Chinese fine driving
When Zeekr invited the editors of Autozine to get acquainted with this new brand, there was initially little interest. It must be yet another Chinese brand introducing yet another mid-size SUV that is yet again geared towards the average driver. But no! The Zeekr 001 holds the middle ground between a sedan and a hatchback and is therefore a "liftback". The manufacturer itself talks very optimistically about a "shooting brake", but for that, it lacks an element of refinement and elegance.
With its distinct design, this Chinese car is not aimed at the widest possible audience, but at the true car enthusiast! While it is true that the headlights are obviously from Lynk & Co, the rest of the design exudes much more class. Coming from a European design studio, the proportions and lines cleverly manage to disguise how big the 001 actually is. At 496 cm long and 200 cm wide, the 001 is comparable to a Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series.
Though the 001 offers significantly more cabin space than usual for a car of this size. Room in the front is good, noting that the seats with integrated headrests are sized for the European stature. The space in the rear is huge and at this point the 001 can even compare with much more expensive sedans used as chauffeured cars! In the test car, the front seats are blue and the back seats white, which is a successful and original element as far as Autozine is concerned.
The generous head and legroom does not come at the expense of luggage space, as it too is substantial. Only the storage space under the front lid is almost pitifully small: only a charging cable fits in here, and it has to be rolled up very neatly.
For ergonomics and equipment, Zeekr has obviously looked at Tesla. The dashboard is minimalist as almost all functions are controlled via a large, central display. Even the style and layout of the menus are suspiciously similar to Tesla's.
To put a positive spin on it: better good riddance to bad thinking, as the similar systems from sister brands Volvo (entirely outsourced to Google / Android) and Lynk & Co (an assistant that talks like a cartoon character) are be less appealing. Zeekr says it has developed the infotainment system itself based on its own operating system. The hardware for the infotainment system is oversized at the time of introduction, so future software will also run smoothly. This does not apply to the computer that processes information from the many sensors for the driver assistants. Zeekr says it is capable of Level 3 autonomous driving and no more than that.
The audio system is provided by Japanese brand Yamaha. In the basic version (8 speakers), the sound of this is downright disappointing and it is almost miraculous that this renowned brand has its name attached to it. However, the more luxurious version with 12 speakers has the full, rich, detailed and at the same time civilised sound that is characteristic of Yamaha.
In the brand name "Zeekr", "ze" stands for "zero" indicating zero emissions and a new beginning. The "e" stands for electric. "Kr" is for the gas "krypton" that lights up when electrically charged. In short: Zeekr supplies only electric cars.
Each 001 comes with a battery with a capacity of 100 kWh. There is also a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. The former has an electric motor with an output of 272 hp. The 001 with all-wheel drive has an electric motor on each axle, bringing the total to 544 hp. Via the central screen, you can control how much the 001 regenerates (recovers power when releasing the throttle). Even in the most extreme mode, this is low compared to other electric cars. Driving with one pedal is not possible in sport mode.
For this first introduction, on a closed track, the four-wheel-drive variant was driven. In comfort mode, it is decisive, certainly not intrusive or imposing. When sport mode is chosen, it is noticeable that all systems are on edge (especially the suspension!) and the car reacts much more directly. Although the electronics still protect the driver from himself by not building up the power too quickly, the 001 is now downright fast as can be expected from an electric car in this price range.
Charging the 001 can be done with 22 kW at a public charging point and with up to 200 kW at a fast charger. As mentioned, this first impression is based on a short drive on a track and therefore the maximum range of 620 km (rear-wheel drive) or 590 km (four-wheel drive) is far from being used and charging could not be tested.
Making an electric powertrain is easy for all new car manufacturers. The difference is in handling! Here, the 001 naturally has an advantage thanks to its low build compared to the many SUVs taking the market by storm. Also, with air suspension (only on top trim), Zeekr manages to disguise the 001's high weight well, even during an emergency stop. Because an electric motor is much smaller than a combustion engine, the front wheels can turn in much further than in a similar car of this size, and the 001 has an unusually small turning circle.
Despite the fact that the steering is electric and there are many safety systems watching over the driver, the steering feel is clean and direct. This direct steering and solid feel ensure that the 001 is not perceived as the first try of a new brand. In fact, it is precisely the driving characteristics that make the 001 is experienced is premium product. And exactly that is why parent company Geely saw room for yet another new brand!
Zeekr is a new Chinese brand designing cars in and for Europe. Zeekr aims to distinguish itself by bringing the innovation that others promise but do not yet realise. After a brief initial introduction, the "001" fails to convince in that respect. Zeekr manages to develop faster than other newcomers. However, it does not surpass the established brands.
What the 001 does do is convince on all counts. Some newcomers manage to score on price alone, appearance alone or image alone. The 001, on the other hand, looks good, offers lots of space (especially in the back), has a long range, can charge quickly, has modern equipment and drives excellently. Despite this, the price is keen, making the Zeekr 001 a case of Chinese fine driving.
- Competitive price, long warranty
- Excellent driving characteristics
- Very spacious, especially in the rear
- Mediocre sound of basic audio system
- Minuscule storage space under front lid
- Single-pedal driving not possible in sports mode