The Zeekr X Is A Premium Electric SUV (With A Removable Fridge?!)
Issuing time:2023-05-08 22:22
What is it?
Fresh off of its debut from the 2023 Shanghai International Auto Show, we were invited to drive the Zeekr X, a premium compact electric SUV that's set to go on sale in the European market by the end of this year. Zeekr is an all-electric subbrand from Chinese automaker Geely, and the X is their most affordable model by far, with prices starting at just 28,500 USD.
Zeekr hits its stride
The Zeekr X is a love it or hate it design, but then again, so is every other Zeekr. Their first model, the 001, was a funky looking large wagon, and their follow-up, the 009, looks like an MPV designed by an alien race. It’s hard to say that the X is completely unique, as it is still quite reminiscent of designs from Lynk&Co, another Geely brand.
Having said that, I do feel as though the brand is finally creating its own design language. That includes small details like the daytime running lights that are embedded in a black plastic surround, giving one the sense that they are floating in space. This effect is even more dramatic at night, and first appeared on the 009.
The X does build on the 009’s design by adding some interesting elements, like the small LCD screen embedded in the B-pillar. It's not a touchscreen, but it can display information like state of charge or the vehicles current interior mode. Those modes include Pet Mode, which keeps the air conditioning on to protect your pet from hot weather, or movie theater mode, which lays down the front row seats.
Like previous Zeekr models, the doors of the X are electrically opening, operated by a small black button on the B and C-pillars. Unlike previous Zeekrs, however, only the front doors will fully open, the rear doors will merely pop open enough for you to pull them open on your own.
The Zeekr X is quite compact, it’s length of 4.45 meters makes it almost the exact same size as the new Smart #3 that also debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show. But that's not the only thing shared by these two vehicles. Geely also happens to have a 50% stake in Smart, with the other 50% still being owned by Mercedes-Benz.
The Germans are in charge of exterior and interior styling, while Geely takes care of the development and production. As such, the Zeekr X and Smart #3 share the same Scalable Experience Architecture, or SEA. That architecture also underpins vehicles like the Polestar 4 and 5, the new Volvo EX30 and the Lotus Electre.
A removeable fridge
While 28,500-33,000 USD isn’t cheap for such a small car (maybe that’s the American inside me talking), the Zeekr X does offer quite a few standard features for that price. That includes a 13-speaker Yamaha sound system, a 14.6-inch center screen, a digital instrument cluster, and a 24.3-inch AR HD.
That center screen isn’t just a center screen, either. By swiping across the screen with four fingers, you can make it slide over to the passenger side of the dashboard. Swipe with your fingers again or long-press a button mounted on the back of the steering wheel to make it return to its central position.
That's not the only thing that will move in the Zeekr X. Hitting a button mounted on the passenger side of the center console will cause the center entire center console to slide backwards about 20 cm. This makes it easier for rear passengers to access the storage in the center console, and also allows the driver to slide over to the passenger side of the vehicle. That second one would make it a lot easier to get out if you’re forced to use a tight parking space in a city like Shanghai.
The center console itself is designed to be modular. Not only can it slide back and forth, but the front half of the upper area can be folded to provide easier access to the covered storage area below. The entire rear half of the console can also be removed, awful convenient when you realize that it’s a refrigerator/heater that can go from -15 to 50 degrees Celcius. That fridge is standard on the four-seater variant, but not available on five-seaters.
The four-seater also has exclusive features for the front passenger, including adjustability from top to bottom: headrest, shoulders, lower back support, and even a leg rest. There is also a rather untraditional massage feature. Instead of slowly punching you like other massaging seats, this one vibrates at varying intensities.
The second row is no less interesting than the first. The rear cargo area and frunk on the Zeekr X may not be very large (the latter measures just 21-liters), but it still manages to be surprisingly practical. If you hit the electric buttons on either side of the rear seats, the seats bottoms will fold up, and the center console storage on our four-seater can be removed via some hand-tightened bolts. The result is a large and mostly flat space for storage.
Second row space is decent for this size category, with plenty of headroom thanks to the large overhead glass. Rear passengers get two USB charging outlets mounted on the fold down center armrest (one Type-A and one Type-C). Front row passengers also get two, but both are Type-C, one 27W and one 60W.
A faster Smart
In addition to sharing a platform, the ZEEKR X also uses the same powertrains as Smart models, meaning a rear motor version making 200 kilowatts and 343 Nm of torque (272 HP/254 lbs-ft), or a dual motor version with 315 kilowatts and 543 Nm (428 HP/401 lbs-ft), a.k.a. the powertrain found in the Smart Brabus.
Despite outweighing the Smart Brabus by almost 100 kg, the five-seater version of the X promises a 0-100 km/h time of 3.7 seconds, .2 seconds faster than the Smart. The rear motor version is also faster than its Smart equivalent, this time by a much more significant margin, 5.8 seconds vs 6.7.
That could be the result of a difference in battery size, but all Zeekr models use the same 66 kWh battery used in Smart models, even delivering the same CLTC range of 500-560 km, which also suggests a similar drag coefficient. I think the difference is really just down to marketing, with the Zeekr X intended to appeal to customers that care more about speed.
Putting aside whatever similarities this may have with the Smart brand, I have to say that the overall driving experience is quite impressive on the Zeekr X. I’ll start with what’s weakest, and that’s the steering. While it tightens up significantly at higher speeds, making the X feel very confident on the highway, it is too light at around town speeds.
The other inputs, however, are good. The brakes are on the sensitive side, but still very usable. Acceleration in Normal and Comfort driving modes is surprisingly smooth, but if you put it into sport mode, this thing will absolutely pin you to the seat.
The Zeekr X has a much lower price point than the brands other models, so some concessions had to be made when it came to technology. Gone is the double wishbone front suspension and in its place are MacPherson struts. Perhaps it also goes without saying that this thing doesn't have available air suspension like those other cars. Despite this, the ride feels sophisticated, absorbing bumps and potholes without issue.
Lower tech or not, the handling of the X feels on par with similarly-sized SUVs. Tighter steering would likely give it more direct turn-in, but the chassis doesn’t feel overwhelmed when you throw it into a corner. The short wheelbase, and the fact that the more powerful of its tow motors is in the rear, means it feels slightly RWD biased. The Zeekr X is not a performance car, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have fun.
As it stands, the Zeekr X is a great deal in the Chinese market. You'd be hard-pressed to find a car that offers the same level of features and driving experience, not to mention style, at the same price. But the real revolution would be if Zeekr was able to offer this same car at around that same price in the European market. I don’t know about you, but I’m not holding my breath.
Article classification: Electric Vehicles