The recently re-launched Geely network is responsible for distributing Chinese manufacturer DFSK's products here in South Africa.  DFSK is the second largest motor company in China.  The Geely LC Cross (called the Panda in other markets, a name already taken in SA) is Geely's answer to our local entry-level offerings and comes in a 'funky' and 'affordable' package.  Dispelling the image of inferior assembled cars from China, the Geely LC Cross offers value for money and stands its ground when compared to other entry-level cars for sale in South Africa like the Toyota Aygo, Suzuki Alto, Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1.

The Geely LC Cross is based on the now familiar five-door LC Hatchback.  Its dimensions and engine stay the same, but the new LC Cross has more attitude, a chunkier face with large front headlights, colour-coded handles and bumpers, black plastic trim, an extra ground clearance (up to 160mm) and roof rails.  The front grille is bold in its design and at the back the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate gives it an off-road, rugged and more of an SUV appearance.  The hatch still opens upwards with the spare wheel in place, so access to the cargo area is not compromised.  There are three grades of trim available, the GS, GL or GT and all include 14 inch alloys as standard, fog lights front and rear, a heated rear screen with wiper and a spoiler with a high level brake light.

The Geely LC Cross easily beats the competition hands-down, when it comes to standard specifications that are already included.  Buy a car in the GS and GL variants and you'll get a four-speaker RDS radio and CD unit with USB, electric windows all round, remote central locking, a filtered air conditioner and electric side mirrors.  The top-of-the-range GT specification adds a further pair of speakers and parking distance control at the rear.  Cabin space is good, although the back is not as spacious and, individuals over 1.8m would struggle to sit comfortably.  The interior finishes, although pretty good, do not measure up to those of some of the other entry-level vehicles mentioned earlier – although those vehicles come with a much higher price tag.  There is also an abundance of plastic inside, which might not be to everyone's taste.

The Geely LC Cross has the same engine as the LC Hatchback, a twin-cam petrol 1.3 litre, normally aspirated quad-valve engine capable of 63 kW at 6000 rpm and 110 Nm at 5200 rpm.  Power is pushed to the front driving wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.  It can reach a top speed of 165 km/h and rates an average fuel consumption of 6.9 litres per 100 km.

Standard safety kit on the Geely LC Cross includes: ABS brakes with EBD, kiddie locks with side impact bars, high-mounted stop lights and a CN-CAP safety rating of five stars.  The mid-range GL adds pre-tensioners on the front seat belts and a pair of front airbags, while the range-topping GT gets four more bags and parking rear assist for further peace of mind.

South Africans who face a shrinking budget but still want a taste of the previously out-of-reach SUV market should consider the Geely LC Cross a viable option.  While the car is not perfect, it certainly offers good value for money, is a solid build and includes a host of specifications not expected from an entry-level offering.  Pricing starts at R91 990 for the LC Cross GS and R104 990 for the LC Cross GT and includes a 3 year/100 000 km warranty.  A service plan is optional.  (Prices are subject to change according to various factors so please consult your dealer for the latest price).

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