About a month and a half ago I went on a trip to Cuba with a couple friends. The majority of the trip was a 1200 mile road trip in a rental car that stretched from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, stopping in Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and Santa Clara. We were blessed with the opportunity to experience the Geely Emgrand EC7. I know there is a lot of hype surrounding this car so I will fill you all in, doing my best to report my opinion with a level head, and with facts from wikipedia...

Yes it has a dumb Hoonigan decal on the windshield, just for the lols


I do not recall the model year, but since I know it had the Mitsubishi 4G18 (with 5-speed manual) it would have to have been built between 2009 and 2013 according to Wikipedia. The best I can tell a new EC7 equiped similarly in 2012 would have cost the equivalent of $14k in China. The Geely Emgrand EC7 is a front wheel drive 4 door compact car, built by the Chinese company Geely and according to Wikipedia was developed mainly for export to developing countries. Initially Emgrand was supposed to be the medium to high-end luxury brand of Geely, I guess similar to the Hyundai/Genesis, but this EC7 wasn’t even at the level of a 10 year old Hyundai so forget all that. However in 2014 Emgrand was discontinued as a mark and the products were branded again as Geely. I guess this would make it an Emgrand EC7, but I don’t know because the one I rented was missing the badging...and I don’t care.

My initial impression of the model in general was that it was similar to a mid-2000s Hyundai Elantra. This particular example was already a bit beat up with some dents an scratches all around, but apart from that I though it looked pretty attractive in general in a bland sort of way. Then my impression took a steep dive when I saw the inside. This example had obviously seen some hard kilometers already, over 60,000 to be exact. The interior was dirty, check engine light was on, both front interior door handles were missing and had pull straps rigged up instead. The fake leather shift boot material was flaking off. Most surfaces showed scratches or some kind of wear. Most materials were about as cheap as you imagine. All though it was at least put together well, not much in the way of rattles or squeaks.

Me gazing upon the Emgrand in Santa Clara

I didn’t have high hopes for it’s handling capabilities, but that isn’t super important in Cuba, strength and durability against potholes is probably the most important criteria I would say. That being said it drove straight and handling was pretty unremarkable, wasn’t very cushy or comfortable, but at the same time had almost no feel nor inspiration of handling capability if you pushed it in corners with a healthy amount of body roll. To be fair we had 3 people and luggage in the car too. Brakes felt inadequate and like the car was under-braked if you needed any more than casual stopping power.

Repair to an under-body panel after hitting a “street animal”

Sounds pretty dismal so far, but after a day or two of driving, and getting off the beaten path on some nasty roads that may have not been paved since the ‘60s, the suspension started to make some sense. After hitting some potholes at highway speeds that I was sure blew a tire or bent a wheel, the Emgrand just kept going. No blown struts, kept it’s alignment, and took a beating so bad that it momentarily caused me to feel bad for a Chinese car, but then from there a healthy respect grew in me. At one point off-road, the battery was even dislodged from it’s tray and the negative connection was pulled off (which conveniently reset the check engine light for the rest of the trip). I couldn’t help but to be deeply impressed by the way the Emgrand seem to shrug off the road conditions we exposed this car to and the conditions I am sure it had been through in it’s previous 60k kilometers.

Showing some previous “love” on her starboard side

To summarize it was a crappy car that was durable, would be a great Gambler 500 car :)

MIG 21 and the Geely Emgrand, two famous examples of communist engineering

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