which can be mighty critical at the best of times when it comes to vehicles originating from China.
The above scenario unfortunately does nothing to dispel the perception that Chinese vehicles are crap. Which is a great pity, because Geely's little LC is anything but.
When I wrote about the LC last year - following its local launch - I was impressed by the drive which consisted of a fair amount of tar and off-road gravel driving in the Eastern Cape.
Now, after a full week behind its wheel, I'm even more impressed.
I can sum it up in three simple words: value for money!
Don't get me wrong, the Geely LC is not perfect, but it does have a lot going for it. Line it up against the Toyota Aygo, Suzuki Alto, Peuget 107 and Citroën C1 and it's not going to take a backward step to any one of them.
The Geely LC's design is friendly - and, with those large front headlights, bee-sting antenna and colour-coded handles and bumpers, it is not a vehicle you would be embarrassed to hop in to.
Where it scores highly, and beats the competition hands-down, is in the standard features it comes supplied with.
Get a load of this ... six airbags, CD/radio/USB port, electric windows front and back, electric side mirrors, ABS brake with electronic brake-force distribution, rear door child locks, park-distance warning system at the front and rear, and central locking.
For R94900, buyers, you get the full package. But before rushing out and buying one, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
The interior finishes - although pretty good - do not measure up to those of some of the other entry-model vehicles that are available - although, these come with a much higher price tag .
The material with which the LC's seats are covered does not appear too practical and, even in our test car, which had just 2000km on the clock, the driver's seat was already looking a bit frayed.
On the rear seats the finish is a bit rough ... and you can actually see the bolts through small gaps.
There is also an abundance of plastic inside - and the cover of the front passenger airbag does not look flush with the rest of the dashboard.
The Geely LC has a 1.3l engine which, on paper, looks pretty good - 63kW of power and 110Nm of torque.
But believe me, it isn't going to be featuring in the glossy pages of Speed and Sound Magazine any time soon.
The five-speed gearbox is friendly enough, but the Geely LC definitely takes strain on steep inclines and you have to rev it pretty hard to make some progress.
Parking the vehicle is super friendly, and the ride itself is pretty comfortable, although rear-seat passengers might complain about a lack of legroom on a reasonably long trip.
There is no doubt there is still a stigma around the Geely name following the brands earlier foray in to the South African market, and subsequent demise. It reminds me a bit of Hyundai's history in South Africa, when it also went belly-up at its first bite of the local cherry. Well, look at it today. A major player in the motor industry, Hyundai has capped a magnificent couple of years with the announcement of the Elantra 1.8 GLS as the 2012 Car of the Year last week.
Which begs the question, what was Geely thinking when it hopped into bed with DFSK - if the recent launch of LCVs is anything to go by.
- If you own, or have owned, a Geely vehicle, drop us a line at motormania@ avusa.co.za and tell us what kind of experiences you have had with these Chinese vehicles.
Engine: 1342cc 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 63kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 110Nm at 5200rpm
Top speed: 155km/h
Fuel consumption: 6.9l/100km
Very competitively priced
We don't like:
Lack of pedigree in SA
Finishes could be better