What on earth is that thing?
It’s called the Zeekr X, and it’s certainly not the most attractive slab of metal on TopGear.com’s pages. So let’s start with a bit of background, because unless you’ve been living in China it’s unlikely that you’ll have come across Zeekr until now.
The company was only founded in 2021 and was intended to be one of Geely’s premium electric carmakers. We say “one of” because the beast that is Geely also happens to own Volvo, Polestar, Lotus and Smart to name but a few. Anyway, Zeekr Europe was born around a year later, and the first shipments of this X and the swoopy 001 estate are currently on their way to Europe.
Both the X and the 001 are based on versions of Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform, with the X crossover sharing its underpinnings with cars like the Volvo EX30 and the Smart #1 and #3.
But is it coming to the UK?
Well, we’re told that deliveries will start in Sweden and the Netherlands in early November, with Belgium, Germany, Norway and France to follow shortly after that. Zeekr is deploying a direct-to-consumer sales tactic to avoid the need for dealerships and third-party involvement in the car buying process.
But that’s us stalling, because as yet the X isn’t going to be sold in Britain. And neither is the 001. Doh! Zeekr Europe boss Spiros Fotinos has confirmed that a ‘right-hand drive strategy’ will be deployed in the next couple of years though, so perhaps we will see the X on our shores after all.
Let’s get back to those looks.
Good idea. Zeekr’s design chief is ex-VW Group and Mercedes man Stefan Sielaff, but we’re told that the X and 001 were mostly penned before he joined the company. And interestingly we’re actually getting quite strong BMW vibes from the X’s exterior styling. It almost looks like a cross between an i3 and an iX, if the resulting creation was then crashed into from behind.
Strangely pleasing to see that there isn’t a generic lightbar running across the rear though, and a panoramic roof is standard, as is a little circular screen on the outside of the B pillar that gives you charging information when plugged in.
What are the stats I need to know?
The X comes in two forms – Long Range RWD or Privilege AWD. Both come with a 69kWh battery (gross) and the ability to rapid charge at 150kW, but the Long Range makes do with just one motor that powers the rear wheels with 268bhp and 253lb ft of torque.
The Privilege AWD version adds an extra motor on the front axle for a total of 422bhp and 400lb ft of torque. Yep, that’s well over 400bhp in a family crossover. Crikey. The result is 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds (the single motor car takes 5.6s) and top speeds of 112mph for both.
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Zeekr claims ‘up to’ 264 miles of range for the bonkers quick version and 276 miles for the slightly less speedy single motor. Not too much of a punishment if you want all that performance, then.
Right, so how does it drive?
Zeekr claims to have over 150,000 cars on the road already in China, so its European branch is hardly starting from scratch when it comes to the cars.
First impressions of the X? Well, we’ve only had the chance to drive an AWD version so far, and as expected it’s completely rapid. If we’re honest, it’s far too fast for a car such as this and the eco spec tyres struggle to put all of the power down. Wheelspin and a loose rear end in an electric crossover with the traction control firmly on? Not ideal, especially as Zeekr reckons its traction control is “10 times quicker than standard systems”.
The passive suspension setup is also extremely soft, so the ride is wallowy and body control is all over the place. We’re told that Xs bound for our continent have been specially engineered by the firm’s R&D centre in Gothenburg, but there wasn’t much sense of that as we drove on local Swedish roads. Thankfully the steering is direct with decent feel, but under braking (whether that’s one-pedal regen or using the pedal) and through corners the X struggles to hide its near two tonne kerbweight.
The worst part of the driving experience isn’t actually down to hardware though. Zeekr proudly claims that the X gets 19 different advanced driver assist systems as standard, but one of which is a ‘driver monitor system’ that is seemingly impossible to switch off and bongs every time you turn the steering wheel. Presumably the premise is to watch the driver and make sure they aren’t distracted, but it seems as though Zeekr has mounted the camera on the steering column so that the spokes of the wheel constantly block its view. Looking to completely spoil the way a car drives in one easy swoop? This will do it.
Is it efficient?
Strangely we only managed 2.9 miles per kWh on a mixed route. That number increased in town where the X feels more at home, but the AWD version with its larger 20-inch wheels didn’t seem all that efficient. Worth noting here that RWD versions get slightly smaller 19-inchers.
What is it like inside?
Things are certainly more promising as you step inside. The interior is animal free and there are some nice looking recycled materials dotted about the place.
You sit high to get that proper crossover feel and behind the square-ish steering wheel you get a clear 8.8-inch dial display screen that provides essential info and nothing more. The rest of the interior is then dominated by the 14.6-inch central infotainment screen. There are actually some physical buttons on the steering wheel, but everything else has to be controlled through sub menus in the screen. Thankfully it’s a good quality unit powered by a Snapdragon chip and is mostly quite reactive, but the navigation was lagging a little bit behind in our pre-production test car and given that it’s such a big unit, a split-screen mode with multiple displays available would really improve the experience.
Zeekr won’t offer a huge array of trim levels, so everything on the inside is standard fit and your only choice is between the Long Range RWD (with 19-inch wheels) and the Privilege AWD (with 20-inch wheels). Then there’s your exterior colour choice and either a black or white/blue interior.
That means all cars come with 13-speaker Yamaha surround sound audio, a head-up display, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, heated massage seats, multiple drive modes, all of the active safety systems, a heat pump and of course access to an app store. Phew.
Oh, and one of the inbuilt apps uses an external speaker mounted near the front wheelarch to project noises, music or even your own voice on the outside of the car.
Wait what? So it sounds like a combustion car like the Abarth 500e?
Absolutely not. Zeekr has used this function to programme in some funny animal noises, a tractor startup sequence and some pre-recorded messages like ‘thanks for giving way’... and we’ve no idea why either. It also allows you to broadcast whatever radio station or song you’re listening to to everyone in the vicinity. Just remember to turn it off before you arrive home late at night.
How practical is it?
Well, there’s plenty of space in the cabin. The large amount of glass helps it to feel bright and airy too, and there’s lots of headroom and legroom in the rear. With the battery mounted under the floor those rear seat passengers won’t be able to slide their feet under the seats in front though, and the boot space is a little disappointing at 362 litres. The slightly smaller XC40 Recharge gets 452 litres of room back there. Plus, the Zeekr’s front boot is barely big enough for a charging cable.
How much will all of this cost?
Here’s where the Zeekr claws back some credibility, and where a fair few prospective buyers will likely be secured. In the Netherlands, a top spec XC40 Recharge in Ultimate trim with the twin-motor powertrain will set you back €63,995.
In the same market, the AWD Zeekr X is just €49,490, and the more sedate RWD version (which is probably going to be the one to have) is €4,500 less. That is mightily impressive.
All Zeekrs sold in Europe will come with an eight-year/200,000km battery warranty and a five-year/100,000km vehicle warranty too with the option to double the latter for a bit more cash.
Zeekr reckons the X will appeal to ‘tech savvy’ thirtysomethings or ‘young old’ folks in their 50s or 60s, and we can certainly see plenty of people being tempted by the kit list and prices. More work needs to be done on the way this little crossover drives before it can fully convert that interest into meaningful sales, though.