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The GAC GS3 Emzoom proves to be the new chic crossover

Whether or not it’s fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport tires

Memories of Guangzhou came back thanks to the dealership's new aesthetic. PHOTO FROM GAC

I have had an unexpected history with GAC. As the GS4 is the first vehicle I’ve ever reviewed, the Chinese brand (and Astara Philippines, to an extent) has a special place in my mind. One year later, those three letters has grown in popularity across the region; it feels like a repeat of what Geely experienced in 2019 with the Coolray.

GAC Motor Philippines marketing director Franz Decloedt felt proud of how much of a smash hit the GS3 Emzoom had become. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG AND GAC

GAC Philippines recently invited the media to another out-of-town drive, starting at the newly opened Alabang dealership along Alabang-Zapote Road—featuring the company’s new global design—to My Country House in Tagaytay for a cheese appreciation session. What better vehicle to use for the occasion than the brand’s current best-seller: the GS3 Emzoom.

Even at its base level, its design never held back. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

The GS3 Emzoom intrigued me when it was first launched in August 2023, especially in the R-Style trim, a compact crossover on 235/45-series Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. How can that not ignite my curiosity? Granted, we were also treated with the base GS variant, which only comes with 225/55-series Sentury Landsail tires and a cleaner look.

A significant feature missing in the base variant was the full ADAS suite, where the memories of driving the Emkoo came flooding back to me even during the short time on the expressway. The adaptive cruise control still worked like a charm, and the integrated cruise assist never failed to surprise me.

These detours bring out the juxtaposition of two vastly different eras. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG AND GAC

Aside from the cluster, the interior feels at home with the rest of the GAC lineup, yet is vastly different between the GS (and GB, for that matter) and the R-Style, mainly in the instrument cluster. The seven-inch digital screen of the top spec is swapped for a more analog three-inch configuration in the lower trims.

The 10.25-inch infotainment system is shared between the three, with both Apple CarPlay and CarbitLink included as standard. I’ve ragged on about the latter app in the GS8 for how comically integrated its interface looks on a 14-inch display. However, in the Emzoom, the slim horizontal orientation better suits the smartphone aesthetic, providing little free real estate and more eye-pleasing icons.

How would you react if this rolls into your driveway? PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

As we arrived at My Country House, the cheese lessons and the lunch buffet were quickly overshadowed by the media examining the Emzoom up close. Similar to how I see the Emkoo, it is almost as if the designers translated their sketches into reality and created an angular crossover in a sea of softies.

The 18-inch directional wheels of the GS and the GB complement the geometric motif of the body contrary to the usual base models. Meanwhile, the 19-inch set of the R-Style almost leans into the aftermarket territory, but still retains the OEM look.

With that praise said, the R-Style flares are overkill for my taste with go-fast diffusers, middle twin exhausts, and even orange accents (which hurts to say as I love the color).

The lack of a manual mode bummed the gearheads. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

Despite the differences in features and accessories, all trim levels receive the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, where I responsibly tested out the 174hp and 250Nm powerplant on the expressway and the mountain passes. The Sport mode hugged the corners like a sport compact hatchback, and the forgiving suspension traversed through the bumps like any crossover would.

Meanwhile, the Eco mode made driving through the city center comfortable thanks to the cartoonishly light steering feel I had been used to before. The whole driving experience would’ve been extra fun if the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission could be operated manually, but even the top-spec R-Style lacks paddle shifters, unlike the Empow GE.

The future of GAC appears flashy and fast. PHOTOS BY JUSTIN YOUNG

But that’s just a nitpick from a gearhead, and the GAC GS3 Emzoom fortunately delivers the needs of a daily driver. Its compact body, decently equipped tech, and Mega Wave Power are some things that the Geely Coolray brought to the table since the pre-pandemic days.

With a starting price of P998,000 (GS) and up to P1,198,000 (R-Style), it’s no wonder this combination translated into a hit in 2023, accounting for 39% of GAC Philippines’ total sales.

Justin Young

Justin loves cars of all forms. Molded by motoring TV shows and Internet car culture, he sees the world from a different perspective that not many get to see every day.