We Bought China's First Sports Coupe For $800!
Issuing time:2022-08-29 20:00
What is it?
The Geely Beauty Leopard is China’s first sports coupe, which already makes it an important stepping stone in China’s automotive development. It’s also a fascinating glimpse into Geely’s past, before they became one of China’s largest and most influential automakers, not to mention purchased both Volvo and Lotus.
This article has been a long time coming, as we purchased our example of the Beauty Leopard for around 800 USD last year with every intention of making a whole lot of content about it. Things did not go according to plan, and we ended up parking it for months at a time as we desperately tried to think of ways to fix it, sell it, or simply burn it to the ground. Ultimately, we got a plate on it and were able to bring you this video and article. We hope it’s worth it.
It’s Called Patina, and it Looks Good
The styling of the Geely Beauty Leopard is a fascinating combination of the Toyota Supra and Celica, with some extra curves thrown in that were never present on those Japanese two doors. Ours is a pre-facelift version from 2005, and features a rather dainty little pair of air intakes up front, while the 2006 model would replace this with a grill-less design. Some would say that the look is slightly spoiled by the fact that our Beauty Leopard appears to have case of scabies on the front of the hood, but we think it just adds character.
The curvaceous flanks that I mentioned above are one of the best parts of the Beauty Leopard’s design, though the transition from the smooth surfaces of the side to the flat trunk could have been accomplished a bit more deftly. As it is, it looks like the front and rear were designed by two different people, and one of them also designed terrible body kits.
The “Fashion” badge visible on the doors of the Beauty Leopard are stock, as evidenced by the matching font of the “Geely” and “Meirenbao” (this car's Chinese name) badges on the rear. All of them are in a font that looks like something that would appear in the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl. Those are 14-inch wheels riding on the cheapest tires we could buy. Only the best for our baby.
The rear is where the Supra resemblance is strongest, with clear taillight lenses that mimic the Japanese legend in both color and shape. Believe it or not, the Beauty Leopard left the showroom with that handsome and no doubt extremely aerodynamic spoiler. Just imagine how good this thing looked before most of the paint turned to powder!
Tuner Car Chic
The interior of the Beauty Leopard looks like you gave a $100 Pep Boys gift card to a teenager and said, “Go wild.” It reeks of the Fast and Furious era of car tuning, when you just couldn’t attach enough plastic to your car. Granted, our Beauty Leopard isn’t in the best condition. Here is a non-exhaustive list of its issues.
That last one proved to be an issue, because we somehow managed to film this car in August, in Shanghai, two years in a row. First, we when we picked it up in August 2021, then again when we filmed our most recent video. This is compounded by the fact that the passenger’s side window does not open. The closest thing to AC in this car is when you open the passenger’s side door at speed.
The Beauty Leopard is a 2+2, and the back seat is actually reasonably comfortable considering its wheelbase of just 2.44m (96 inches). Our car has something that looks like mold growing on the back seat, though, so we didn’t stat back their very long.
Pretty Good for its Day
There is a raging debate as to whether a front-wheel drive car can be considered a sports car, with many people pointing to examples like the Acura Integra Type-R as a fine example of the breed. There is no such debate about the Beauty Leopard, as it falls firmly in the “more show than go” category.
The Beauty Leopard debuted in 2004 with a miserly 1.3L naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder making 63 kW and 110 Nm of torque (86 hp and 81 pound-feet), but our 2005 car has the fire-breathing 1.5L that makes 69 kW and 128 Nm (94 hp and 95 pound-feet). That’s backed by a 5-speed manual transmission, as the driving gods intended. The 2006 Beauty Leopard would see the introduction of a 1.8L engine, but we felt that was a bit excessive.
The official 0-100 km/h time of the 1.5L Beauty Leopard was 12 seconds, but we have strong doubts about whether our car could achieve such speeds. For starters, it’s been running on 3-cylinders for some time now, and the resulting power delivery is lacking. This combines with a loose exhaust to provide a mellifluous soundtrack.
The other reason is that the 5-speed manual is not in the best of health, with a shift lever so loose it’s hard to tell if it was even connected to the transmission. Every time you shift into first is an adventure, one that usually ends with the cars behind you beeping as you creep through the intersection desperately building enough speed to catch second. Stall the car, and there is every chance that its battery will choose that very moment to quit the game, leaving you stranded in the middle of an intersection. Ask us how we know.
Honestly, that’s probably for the best, as the brakes on our Beauty Leopard are on their last legs. Bringing the car to stop from anything over 20 km/h requires you to push the brake pedal to the floorboards and then pray to whatever gods you can think of.
All these issues aside, and many more besides that, the Beauty Leopard certainly has its charms. The interior, while ugly, actually has pretty decent ergonomics, and a Beauty Leopard in good condition would probably make for a decenter little commuter, especially when it debuted in 2004. With prices starting around 12,000 USD, one could even call it a good deal.
It’s also an undeniably important milestone in the development of the Chinese automotive industry, representing a time when Chinese automakers were just beginning to go beyond producing the simplest, cheapest possible vehicles, and reaching into more diverse segments. It’s a fascinating time capsule of the nation’s automotive history, and its’ a shame that good examples are so hard to come by these days.
What will happen to our Beauty Leopard? We are hoping to find some lucky soul to take it off our hands, but we’ll never forget our brief time with China’s first sports coupe.
Article classification: Petrol Cars