Winning combination: 2022 Geely Okavango Urban Plus

Winning combination: 2022 Geely Okavango Urban Plus

It’s an SUV world and we’re just living in it. As pickup-based SUVs remain to be strong sellers, almost all carmakers are injecting SUV flavor to their small hatchbacks. A slightly raised ride height and black body cladding are enough to draw in buyers. Four- or all-wheel drive don’t matter to these consumers — as long as their front-wheel drive crossovers have the SUV-inspired kit, they buy ‘em, then take on the roads less traveled, come hell or high water.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • How much is the Geely Okavango?

    Geely Okavango starts at P1.208 million for the Comfort variant and goes all the way up to P1.478 million for the top-spec variant Okavango Urban Plus.
  • What powers the Geely Okavango?

    The Okavango range is powered by a 1.5-liter turbo petrol, three-cylinder engine that gets assistance from a 48-volt Electric Motor Synergy (EMS) system to produce 190hp and 300Nm. A seven-speed dual clutch is mated to the engine.
  • What is the fuel consumption of the Geely Okavango?

    As tested, we saw the Geely Okavango net 6kpl in the city and 18 to 20kpl on the highway.
  • Even though the go-anywhere capabilities of their crossovers are only aspirational.

    Aside from the Coolray, Geely is adding to the quasi-SUV population with its Okavango. In the market for a few years now, the Okavango appears to hit the crossover brief in the bullseye. It’s positioned as a hybrid between an MPV and an SUV, with the looks and size close to a car-based seven-seater, but packs the ride height and the high-up driving and riding feel of a true SUV.

    Consumers seem to be buying into Okavango's specialty, as 396 units of this Geely were sold last July. But are sales figures enough to validate whether the Okavango is a good crossover that works as the MPV-slash-SUV it’s touted to be?

    One way we found this out is through our road test of the 2022 Geely Okavango Urban Plus.

    Variants and prices

    The carmaker’s intention of the 2022 Geely Okavango line to straddle between compact MPVs and midsize SUVs is already made clear by the vehicle prices. Starting at P1.208 million for the Geely Okavango Comfort, the crossover commands some P100,000 more than, say, the Toyota Avanza. The Geely Okavango Urban serves as the mid-grade variant at P1.328 million.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    The Geely Okavango Urban Plus we tested is already the top-of-the-shop model, yet its P1.478 million asking price is still a hundred thousand pesos more affordable than, say, that of the entry level Toyota Fortuner.

    Exterior

    Its architecture sets it apart from the majority of midsize SUVs as well. The ladder frames common among its competitors have been replaced by a unibody chassis on the Okavango. It has a 2.8 meter wheelbase and is 4.8 meters long, 1.9 meters wide, and 1.7 meters tall.

    In comparison to SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Montero Sport, the Geely Okavango is thus longer. However, the Japanese brutes are taller and easily surpass the 194mm ground clearance of the Okavango. But the Geely is still far from being compact.

    Regarding appearance, the Okavango's front grille, which is a Geely trademark, is flanked by complete LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights. The grille's overall form — and that of the area surrounding it and the headlamps — are identical to that of the Geely badge. Below this are three vertically stacked LED fog lights on either side of the bumper.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    The lines highlighting the wheel arches give the illusion of overfenders, and are an exact replica of the trapezoidal strake and chrome trim on the lower half of the side profile.

    Going over to the rear, the shape of the turn-signal repeaters is also used for the taillights and the rear fog lights. The large area of empty space on the tailgate, though, is what stands out most about the back end. There’s no spare tire cover back there — heck, the Okavango doesn’t even have a spare at all, just a tire repair kit stored under the cargo floor.

    Like the variant before it, this 2022 Geely Okavango Urban Plus gets roof rails – functional, by the way — and 18-inch alloys. The Comfort variant wears 17-inch rims. But what the Urban and Comfort don’t get is the Urban Plus’ panoramic sunroof, which also closes automatically when it senses rainfall.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    All of these styling cues are combined in a shape that says tall wagon rather than off-roader. The Okavango’s front end and sides, devoid of sharp shapes and creases, also looks clean and classy. Overall, its mild exterior shows that it is indeed a family hauler.

    Interior

    And being a family car, let’s start with the rear accommodations of the 2022 Geely Okavango.

    The three passengers in the second row are given individual seats that feature Isofix mounts, and they can slide each seat backwards and forwards. We find it odd, though, that there’s no center armrest that unfolds from the middle seat, and the individual seats don't seem to have reclining adjustment. Returning the middle row chairs to their original position, after being folded to gain access to the third row, takes a bit of elbow grease, too.

    On the upside, even with the second row seats slide as far away from the front seats as possible, legroom at the third row is still decent. Like the second-row, the bleachers have reclining individual seats for two and aircon vents as well. And considering how tall and wide the Okavango is, there’s acres of head- and shoulder room back there.

    2022 Geely Okavango2022 Geely Okavango

    More party tricks of the Okavango’s rear seats: The third row that splits 50:50, and according to Geely, the cabin offers 19 unique configurations depending on which seats are kept up or folded down. With all of them up, rear cargo area measures 257 liters. Fold down the last row and that expands to 1,200 liters, while folding the second row opens up 2,050 liters of loading space.
    With all seats down, the Okavango plays the role of cargo van.

    Moving up front, the 2022 Geely Okavango’s dashboard is topped by a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, which enables a less-than-seamless phone mirroring with QD Link and is standard across the range. Exclusive to this Geely Okavango Urban Plus is a 12.3-inch fully digital driver display.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    Despite the finicky phone mirroring, the Okavango’s infotainment is easy to use, and adding to the user-friendliness of the cockpit are physical controls for the dual-zone climate control. The leather-wrapped tiller and seats — the driver and passenger both power adjustable — as well as that digital driver display, make the cabin feel premium in spite of low-rent cabin materials.

    Engine and fuel economy

    The 2022 Geely Okavango sets itself apart from the midsize SUV set yet again, as it doesn’t have a turbo diesel on offer. What the Okavango range is powered by instead is a 1.5-liter turbo petrol, three-cylinder engine that gets assistance from a 48-volt Electric Motor Synergy (EMS) system to produce 190hp at 5,500rpm and 300Nm of torque at 1,500 to 4,000rpm.

    These numbers are sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. There are self-explanatory drive modes to choose from, too: Eco, Comfort, or Sport.

    The EMS makes the Geely Okavango a mild-hybrid, meaning the crossover can’t run solely on electric power. What the 48V EMS does is help power the car’s accessories, and in the Eco drive mode, enable the 1.5-liter triple to turn off during coasting to help save fuel. With auto-start-stop activated, the engine also switches off at stoplights to avoid excessive idling.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    During a highway run with only a driver onboard, and with the Okavango’s smart coasting feature switching the engine on and off, the crossover returned a respectable single fuel economy reading of 21kpl. While that’s an impressive figure, it’s the Okavango’s city consumption that we find ropy: In moderate city traffic, the car did six clicks per liter, even with the driver, applying the smoothest throttle and braking, as the sole occupant.

    Driving impressions

    Thanks to its relatively low ground clearance, the 2022 Geely Okavango doesn't feel as lumbering to drive as some SUVs are wont to feel. Sure, the Okavango leans a fair bit when taking a sweeper at speed, but that’s to be expected from a raised vehicle. Steering feel is numb in Comfort and Eco and excellent in Sport mode. Despite its exterior heft, the Okavango’s steering is responsive and light enough to make easy work of slow and brisk maneuvers.

    Ride quality also benefits from the Okavango’s car chassis. Whereas pickup-based SUVs tend to jostle about their occupants when driving over potholes, the Okavango smoothly goes over the ruts, craters, and every road imperfection. And whether you sit up front or at the rear, the Okavango offers that high vantage point you get in SUVs.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    What the engine lacks in low fuel mileage more than makes up for in strong performance. The Okavango’s 1.5-liter turbo has plenty of get up and go from a standstill. So much, in fact, that the 300Nm can make the front tires light up on damp tarmac. The engine remains a peppy performer up to speed, allowing the Okavango to maintain the highway speed limit even below 2,000rpm. The seven-speed dual clutch also kicks down as soon as more throttle is applied; at no point during our drive did we feel the need to manually kick down a gear.

    As for NVH, while we did have to contend with some wind noise going over up and at the sides of the cabin at triple digits, the noise failed to disrupt the cabin’s comfort.

    Extra equipment

    You may not get a raft of tech breakthroughs in the 2022 Geely Okavango, but perhaps that keeps the crossover’s price as low as it can be. Nonetheless, the features in here are still welcome essentials.

    The self-parking function from the compact Coolray, for example, is absent in the larger Okavango, but this Urban Plus variant makes do with 360-degree-view camera and rear parking sensors. Side and curtain airbags are also exclusive to top-model Okavango cars, while the Comfort gets a basic reversing camera on top of parking sensors.

    The Okavango Urban Plus and Urban models have leather seats and an eight-speaker audio setup, while the Comfort has fabric chairs and four-speakers. Another nifty feature the top-spec Okavango versions receive is a power tailgate.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    Otherwise, equipment shared across the 2022 Geely Okavango range are dual front airbags, hill-descent control and hill-start assist, electronic stability control, a tire pressure monitor, push button start and a remote start system. Finally, the Okavango gets a CN95 cabin filter as standard that’s said to prevent dust and virus hosts from entering the cabin.

    Verdict

    As trite as this may sound, but the 2022 Geely Okavango offers the best of both worlds. It’s neither an MPV nor an SUV, but it seamlessly threads together the pros of both. This crossover is as easy to drive as a car, yet provides that ride height that makes SUVs a hit with consumers.

    2022 Geely Okavango

    And when you consider its price and what you get especially in its Urban Plus form, the Okavango makes good value. This decent family car is just a few kpl shy from being an excellent one.

    Photos from Roy Robles

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