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Geely’s mid-sizer grabs four stars

Right direction: The Geely EC7 - set for Australian sale next year - scored a creditable four stars in recent Euro NCAP safety testing.

Safety thumbs up for Chinese-made Geely EC7 bound for Australia in 2012

25 Nov 2011

THE first Chinese-made Geely car earmarked for national sale in Australia has scored a creditable four-star crash safety result in the latest round of European New Car Assessment Program (ENCAP) results announced this week.

The performance by the Geely EC7 – sold under the Emgrand sub-brand in China – and another Chinese-made car, the MG6 made by the giant SAIC company, was described by ENCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen as a milestone in Chinese automotive history.

“It is a clear sign that Chinese car-makers are building on recent experiences and rapidly investing in better vehicle safety.

“Even with the upcoming increased demands, five stars are expected to be within reach soon.” The Holden Cruze-sized EC7 will become Geely’s first model to be sold in all Australian states when it hits the market in the third quarter of next year.

Perth-based importer for Geely, Chinese Automotive Distributors (CAD), already sells the 1.5-litre Geely MK light sedan in Western Australia, but there are no plans to spread sales of that model to the east of the country due to its lack of electronic stability control (ESC).

That same problem has also torpedoed another Geely model that had been mooted for Australia, the LC Panda mini hatchback, which missed the cut for Australian Design Rule (ADR) certification before ESC fitment became mandatory on all new models on November 1.

203 center imageFrom top: Geely EC7, CE and LC Panda. Below: Renault Fluence ZE and MG6 ENCAP test pictures.

The introduction of another Geely car, the CE light hatchback, also has been delayed while Geely engineers develop ESC for export models, and is now expected to arrive after the EC7 next year, about November.

CAD owner John Hughes – a major motor dealer and businessman in Western Australia – said a network of 33 dealers was in place around the country, not just for Geely but also the Chinese-made ZX Auto range of commercial vehicles that are scheduled to arrive in March.

Mr Hughes welcomed the ENCAP four-star rating for the EC7, saying it underlined the advances in quality and safety being made by Chinese companies, Geely in particular.

The European-spec 1.8-litre EC7 sedan – a hatch version is also available – scored a 75 per cent adult protection rating in the ECAP test – better than mainstream European car-maker Renault’s Fluence ZE electric car that also score four stars in the same batch of results.

In the front offset crash test, the EC7’s major shortcoming was major deformation of the driver’s footwell, which tore in places, resulting in a low rating for lower leg protection.

This result was underscored by movement of the brake pedal, which pushed 176mm into the footwell.

In the side barrier test, the EC7 score maximum points, with all body areas well protected, but in the more severe side pole test, chest protection was rated as “weak”.

By most Chinese standards, however, the crash performance was a meritorious effort, especially as the EC7 was designed and engineered before Geely bought Sweden’s automotive safety leader, Volvo AB, from Ford.

Depending on the safety specification of the EC7 for Australia, the European result might be used by Australia’s NCAP engineers to determine the safety rating of the car for this country.

Mr Hughes told GoAuto the EC7 would be highly specified for local sale, offering features such standard leather trim and sat-nav to help elevate it above the “cheap Chinese car” tag.

A six-speed Australian-engineered DSI automatic transmission will be offered as an alternative to the five-speed manual gearbox.

In China, the EC7 is offered with 1.5-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines, but the larger 102kW/172Nm is the unit set for Australia. Side curtain airbags and ESC will be standard.

The Geely CE hatch – unveiled in concept form in 2008 – will replace the ageing MK in Perth when it goes national in about a year, landing in Australia with a 1.3-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine.

A Chinese production CE has already arrived in Australia where it has been shown off to prospective dealers.

In Australia, the only Chinese-built vehicle to score four stars to date is the Great Wall X240 SUV.

Its stablemate, the V240 ute was awarded just two stars, while Chery’s J1 city car got three stars and the J11 compact crossover managed just two stars.

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