New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Road test: Poor man's Cadillac?

2013-08-08 07:16


FAKE IT GOOD: Chinese auto importer Geely is selling the Emgrand EC7 from only R149 990 and its value for money seems almost too good to be true. Image: Quickpic


Chinese automaker Geely, already becoming well-known in South Africa for its smaller vehicles, is now aiming at the 'bigger' market with its EmGrand at really economic prices.

A new Geely product, the Emgrand EC7, rocked up at our offices the other day and I was the eager beaver to try it out. I’m no prude - I’ll drive anything. I thought I’d look for some images of the car online in the meantime before I was set on my way home later that day – before I’d seen what it looked like outside. I knew not to expect a carbon fibre trims and soft-leather upholstery, but the interior images mortified me to say the least. I cringed in my seat and dreaded the drive home.

By the time I made my way to the car I was expecting the worst. I was taken aback by its sheer size, it looks bulky and long and I wondered would this car even fit in our garage.

Curiosity got the better of me and I got inside. Then it all seemed too good to be true – except for the dodgy badge on the steering wheel.

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It has a leather interior, four airbags, a colour touch-screen multimedia display inclusive of satnav, DVD player and audio functions but probably most surprising is the 1.8-litre engine. Because of its origin, you'd expect this car to lack the ambition of a new kid at school trying to make friends. But not this one, this one is like a flat-chested teenager’s “inner, big-busted cheerleader dying to come out something feisty” – as my friend would say.

It makes 105kW/172Nm and is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Though it might not be as quick as a hungry lioness chasing live meat, it made me feel confident enough to drive faster than 120km/h. Top speed is at 185km/h, according to the automaker.


It’s not a lazy car either. Give it some foot and it will go and go, nor does it feel unstable behind the wheel. It’s not the type of car I'd attempt some gymkhana obstacles in or even try to throw its rear out in a delicious corner on Stellenbocsh's Hels Hoogte Pass, but it holds its own in traffic and the straight open stretches.

In terms of looks, it’s not the tall, blonde with a dazzling smile, but it will be noticed just because its so different albeit nothing to write home about. It has a silhouette of a Mercedes-Benz, wide arches that make its curvy hips look freakishly appealing and design lines of a Hyundai or Honda.

Inside the facia is uncluttered and there’s enough room in the rear for Snow White, the prince and his horse, the seven dwarfs and all their pets. No, I’m not joking, it’s that spacious!

I picked my boyfriend up from work in it one day and the expression on his face was priceless. It was that "WTF are you driving?" face. He asked if Noah knew I had stolen his Ark and he was particularly confused by the badge on the front grille. If you haven’t seen a Cadillac badge in a long time, and that’s likely since the cars are no longer sold in SA, it looks similar. Although once you check, they’re quite far apart despite the same red, black and gold chequered pattern that would make one think so.


The Emgrand reminds me think of a woman I know who loves to shop, but she can’t always afford to. Even though she can’t don a pair of Prada sunglasses, a Louis Vuitton handbag or some Maranellos on her feet – she always looks like a million bucks.

Her secret? Cheap Chinese clothing stores. And before we judge her, let me remind you that there isn’t an item in our homes or offices that doesn’t have those three little words: ‘Made in China’.

She could find an entire ensemble for less than R100 including a pair of shoes if she was lucky. She’d go home, shower, and do her hair and make-up. She would step out in those clothes looking like Patrick Swayze draped in a white chiffon two-piece evening frock in Too Wong Foo with Love, complete with a tight bun on her head and curled sideburns. And, no one would be the wiser.

I knew though. And by the third time she’d wear any of those items, the seams would start to rip at her thighs or the hem would be out in her skirt because the thread had vanished.


It’s like my favourite Toyota jacket, bought at a flea market in Joburg five years ago. The embroided badge is tattered, my pockets are torn and yet I still wear it - occasionally.

My point? Even though Chinese cars might appear to have improved by leaps and bounds with appearance, technology or quality – they still don’t last as long and I’m curious about the EC7’s longevity before something breaks.

Did I love the Emgrand? Er, no, but I was impressed and it does seem like good value for money. I just can’t help being sceptical and wonder how long it will last.

Despite its ridiculous price R149 990 for the GL Luxury – and R164 990 for the GT Executive with four airbags and a power sunroof – I’d still go for something with a more established reputation, though smaller, such as a Kia Rio sedan, or a Toyota Etios, Chevrolet Sonic or Honda Brio, for that matter.
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