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First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD

Shaun · Nov 15, 2023 10:42 AM

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 01

WTC Automotif (WTCA), the official distributor of GAC models in Malaysia, is reloading its ammo in the B-segment SUV competition with the all-new second-generation GAC GS3 (named GS3 Emzoom in some markets).

We were given the opportunity sample the GS3 Emzoom in China, courtesy of EWTCA and GAC Motor, but more on that shortly.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 02

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First, a refresh of the GAC GS3 Emzoom. Built from the ground up on GAC's latest GPMA (GAC Global Platform Modular Architecture) platform, the GS3 Emzoom promises substantial improvements across its exterior, cabin, and powertrain.

In terms of exterior design, GAC has taken a bold approach, giving the GS3 Emzoom a striking and aggressive appearance. The front grille boasts sharp creases and vertical slats, complemented by new LED headlights with a angular design.

Also read: Tan Chong to soon launch CKD GAC GS3 in Malaysia, Segambut plant to get RM 60 million in upgrades

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 01

The rear of the vehicle is equally distinctive, featuring dual centrally-mounted muffler tips and an eye-catching diffuser with vertical slats. It also features flush door handles.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 02

Inside the cabin, the GS3 Emzoom incorporates a dual digital screen setup along with colour-coded air vents and dashboard trim. There’s also a crystal knob for the shift-by-wire system, and a mix of USB-A and USB-C ports.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 03

Ahead of the driver lies a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, while the infotainment screen size goes up to 12.3 inches, depending on the variant. Powering the GS3 Emzoom is a turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine delivering 177 PS and 270 Nm, coupled with a wet-type dual-clutch transmission (DCT).

Also read: Nissan losing ground in ASEAN, Tan Chong bets on GAC to return it to 50k annual sales peak

So, what’s the GAC GS3 Emzoom like?

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 04

Interior aesthetics are leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, while material quality is par for the course in its segment - a splatter of leather across middle sections of the cabin and hard plastics in areas rarely touched.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 05

The dual-widescreen displays are crisp with snappy response time. As far as initial impressions of the interior go, it’s quite positive based on the brief session behind the wheel of the GAC GS3 Emzoom.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 06

Onto the drive, GAC Motor had arranged an obstacle course for their cars, which included an acceleration and braking test, slaloms, and figure 8s. Based on the course, the GS3 Emzoom revealed its matured characteristics that goes in contrast to how it looks.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 07

Acceleration from the 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is strong, though there is a bit of a delay before the boost kicks in. Once it does, the DCT does its job to keep it on boil. Shifts are on the smoother side rather than snappy, unlike some other performance-biased DCTs.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 08

Very aggresive styling cues, but it doesn't drive like how it looks.

Steering is light and feedback is virtually non-existent, and the ratio itself is rather slow. On an obstacle course with slaloms and figure 8s, these characteristics manifest themselves rather noticeably. Body roll is quite apparent as well, though it’s kept in check and doesn’t become unwieldy.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 09

However, the softly sprung setup does give the GS3 Emzoom a good level of pliancy over uneven surfaces. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) is impressive as powertrain and tyre noise are kept low, complementing the pliant ride.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 10

Torsion beam setup at the rear.

And that’s about it from the brief test drive session. Based on what we were told, our Malaysian-spec GAC GS3 Emzoom will have identical setup in terms of suspension or powertrain tuning.

The only difference is in the ADAS department, where local testing will be done to suit the conditions as well as to comply with the regulations here.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 11

WTCA CEO Tan Keng Meng has said that CKD production is slated to commence in April 2024, with sales expected to kick off in mid-2024.

When it hits the Malaysian market next year, the 2024 GAC GS3 Emzoom will face competition from rivals such as the Chery Omoda 5, Honda HR-V, Proton X50, Toyota Corolla Cross, and others.

First Drive Review: GAC GS3 Emzoom, bringing the fight to Proton X50 next year, CKD 12

Does it stand a chance in the highly competitive segment? As always, it ultimately comes down to price. The Chery Omoda 5 starts from RM 108k to RM 118k, while the Proton X50 Flagship and Honda HR-V Turbo go for RM 113k and RM 135k respectively.

Should the 2024 GAC GS3 Emzoom position itself at the lower end of the above spectrum, it could prove to be a competitive offering for WTCA.

Also read: China's GAC lineup of flying cars, Toyota tech hybrids, BEVs and hydrogen are ready for the world's diverse customer needs

Shaun

Senior Writer

The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.

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