It’s not your average small electric SUV, but that could be a strength as the Zeekr X takes on the established premium players
4.0 out of 5
Zeekr plans to take on Europe’s premium car manufacturers at their own game and the X is hard evidence that it means business. The small, electric Chinese SUV is not without its flaws but it feels like a classy proposition inside while a raft of unusual design and technology features will help it stand out next to more sober rivals. The Zeekr X is at its best as a relaxing runabout, so the flagship AWD powertrain that turns it into a hot Zeekr missile is probably overkill, even if the small projected price difference makes it sorely tempting.
What is a Zeekr? This is inevitably going to be the initial reaction for lots of UK motorists on first acquaintance with a Zeekr X, but they’d do well to get acclimatised to that sense of confusion and unfamiliarity. On one hand, Zeekr is just one of a plethora of little-known Chinese brands that will be launching in the UK in the coming years, following in the wake of BYD and Ora. On the other, the Zeekr X is not your usual European-market small premium SUV. Far from it.
Zeekr, then, is a ‘global luxury electric mobility brand’ owned by Geely, the Chinese conglomerate that also owns more familiar names like Lotus, Volvo, Polestar and Smart. The Zeekr X is being pitched as a compact electric luxury car and it uses Geely’s SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) platform, one that’s shared by the Smart #1 and #3, as well as the Volvo EX30. This does raise some obvious questions about the positioning of the X in relation to its similarly sized and ostensibly just-as-premium stablemates.
Amazingly, Zeekr was only founded as recently as 2021. Today it already has three models on sale, two in Europe – the large Zeekr 001 ‘shooting brake’ hatchback and this Zeekr X small SUV. Both are likely to hit the UK market in the next two to three years.
The Zeekr X is 4,432mm long, 162mm longer than a Smart #1, despite having the same wheelbase. It all adds up to very good levels of passenger space for such a compact model, with space inside for four large adults to sit comfortably. There’s a 362-litre boot out back, which is up on the Smart’s 288 litres but down on the impressively baggage-friendly Peugeot E-2008’s 434-litre capacity.
If you think of the Zeekr X as sitting between supermini-sized SUV models like the Peugeot and Smart, and larger mid-size SUVs like the Mercedes EQA and forthcoming Smart #3 in terms of size, you won’t be far off.
The Zeeker X comes in rear-wheel-drive, single-motor form or with dual motors and four-wheel drive. Even the former has a 272bhp output with 343Nm of torque. It’s enough for a 5.6-second 0-62mph blast, which would have been fearsomely quick in a small SUV a few years ago. These days, we’re acclimatised to that kind of pace from relatively ordinary EV models but the 422bhp and 543Nm of the dual-motor Zeekr X is huge, even by modern standards.
There are wide door pockets and some more storage space in the centre console but not a lot of other capacity for your clutter, so you may end up placing items on the wide, flat floor area. You won’t get much beyond a chunky paperback in the frunk, which is among the smallest we’ve seen.
The wireless phone-charging slot in the centre armrest is an unusual move, as is the built-in sunglasses holder up on the door frame where a driver’s grab handle might usually be. That’s nothing, however, compared with some of the stuff lurking in the menus of the Zeekr X infotainment system.
The car has a pet mode. Engage it and you can leave your dog, cat or whatever in the locked car with the climate control set to the perfect temperature to keep the animal happy. A ‘Pet Mode’ symbol illuminates on the external B-pillar display and on the main screen the current temperature is shown with a reassuring message for concerned passers-by (or perhaps for the pet?): “The owner will be back soon. Do not worry”.
You certainly would worry if the Zeekr X unleashed one of its other features in your vicinity. The car has external speakers that can play a selection of loud animal noises, pre-recorded verbal messages or engine sounds at passers-by – or broadcast music from the car’s stereo. We’re not yet accustomed, in this country, to motorists warning pedestrians of their approach with comedy horse noises, but that day is coming, if Zeekr has its way.
You might be able to make this little electric hatchback sound like there’s a Massey Ferguson tractor engine under the bonnet and take selfies with the built-in cameras but some tasks more central to the vehicle’s successful use are tricky to access. Large, impressive and high resolution though the touchscreen is, it does have a lot of complex menus and isn’t always as responsive as we’d like to touch inputs on the often small icons. These things always improve with familiarity but better shortcuts to key features and split-screen functionality that keeps the navigation information in view would be a benefit.
There’s always wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you’re still struggling, and at least the standard head-up display conveys information in a clear and concise manner. It also projects some nice animated graphics prompting you to make the turns on the sat-nav route.
While you are behind the wheel, the Zeekr X feels more like compact MPV than an SUV, with an upright driving position and lots of room overhead – those BMW i3 comparisons feeling apt again. We tested the dual-motor variant and can confirm what you probably already thought: that 422bhp is quite a lot in a car of this size with no real upgrades outside of the powertrain to help it cope. Even with a four-wheel drive system that’s quick to send power forwards, it’s easy to break traction at the rear if you’re overzealous at the exits of corners.
All that performance lurking under your right foot doesn’t really play to the Zeekr X’s strengths. When you drive it quickly, the soft suspension gets unsettled over larger bumps and undulations, producing a bouncy effect. Drive in a more measured way, or stick to urban streets and smooth motorways (as most owners will), and the Zeekr impresses.
The steering isn’t overly light and the car responds promptly to it, the tight 11.5m turning circle further helping manoeuvrability. Small-bump absorption is good and the considerable kerb weight (1,960kg in the dual-motor car) is reasonably well controlled in corners, given the tall body. There’s little wind or road noise until you get up to motorway speeds, either. It's a relaxing car to get about in.
As you might have guessed from the unorthodox gadgets listed earlier, Zeekr appears to adopt a bit of a supermarket-sweep approach to equipment and simply piles in as much as it can. The standard Long Range single-motor cars get a panoramic sunroof, two-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, the giant touchscreen, a 13-speaker Yamaha stereo system and a suite of 19 driver-assistance systems that chime in regularly to keep you on the right track. The dual-motor Privilege cars don’t add much else beyond the upgraded powertrain, 20-inch wheels and massaging front seats. You certainly aren’t going to feel like you’re missing out in the entry-level version – something you can’t really say about the premium-badged competition.
In The Netherlands right now pricing starts at 44,990 euros for the standard model and only, 4,500 euros more for the flagship that we tested. How this will translate when the Zeekr X hits the UK in 2025 or thereabouts is unknown, but £39,000 for a stylish, comfortable and extremely well-equipped premium compact SUV would be appealing. It’s similar money to that currently being asked for the related but less spacious Smart #1. Under £4,000 more for said car with all-wheel drive, 422bhp and a 3.8s 0-62mph sprint sounds like an offer too good to refuse – but on balance, you probably should.
|Model:||Zeeker X Privilege AWD|
|Price:||49,490 euros (£43,000)|
|Powertrain:||69kWh battery/2x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive|
|Charging:||150kW (10-80% 29mins)|
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