A recent arrival to the Jordanian market, coinciding in a change of official local importer, the Geely Azkarra made quite the impression during a recent test drive, and signals a huge leap in quality, technology refinement, drivability and design for the Chinese manufacturer. Designed and engineered in collaboration with Geely’s wholly-owned Swedish manufacturer Volvo, the keenly-priced Azkarra is far from the ‘budget’ Chinese cars of yesteryears. It is instead more of an accessible high value product with ‘premium’ overtones and is much on par with practical mainstream Korean, Japanese, American and European compact to mid-size crossover SUVs.
Known as the Boyue Pro in its home market and as the Azkarra for export, the current iteration launched in the second half of last year, and bears much stronger resemblance to its distant yet significantly different Volvo cousins. Designed by former Volvo design chief Peter Horbury, the Azkarra’s broad, protruding and snouty grille and squinting heavy browed headlights are its most Volvo-esque aesthetic characteristics. Meanwhile, its jutting lower lip, big side intakes, scalloped and ridged bonnet, and floating roofline with blacked-out pillars and sharply extended tailgate spoiler, lend more up-market and sporting flavours.
Not quite as Volvo-inspired at the rear, the Azkarra features high-set horizontal lights, rather than the vertically-aligned Swede style. However, the Azkarra’s Scandinavian relationship is more evident under the bonnet, where a jointly developed turbocharged direct injection 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine powers all four wheels through a front-based transverse layout. Developing 177BHP at 5,500rpm and 194lb/ft throughout a broad 1,500-4,000rpm range, the Azkarra’s prodigious three-pot unit is aided by a 48V mild hybrid starter/generator motor, which recovers kinetic braking energy and assists for improved output and longer fuel-saving coasting time, to achieve low 5.8l/100km combined consumption.
With the Azkarra’s mild hybrid system pitching in more than similar systems from other manufacturers, integration is nonetheless similarly smooth, with much less lift-off delay than full hybrid systems. Producing a maximum combined 190BHP and 221lb/ft, the Azkarra carries its 1.7-tonne mass through 0-100km/h in a reasonably quick 9.9-seconds and onto a 200km/h top speed. Robust and flexible in mid-range for confident over-taking and driving on inclines, the Azkarra’s electric boost helps provide an over-arcing reservoir of torque than is easily accessed. Meanwhile, its turbocharger spools up and provides boost from as low as 1,000rpm.
Smooth and refined in operation, if ever slightly gruff near its rev limit, the Azkarra does its best work in mid-range and doesn’t like to push past around 5,500rpm. With four driving modes available, the Azkarra takes on slightly, but noticeably different driving characteristics, with Sport mode proving most responsive from standstill and with the most succinct shifts from its 7-speed automated dual clutch gearbox. Comfort mode is tuned for smooth delivery and less snappy shifts, but cog changes are slightly less responsive at high revs. Eco mode is meanwhile most efficient but isn’t as responsive.
Dynamically impressive all-round, the Azkarra’s driving modes also fine-tune its driving characteristics through its electric-assisted steering and adaptive dampers. At its most comfortable, supple, forgiving and with lightest steering, Comfort is best suited for daily driving, especially in the city, where some bumps and potholes can feel slightly firm side in most modern cars. Through quick and winding switchbacks, it can lean in and tighten its steering angle somewhat quickly in comfort mode, while understeer is – quite normally – apparent only at the very limit of its accomplished handling abilities. However, the Azkarra truly shines in Sport mode.
With dampers and body control becoming subtly tauter and its steering taking on a discreetly meatier but more natural and direct profile, the Azkarra proved an unexpectedly eager and agile drive through snaking country lanes. Delivering better road feel and steering nuance than many crossovers, it felt tidy, adjustable and rewardingly nimble in and out of corners. With good lateral control and chassis balance in Sport mode, such roads are dispatched with fluent confidence. Four-wheel-drive meanwhile allocates power rearwards as needed, and locks in at lower speed in Off-road mode, where dampers relax further for improved wheel travel.
Settled, stable and smooth at highway speeds, the Azkarra is also maneuverable and user-friendly in town, with mostly good visibility, parking sensors and rearview camera. Providing a good, comfortable and adjustable driving position, one felt perhaps slightly firmer side seat bolstering would be welcome given the Azkarra’s adept handling. Spacious in front and rear, the Azkarra seats large and tall passenger in a row with ease. Meanwhile its 377-litre boot expands to much bigger volume with the split-folding rear seats down, while its spare tyre fits below the boot floor, unlike some electrified crossovers with a space-wasting, strap-down, above-floor spare.
Contemporary and classy inside, the Azkarra features good quality trim, finish and leather upholstery. Its integrated infotainment system is intuitive, while numerous convenience features include multiple USB ports, panoramic sunroof, cooled centre console box, dual zone climate control, rear armrest, and more. Safety equipment includes lane departure warning and multiple airbags, but no blind-spot warning yet. Available in two specifications, from JD25,000 to JD26,000, on-the-road, the better equipped version includes ambient lighting, automatic tailgate and wireless phone charging, but both feature a generous 6-year or 200,000km warranty, 2-year or 30,000km service package and comprehensive insurance.
Specifications: Geely Azkarra
- Engine: 1.5-litre, transverse, turbocharged 3-cylinders
- Electric motor: 48V electric starter/generator
- Valve-train: 12-valve, DOHC
- Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automated, four-wheel-drive
- Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 177 (179)  @5,500rpm
- Specific power: 119.8BHP/litre
- Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 194.5 (265) @1,500-4,000rpm
- Specific torque: 179.4Nm/litre
- Combined power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 190 (193) 
- Combined torque, lb/ft (Nm): 221 (300)
- Combined power-to-weight: 111.6BHP/tonne
- Combined torque-to-weight: 129.7Nm/tonne
- 0-100km/h: 9.9-seconds (estimate)
- Top speed: 200km/h
- Fuel consumption, combined: 5.8-litres/100km (estimate)
- Fuel capacity: 58-litres
- Length: 4,544mm
- Width: 1,831mm
- Height: 1,713mm
- Wheelbase: 2,670mm
- Luggage volume, minimum: 377.8-litres
- Unladen weight: 1,705kg
- Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link
- Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
- Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs / discs
- Tyres: 225/60R18
- Price, on-the-road, with insurance: JD25,000-26,000
Rivals and alternatives
Nissan X-Trail 2.5L AWD
Smooth and seamless with its 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated engine and CVT transmission, the Nissan X-Trail is a segment stalwart and popular, un-pretentious and practical crossover with keen handling, comfortable ride and user-friendly maneuverability. Assertive and athletic from outside, the X-Trail is spaciously airy and well-equipped inside.
Specifications: Engine: 2.5-litre, 16-valve DOHC, transverse 4-cylinders; Gearbox: CVT, 6-speed auto, four-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 170 (172)  @6,000rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 172 (233) @4,000rpm ; Length: 4,640mm; Width: 1,820mm; Height: 1,710mm; Wheelbase: 2,705mm; Ground clearance: 210mm; Headroom, F/R: 1,057/978mm; Legroom, F/R: 1,092/963mm; Kerb weight: 1,610-1,631kg; Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link
Specifications: MG HS 30T
Voted Middle East Car Of The Year 2020 and marking China’s British-born MG’s rising popularity in the region, the HS is quite the impressive package, with a an understatedly classy yet athletic design and overtly sportily well-appointed cabin, not to mention a powerful low-revving 228BHP turbocharged engine and an avalanche of torque at its disposal.
Specifications: Engine: 2-litre, 16-valve DOHC, transverse turbocharged 4-cylinders; Gearbox: 6-speed dual clutch automated, four-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 228 (231)  @5,300rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 266 (360) @2,500-4,000rpm; 0-100km/h: 7.6-seconds (estimate); Top speed: 210km/h; Length: 4,574mm; Width: 1,876mm; Height: 1,685mm; Wheelbase: 2,720mm; Ground clearance: 175mm; Luggage volume, min/max: 463-/1,287-litres; Weight: 1,630kg (estimate); Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link
Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD
An early trend-setting in the now wildly popular crossover segment, the Honda CR-V has grown in size and stature over the years, but remains eminently practical and smooth daily driver with punchy 190BHP 1.5-Turbo, slick CVT transmission, classy and comfortable cabin, and plenty of user-friendly touches like its wide swing angle doors and easy access.
Specifications: Engine: 1.5-litre, 16-valve DOHC, transverse turbocharged 4-cylinders; Gearbox: CVT, four-wheel-drive; Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 190 (193)  @5,600rpm; Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 179 (243) @2,000-5,000rpm; 0-100km/h: 10-seconds; Top speed: 200km/h; Length: 4,600mm; Width: 1,855mm; Height: 1,689mm; Wheelbase: 2,662mm; Ground clearance: 208mm; Luggage volume, min/max: 561-/1,123-1,756-litres; Weight: 1,598-1,705kg; Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link double wishbone