One of the longstanding jokes in the international motor industry is that a Chinese car manufacturer needs only two items of stationery to design a vehicle: tracing paper and a pencil.
Things have changed since the first Chinese cars arrived in the South African market in 2007, however. One of the most distinctive cars to come from China so far has been the Geely LC, which was well-received when CAR magazine tested it for the March 2012 issue.
The range has just been extended with a model that can be described as being almost totally unique to the South African market. The LC Cross differs from its lesser stablemates in that it offers improved ground clearance and has a spare wheel attached to its rear hatch. Yes, that’s right: it looks like a mini-SUV, but strangely enough, the hatch is hinged at the top and the spare wheel does not swing out when the hatch is lifted. The Cross is further distinguished from other LCs by a larger radiator grille, good-looking alloy rims and roof rails.
Inside, the LC Cross is not much different compared with the other models in the LC range. The first few LCs that were imported here, came with light-coloured interiors that could mark easily, but this has been replaced by a darker interior that looks a whole lot better. There is just enough rear legroom for children, therefore adults might find the rear seat less comfortable. The hatch-mounted spare wheel frees up some luggage space, but if you need a lot of boot space, maybe the LC Cross is not the car for you. A distinctive feature is the unusual glovebox lid; it rolls up to one side and as a result, it is not lockable. This has no practical advantage, and it is a gimmick just for the sake of being different.
On the road, the fact that the LC comes with a 1,3-litre engine gives it an advantage over entry-level versions of cars such as the Kia Picanto and the Hyundai i10. In fact, a steep gradient was part of the test route and the LC Cross had no problem in tackling the obstacle in third gear. However, when CAR tested the LC, the test unit’s maximum speed and fuel consumption were not very impressive, so be prepared to fill its fuel tank more often than you might like. The tank only takes 35 litres, which is too small for this kind of car. This might be a real problem with the Cross; one does not know how the greater ground clearance and the hatch-mounted spare wheel might affect fuel consumption. Maybe it would be better to wait until it has been tested before passing judgment.
The LC Cross is one of the few cars on the South African market that defies comparison. There is absolutely nothing with a pricetag of about R100 000 with which one could compare the Geely directly. The Picanto and i10 are fitted with smaller engines, and for those who might have to travel longer distances, the LC’s larger engine might be an advantage. The only car that is reasonably similar is the Renault Sandero Stepway, but that’s about R50 000 more expensive.
It is rumoured that a 1,5 litre version of the LC Cross will be introduced soon. However, even in its current 1,3-litre form, the LC Cross is probably one of the best Chinese cars that has been introduced to South Africa so far. It is proof that the Chinese motor industry has come a long way in a few years, and that manufacturers from other countries who underestimate Geely’s progress do so at their own risk.