Chinese brands get a lot of flack here in the Philippines, but could it be an unfair judgement? First, one must realize, there are a lot of Chinese automotive brands and the few that were brought here early on were not the best examples of what some China brands are capable of producing. Last year, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. or GAC, was launched here in Manila. Following the launch, we were offered the chance to experience their GS4 Subcompact SUV for a few days.
Up front, you’ll see a large chrome grille, with lines that continue to the edge of the head light cluster, with a finish that makes it look like it’s chrome from end to end, giving it an upscale look. It has both fog lights and LED daytime running lights on the outer edge of its sculpted bumper, with a faux stone guard underneath, finished in brushed aluminum. It’s equipped with halogen headlamps with a follow-me-home function. In the rear, you get a high-mount third brake light on the hatch, which has a bit of a high loading lip. Power adjustable side mirrors are standard. It measures 4510 mm in length, 1708 mm in height, and 1852mm in width.
The interior — we must admit — is quite impressive. Components had exceptional fit and finish, with liberal use of brushed aluminum as an accent and some chrome. Some surfaces you expect to be soft to the touch were not, but they don’t look too plasticky either. You get leather seats (which are quite large), a meaty, multi-function (audio, cruise control and MFD options) steering wheel, and a decent sounding six–speaker AV entertainment system with aux and USB. The passengers of the 60/40 split second row seats get their own aircon vents coming out of the center console and under the vents. They also get dual USB charging ports. You also get a sunroof as standard equipment.
Powerplant and drivetrain
Under the hood is a Euro-5 compliant turbocharged 1.5 liter gasoline engine that puts out 151-Hp at 5000rpms with 235-Nm of torque between 1,450 and 4,250 rpms. This is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels.
Safety and convenience
Dual front airbags are standard, as are front side airbags. The rear seats get three point seat belts and ISOFIX child seat anchor points. It’s fitted with Anti-lock braking System (ABS) + Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP). You also get a Hydraulic Brake Assist System (HBA), Hill-start Hold Control System (HHC), Hill Decent Control (HDC), Electronic Parking brake with Auto Hold and Impact Sensing Door unlock.
Convenience features are Cruise Control, Anti-Theft System with Engine Immobilizer, Remote Control Trunk, Smart Key with Engine Start button, Eco Button and a 360 degree camera.
With its contemporary design, the GS4 wouldn’t look out of place next to a CR-V or Rav-4. What surprised us was how well-built the GS4 is. The interior fit and finish is exceptional and the materials used were above our expectations. Engine performance was pretty good — a small displacement with a turbo provides good city driving economy and the turbo helps pick things up on the open road or when you need to overtake. The steering feels a little on the dull side, but it is light and you’ll get used to it as you drive it more.
Overall, it’s a well-appointed and well put-together SUV from China, perhaps deserving a second or third look if you’re in the market for this class of vehicle.
It comes in just one variant, and is priced at P1,188,000, offered in Shining Gold, Pearl White, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Amber Gold, Piano Black and burgundy Red. Again, don’t take our word for it, go and take one for a test drive.
GAC is distributed by Legado Motors, Inc. located at Metrowalk Commercial Complex, Meralco Ave., Brgy Ugong, Pasig.
Text and photos by Neil Pagulayan