Zeekr X: One for the TikTok generation

It’s easy to get all tripped up by the quirky names and convoluted origins, such is the pace which Chinese automotive brands are expanding into South East Asian markets, and the impending addition to the growing list is Zeekr – an all-electric brand hailing from the Geely group. But wait, didn’t Proton announce its own EV brand recently?

The tentacles of the Geely auto stable reach far and wide, the following isn’t exhaustive by any means. Apart from Zeekr, Geely has its own Galaxy brand of New Energy Vehicles (NEV) which are a mix of plug-ins hybrids and EVs, and this is where Proton is expected to dip into for their upcoming EV models, to be dubbed e.MAS.

Geely also co-owns Smart with Mercedes-Benz and that BEV-only line-up is distributed by a subsidiary of Proton in Malaysia. Of course, Volvo Cars is Geely’s most well-known acquisition and spin-offs such as Lynk & Co and Polestar fall under the group too, while Lotus Cars joined the stable around the same time when Geely acquired 49.9% of Proton in 2017.

Chinese identified as Scandinavian

Pitched as a high-tech electric mobility brand, Zeekr got the ball rolling in 2021 with the 001 four-door shooting brake which was originally a Lynk & Co concept. One would imagine that a strategic decision was made late in the day to spawn an all-electric brand that’s supposedly ‘premium’ – a catchword which Chinese automakers are particularly fond of.

Futuristic, concept car-look of the Zeekr X is going to turn heads.

Unencumbered by history, Chinese manufacturers such as Zeekr are not afraid to roll the dice when it comes to design – it’s a pathway for a young brand to stand out in a saturated market like China. There are hits and misses naturally, some like to copy each other’s homework but one thing is for sure, there is no lack of interesting-looking cars flowing out of China, and the Zeekr X is definitely one of them.

The 3D ‘Zeekr’ emblem with illumination is a bit OTT but will please younger audiences to no end.

The dawn of EVs poses numerous styling challenges in that there’s no longer the need for a front grille and many legacy brands have struggled to execute a look consistent with their brand identity. No issue here for an upstart such as Zeekr; the X is a fresh take on a crossover, the sharp angles and crisp lines are both daring and futuristic. The fact that underneath the Zeekr X’s chiselled sheet metal are mechanicals shared with a Smart #1 and Volvo EX30 is testament to the clever work of the global design team based in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Wheelbase of 2750mm is identical to the Smart #1, but you wouldn’t have guessed that both are mechanical siblings.

Zeekr designers have somehow managed to make the separation of DRLs from headlamps and the absence of a grille on the X look natural, and for a vehicle with an SUV-ish silhouette that doesn’t resemble a bar of soap, its drag coefficient of 0.28 is entirely respectable. The cutting-edge facade of the Zeekr X can be elevated by optioning tech packs with embedded touch-screen on the B-pillar, electric-powered doors and vehicle entry via facial-recognition, though our test car wasn’t equipped as such.

Charging ports reside under a powered lid, accommodates DC fast charging up to 150kW.

The rise of TikTok, the demise of physical controls

The high-tech theme is carried through to the interior. If you’re coming from a vehicle with physical buttons and switches, the first 10 minutes in the Zeekr X can be frustrating as simple actions such as adjusting the side mirrors require calling up the function on the centre display and then working the control pads on the steering wheel, even adjusting the direction of the AC air flow needed swiping on the 14.6-inch centre display, which is tricky enough when stationary, let alone driving.

But in all fairness, oversized touchscreens and voice command are the rage in Chinese cars, and to Zeekr X’s credit, it distances itself from being an esports café on wheels by virtue of its premium build and sophisticated design which draw inspiration from Scandinavian minimalism and ingenuity. The Zeekr X isn’t as spacious as its 2750mm wheelbase would suggest, both in occupant and cargo space, but the seating is comfortable and made of plush materials that would challenge established premium brands.

Rear legroom is merely adequate but check out those rose gold accents on that two-tone cabin.

The paucity of physical controls notwithstanding, there’s no lack of storage ideas on the shapely centre-armrest and door cards, while creature comforts are aplenty including high-powered wired/wireless charging, fancy ambient lighting, even a fashionably-crafted ‘teh tarik’ hook on the centre console which also serves as a conversation starter. The Zeekr X’s concept-car looks, chic cabin and high-tech gubbins (fridge under armrest, Yamaha audio system, etc) will provide endless fodder for excitable KOLs to showcase their perfect lives on TikTok.

Zeekr X’s keyfob resembles a pebble; 50W Qi wireless charging for applicable smartphones.

Given that the driving experience of modern EVs are more similar than they are different, the efforts Zeekr spent on differentiating the X through exterior styling and interior appointments are going to be central to its appeal. Our test unit, a single-motor, rear-wheel drive variant with 272hp and 343Nm – identical numbers to the Smart #1 single-motor variant, makes effortless getaways from standstill as a modern EV is expected to (0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds), but offers little sensation through its steering and pedal action. The ride on standard 19in alloys is also on the softer end of the spectrum and can get a little lumpy over undulated surfaces.

Physical switches are so yesterday, if swiping isn’t your thing, you’ll have to speak to the car.

Like the Smart #1, the Zeekr X has a dual-motor AWD variant that’s a whole lot more rapid but both powertrains come with the same 66kWh battery pack that’s rated to offer up to 560km on the CLTC cycle in single-motor guise, expect WLTP figures to be more realistic and prices to be in the ballpark of the #1 when it launches in Malaysia. Otherwise, the Zeekr X is an exceedingly stylish, painless-to-drive compact SUV that’s going to further spice up the EV segment.

Likes: Futuristic exterior design, minimalist-theme cabin is premium
Dislikes: Not much cargo space or legroom, fiddly screen-based controls

Zeekr X (Single-Motor RWD)
Price: From RMB ¥ 200,000  Motor: Rear, RWD  Output: 272hp and 343Nm  Performance: 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds; Top speed: 180km/h  Battery capacity: 66kWh  Range: Up to 560km (CLTC)  Wheels/tyres: 235/50 R19 (F&R)