2021 GAC GA4 1.3 Turbo: Surprising Euro chic in an affordable package

2021 GAC GA4 1.3 Turbo: Surprising Euro chic in an affordable package

When the GAC GA4 was first introduced in 2019 I was all for it, even then.

An affordable compact sedan huge on specs,  it was comparable to the likes of the the top-of-the-line models from well-established brands. But in a market chock-full of compact crossover SUVs, is GAC warranted in releasing the GA4?

In a word, yes! While SUVs have been the new default choice for families, you can never deny the charm of driving or being ferried around in a sedan. Looks-wise the 2021 GAC GA4 has all the underpinnings of a fancy European sedan for less. It even undercuts well-established Japanese and Korean counterparts.

Exterior

Starting with the front facia, the GA4 has a large, imposing chrome front grill that proudly features the GAC badge. It’s flanked by big, sweeping yet still classy headlamps that feature projector halogens. The bottom part of the headlamps gets a strip of LEDs that works as both as decent daytime running lamps and a nice design feature similar to the aforementioned European offerings.

GAC GA4 Projector headlamps

Although the headlamps are halogen, the triangular fog lamps are pure LED, creating a stunning contrast of white and yellow light on the road.

While not much can be said about the side profile, buyers will appreciate the clean appearance and high belt line. The 17-inch mags are certainly interesting but, no thanks to the distinct two-tone design, you wouldn’t think of them as 17-inchers. Personally, I think they could’ve gone for a better design but I’d probably be swapping them out right away. Imagine having a set of multi-spoke BBS wheels on this bad boy and you’d be all set for the races.

GAC GA4 17 inch alloys

Now I absolutely love the rear taillights on the GAC GA4. The arrow-like shape and LED strip are certainly distinct, and distance themselves from the hoi polloi of tired designs from the crop of sedans available. I did ask our crew what they thought of the design and a few thought it was just pure butt.

I guess the tail light design is a more love-it-or-hate-it affair. I love it, but what do you think?

GAC GA4 LED Tail light

What can’t be denied is how huge the GA4 is. Measuring 4,692mm long and 1,805mm wide it certainly trumps a lot of compacts in the same segment, much less subcompacts in a similar price point. Pair that with the 1,500 mm height and 2,660mm wheelbase and it promises to not only provide the appropriate girth in the exterior but space inside as well.

Interior

If the exterior is subjectively a pretty sight for sore eyes (my eyes, at least) then the interior of the GAC GA4 is a little bit less contentious. 

For starters, the interior is a significant upgrade over other sedans in the same price point. Everything on the panel is seamlessly put together with nary a panel gap or rattle to be concerned about. I never expected for the panels to be of premium quality as well yet, the GAC GA4 delivered and just blew all my expectations out of the water.

GAC GA4 Interior

How GAC was able to fit leather materials on the steering wheel, the seats as well as parts of the door panels, as well as soft touch materials on the dashboard and still undercut all its rivals in terms of pricing is beyond me. 

The steering wheel is a joy to hold given its chunky nature, and has all the buttons you need to control your media, calls and cruise control. One gripe with it is that it can only be adjusted for up and down and not forward and back. It would have been easier to achieve the perfect driving position if it had that but, thankfully, you do get power-adjustable seats on the driver’s side to make up for that.

GAC GA4 Steering Wheel

I’m happy when a car has a center armrest. In the past, companies would let you beg, or you’d probably scour the FB marketplace for a surplus set, but GAC has you covered, uncovered with this power sunroof. Fancy!

GAC GA4 view from sunroof

The white dials on the gauge cluster give the GAC GA4 a sporty appeal and are quite  legible, but I wish that it had more nits on. The display can get a tad washed out in sunlight, and the info display in between the gauges gives you the most rudimentary information such as distance, fuel economy, voltage. Having said that, it does give you tire pressure monitoring as a plus. Again, these are features you can rarely find in cars in this price point but somehow, I wish it showed more.

GAC GA4 Gauge Cluster

The eight-inch touchscreen information display is also quite basic, but at least it’s something, It lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, by the way, but Bluetooth connectivity is a nice touch to blast your tunes through four speakers. Those speakers are nothing to write home about; they give adequate quality but not much else. This really is just nitpicking but I wanted to appreciate my Post Malone with  more oomph.GAC GA4 Leather Seats

Passengers in the back will certainly love the air vents, especially during the hot Philippine summers. Space is very ample, given my 5'10" 1/2 height and pandemic lockdown thunder thighs. And fitting three of myself back here isn’t the toughest job in the world.

Safety features are your standard set of dual front airbags, traction control, electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, Isofix anchors, parking sensors, and a nifty 360-degree camera for parking. The image is a bit low resolution but it’s there and you should be thankful for having a 360-degree camera to begin with.

GAC GA4 Side Camera

No hand brakes here as it subscribes to an electronic parking brake and a nifty automatic brake hold function to ease your traffic blues. Just make sure to remember that you have them, driving with all these electric doo dads can take some getting used to.

Performance

None of these matter, really if the GAC GA4 doesn’t have the power to back all these niceties up, and boy howdy, does it have them — in adequate amounts, which is more than I can ask for from a car at this price point really.

GAC GA4 Engine

Output of 136hp@5,500rpm may not sound like much, but along with 202Nm as early as 1,500rpm from the turbocharged 1.3-liter engine paired with the six-speed automatic, staying within the power band will help you keep up with fast moving traffic. We dream of giving more mainstream models forced induction systems and here we have the GA4 delivering, once again.

Punching the throttle might not give you the most abrupt acceleration, but once the turbo spools up you start to dart away like no one’s business. 

GAC GA4 Rear on the Road

Thanks to independent multi-link rear suspension in the back and MacPhersons up front, you can easily chuck the GA4 around and you get impressive feedback from your drive, You won't be inspired to do canyon carving in the GA4 but the smooth drive is so much better than the lot of subcompact cars out there.

If there is one word that I can use to describe the GA4’s drive, it’s solid. This quality can only be found in European cars. The solid, composed and tank-like feature gives you more confidence especially above highway speeds.

GAC GA4 Dashboard Side

Steering is light but you can dig through the settings to set the steering parameters from comfortably light, to “I need to refill my power steering fluid” heavy. To be clear, this car has electronic power steering; it just does a good job mimicking the feel of good old hydraulic without the fuel economy penalty.

Speaking of fuel economy, heavy traffic netted us around 8kpl, but once the road starts to free up, you can get north of 11kpl on this bad boy — making this on par with smaller sub-compact sedans with less power under the hood.

GAC GA4 profile side

Pricing and conclusion

Pricing for the GAC GA4 starts at P866,000 for the entry-level 1.5-liter naturally aspirated with a manual, and P936,000 for the automatic. But the one to go for is this top-of-the-line 1.3-liter turbocharged version with all the fixings in it for ₱1.066 million. 

GAC GA4 GAC Badge

At that price point, compact sedans such as the Toyota Corolla Altis, and Honda Civic can only compete with their entry-level models,which are still more expensive than the Top GA4 so you’ll have to look at top variants like the Honda City RS and Toyota Vios GR-S, which don’t really hold a candle to the GA4 in terms of power and size. The MG 6 is probably it’s the closest competitor which makes the GAC GA4 a very enticing option for those in the market for a fully loaded and affordable option in this segment.

Backed by a five-year/150,000km warranty and an entire catalogue of parts availability, you are assured of worry free car ownership only GAC can offer.

Photos by Roy Robles

Also read:  6 things that make the GAC GN6 a suitable family MPV

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