This may not look like anything too impressive, and it's definitely far from Geely’s most striking new vehicle, but the 2021 Geely Emgrand could have more far-reaching consequences for Malaysians than what is immediately obvious.
Nearing its 4th-generation version, the nameplate has been around for a little over a decade now and, back in the day, even managed to spawn its own little sub-brand before everything got reconsolidated under a unified Geely marque.
Known internally as the SS11, this newest Emgrand is significant due to its basis on the automaker’s B-segment Modular Architecture (BMA), the same one that underpins the X50. And due to its shared platform and the Emgrand’s positioning as an entry-level sedan, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine it coming to Malaysia with the Proton badge.
Should Proton ever need a true B-segment sedan that offers a footprint that borders on the C-segment while boasting markedly more forward-looking design, technology, and construction beyond what is possible with the Persona, the Emgrand would easily fill those shoes.
Though it might not have the sharp lines of the X50, the four-door sedan does carry a certain aesthetic sophistication, easily matching cars like the new Nissan Almera or Honda City for pure curb appeal. Besides, that rear visor-like tail lamp cluster is already a pretty close match to the newest Proton models.
We don't get a full view of the Emgrand’s cabin but it does leave a very positive first impression. The flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel is immediately recognisable from the X50 while the two-tone dashboard layout looks modern and sleek with its Audi-style air curtain vents and floating touchscreen infotainment display.
We don’t have too much information on the all-new Emgrand’s technical specifications, though, which is both a shame and a little strange given how close this car is to its launch window. That said, it’s only reasonable for us to expect some mechanical overlap between existing models such as the Binyue (X50). We even see white seats that aren’t (entirely) fabric. Classy!
Disappointingly, it looks like it will be missing out on Geely’s new forced induction engines, as it has been doing in its previous incarnation. Fuel economy, longevity, and cheap running costs are the Emgrand’s forte, so big power and torque from a downsized turbo-petrol take a much lower priority.
Its predecessor, released in 2018, was powered by a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine mated to either a 5-speed manual or CVT, and it looks like that powertrain package is being carried over into the SS11, albeit alongside some upgrades to produce an adequate 114hp.
The possibility of a more potent engine and transmission package making its way into the Emgrand is still on the table, of course, but there seems to not be much motivation to make that happen as Geely’s home market customers aren’t making much of a fuss.
Should the 4th-generation Emgrand find its way into the Proton line-up as a Persona replacement (or successor), however, the Malaysian buyer base might insist upon a little more guts under that bonnet, especially in light of the impressive B-segment powertrains in the Nissan (turbo) and Honda (e:HEV).
According to their own timeline, Proton was scheduled to follow up the X50 with an all-new sedan for 2021. Though the pandemic has most certainly pushed those plans back, we can still keep our hopes up for a 2022 launch window. Since it’s a foregone conclusion that it will be a badge-engineered version of an existing Geely model, could it be based on the all-new Emgrand?