If there’s one Chinese automaker that has truly disrupted the status quo among mainstream brands in the Philippine automotive market, that would be Geely. Thanks to a solid lineup of vehicles that do not just look great, but also have strong engineering foundations, Geely might just be that one brand that will eliminate the negative stigma among Chinese cars. This is the 2022 Geely Okavango Urban Plus, which quickly became the brand’s second-best-selling vehicle. After a few years since making its local debut, is the Okavango still relevant enough? Let’s find out.
Compared to Geely’s best-selling Coolray, the Okavango looks more conservative. For starters, the Okavango isn’t riding on their latest BMA platform that was developed with Volvo’s involvement. Instead, this rides on the CV platform that’s shared with the Chinese market-only Jiaji MPV. As a result, this midsize crossover SUV is an MPV in a rugged SUV suit.
In terms of its design, however, you wouldn’t realize this upon first inspection. The Geely Okavango Urban Plus that we have here rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, which, in hindsight, actually looks a bit small for its design. 19 inches would most likely improve its looks further, but this will definitely have a negative effect on ride quality. Compared to the Coolray, the Okavango looks far more conservative. The overall shape is more upright, and the lines are cleaner. It’s free from the creases and body kits of its smaller corporate sibling, but it’s a design that will definitely age well.
Some of its design highlights include the Okavango’s Expanding Cosmos grille, which has been a design signature of every Geely SUV. This Urban Plus variant also comes with adaptive matrix LED headlights, which, just like Mazda’s headlights, enables you to leave your headlights at a constant high beam state because the headlights can block certain parts of the beam so that it won’t dazzle other drivers.
Likewise, the interior design of the Geely Okavango is less stylish than the Coolray’s, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t look interesting. There’s a leatherette section in the middle of the dash, but the rest of the cabin is dominated by hard plastics, unlike the Coolray that has a premium interior finish. Where it lacks in premium feel more than makes up for the amount of practicality it offers. There’s a large storage bin in the center console, and this is thanks to the electronic parking brake and electronic gear shifter.
Features and Infotainment
A 10.25-inch touch screen infotainment system comes as standard across all variants, while this top trim Urban Plus also adds a fully-digital gauge cluster. Its cabin tech is well integrated with each other, with the infotainment system and digital gauges working well in tandem with each other. Unfortunately, the infotainment screen isn’t as nice as the digital gauges, with the main screen being susceptible to being washed out under harsh sunlight. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t available, just like every single other Geely out there.
Other amenities that this variant has are power-adjustable front seats, a large panoramic sunroof, a powered tailgate, smart entry with push-button start, just to name a few.
Space and Practicality
Going back to its MPV roots, the Geely Okavango’s interior space is very practical and spacious. Thanks to its unibody construction as opposed to the Innova’s body-on-frame truck-based chassis, the Okavango’s interior volume is much more generous. This enabled Geely to provide the second-row occupants with three individual chairs that are also individually adjustable. As a result, the wide individual seats give second-row passengers plenty of shoulder room to spare. Unfortunately, this kind of seat design eliminates the center armrest, so that might be a deal breaker for some.
Moving towards the third row, and the Okavango offers true seven-seater capability. This is one of the only vehicles in its class where I’m able to fit properly in the third row with minimal complaints. As a matter of fact, my only complaint is the low seat height, but that’s pretty much it. Even with the second-row seats moved all the way back, there’s still decent headroom for me, while headroom is generous for my 5’11” height.
Lastly, as for trunk space, the Geely Okavango offers 257 liters with all the seats up. Folding down the third-row seats increases this to 1,200 liters, which is more than twice than what the Innova offers under the same configuration. Folding the second-row seats increases this to a whopping 2,050 liters, which practically dwarfs the Innova’s and even every single other pickup-based SUV out there.
The Geely Okavango range comes with a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline engine that’s mated to a 48-volt Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) which they market as an Electric Motor Synergy (EMS). Yes, this makes the Okavango a mild hybrid with an electric motor for assistance. The total system output is 190 hp at 5,500 rpm and 300 Nm from 1,500 – 4,000 rpm, and this drives the front wheels via a wet 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
What makes this complex powertrain amazing is how transparent it works out on the open road. Being a mild hybrid, the engine start/stop that turns the engine off while in traffic is smooth, which meant I never had the need to turn the feature off. In addition, the powertrain is also a smooth operator. Even when crawling through traffic, the electrified powertrain is coordinated with each other. Power is also delivered in a linear fashion, and the Okavango doesn’t suffer from the immense lag that small-displacement turbo engines tend to suffer.
Even at higher speeds, the engine has good tractability even when planning for an overtake–again another pitfall of most small-displacement turbo engines that the Okavango manages to avoid. This is also where you’ll notice how stable the Okavango is at high speeds. Even past 100 kph, the chassis, despite its large panoramic sunroof, feels planted and rigid. Its ride is also controlled and it manages to absorb bumps with delicacy, especially considering that this uses a torsion beam rear suspension. Road noise is also well suppressed, but I do notice a bit more wind noise than I would like, but it’s not an unrefined car by any means, mind you.
The stable and smooth nature practically sums up how the Geely Okavango Urban Plus performs. Don’t expect it to feel sporty in the same way as a Mazda CX-8 does. Body roll is present but controlled, and the electric power steering is very light and completely devoid of road feel, so don’t expect this to be a fun vehicle through corners. Surprisingly, the brakes feel linear for a vehicle with an electrified powertrain, since the presence of regenerative braking often makes a car have an inconsistent brake feel.
Lastly, speaking of that electrified powertrain, it expectedly performs well in terms of fuel efficiency. Throughout a week’s worth of use, I achieved around 12.5 to 12.9 km/l, which is stellar for an MPV disguising itself as a midsize crossover SUV. Do remember that I don’t live in Metro Manila, so expect this figure to be a bit less if you live in the city.
Even after a few years since it was released, the Geely Okavango Urban Plus is still relevant in today’s market. It continues to disrupt the status quo of the established players, thanks to its affordable pricing, feature-packed spec sheet, and believe it or not, driving dynamics that are on par if not better than the likes of the Toyota Innova. No wonder then that even today, a lot of Filipino consumers are still buying the Okavango in droves. Just like GAC, Geely is one of those Chinese automakers whose cars aren’t just nice considering their affordable price tags or from their place of origin. Instead, it’s a properly sorted vehicle that practically is fuss-free, and if you’re open to owning a vehicle that isn’t from the mainstream brands, you’ll actually end up with a vehicle that’s more rewarding to drive on a regular basis.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.