A new B-segment SUV has just entered a Southeast Asian market to shake up the Toyota Vios and Honda City duopoly, or at least that’s the case now in the Philippines with the launch of the 2022 Geely Emgrand.
Looks-wise, I reckon we know what we’re in for in terms of the exterior design. It’s a nicely proportioned 3-box saloon that manages to incorporate some grown-up touches, looking very much like a shrunken version of Geely’s larger D-segment challenger, the Preface.
Built on the shared BMA platform, the Emgrand is the fourth entrant under Geely’s line-up in the Philippines after the Azkarra (Proton X70 equivalent), Coolray (X50 equivalent), and the 7-seater Okavango SUV (X90?).
The Emgrand (S11) itself has been on sale in China for a few months now since first being revealed in mid-2021 with dimensions that give might those aforementioned segment leaders an inferiority complex. For example, the Emgrand boasts a wheelbase 50mm longer than the City and and 100mm longer than the Vios for increased interior space - theoretically, at least.
It’s also considerably longer from nose to tail than those rivals, creeping on C-segments with an overall length of 4,638mm. For comparison, the 11th-generation Honda Civic (FE) measures just 40mm longer at 4,678mm. While this may or may not translate to occupant comfort, it certainly means you’re getting more car for your money.
Value another area the Emgrand excels in as well with the mid-spec Comfort variant coming in at just 798,000 Philippine pesos (RM65,290). A more well-equipped Emgrand Premium is being lobbed for 908,000 Philippine pesos (RM74,290) that gains plusher leatherette/microsuede interior upholstery in two-tone white and blue colour scheme, a sunroof, power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and 2 more airbags. No active safety features of any kind are on deck, even for the range-topper.
There's also a barebones Emgrand S variant coming later this year, though exact pricing has not yet been revealed. Between the Comfort and Premium, though, both share 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, 6 speakers, a reversing camera, and passive cruise control.
Also standard across all 3 variants is the sole engine option, a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder (designated JLC-4G15B) that produces 102PS and 142Nm mated to a 5-speed manual in the S and an ‘8-speed’ CVT in the Comfort and Premium.
That’s sounds par for the course when it comes to a B-segment sedan as both the Vios and City feature 1.5-litre atmospheric four-pots, but the Emgrand’s power output seems like barely enough to get out of its own way considering its larger size. This is a little baffling considering the China-spec Emgrand sports the same engine but with a slightly beefier 114PS and 147Nm. Still not great, but a bit better.
There are plenty of rumours - and quite a bit of common sense - to suggest that the Emgrand might be Proton’s answer to replace an ageing Persona that struggles to compete against the segment’s biggest hitters. Its arrival in the Philippines might be the kind of proximity shock the homegrown automaker needs to shift its localisation plans into high gear, which will hopefully expedite a Malaysian launch before long.
Recent developments have shed some light on possible hurdles the company needs to overcome before that can begin in earnest, however, as focus on an updated X70 (with the X50's 1.5-litre 3-cyl TGDI engine) as well as the larger X90 SUV seems to be a higher priority for them.
Elsewhere, there are reports that Proton is facing a parts shortage that’s affecting customers of the X70 and X50 resulting in sluggish repair turnaround and frustrated owners.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.