This new brand is not meant to be bargain basement. In fact it sits above Volvo in the poshness pecking order, and is already selling a rival for the Tesla Model S in some European countries.
The Zeekr X will be a much more affordable car. When it goes on sale in Europe in early 2024 it will cost between €44,990 and €49,490 – expect it to be priced a little less in pounds when it eventually arrives in the UK in early 2025.
At 4,432mm long the Zeekr X is longer than a Volkswagen ID.3 and around the same as a Vauxhall Astra. It is 1566mm tall, which is almost identical to the VW. The looks of the Zeekr are sure to cause debate because it looks bold and interesting. There are definite hints of the old BMW i3 around the rear, but with extra creases and interesting features.
The wheels are huge, at either 19 or 20 inches depending on the model, and there are lights and details everywhere. For example, the Zeekr badge at the rear lights up when you approach or leave the car but extinguishes as you drive off to stay legal.
As has no brand history, it was up to the marketing people and engineers to decide how the car should drive and what it should represent. They chose two messages – performance and technology. It delivers on both, but there are some sacrifices to be made.
Range and charging
Starting with the basic figures helps to set the scene for where the Zeekr X uses the same basic components as the Volvo EX30 and Smart #1. That means it has a 69kWh battery (of which 62 is usable) and a choice of a single motor powering the rear wheels or twin motors which give four wheel drive.
In the single motor car this is enough for a 275 mile range, while the twin motor can cover 250 miles between charges. This seemed like a small difference considering the extra weight and performance, but the engineers explained that two motors become two generators when the car is braking, meaning more energy is recaptured.
When you need to plug in, the X has standard 22kW AC capabilities, which is unusual in this class and is an option on more expensive rivals too. The 150kW DC is competitive but far from impressive at this price level though.
Zeekr have teamed up with the charge app company Plugseeker to offer easy (and discounted) public charging for customers across Europe.
The car will let you know it’s charging and the battery level either via the inevitable app, or through a nifty display on the outside of the car’s B-pillar. This is a real novelty, but I’d worry it might attract the wrong sort of attention in a dark car park.
The X seemed to be getting close to 4 miles/kWh in summer heat, and in cooler weather than my test drive there’s a standard heat pump to make warming the car more efficient in winter. Again, that’s something rivals will charge four figures for.
Interior and practicality
The interior really is a step above other cars in the class, with high quality finishes and tactile materials wherever you poke and prod. Whereas Volkswagen give you cheapskate shared switches for the electric windows, Zeeker gives metal buttons that feel better than those in a Mercedes.
There’s also a ‘handbag’ hanger button in the middle of the centre console made out of polished metal. It feels like a button which will do something important when pressed and it’s a little disappointing when it just pops out, but it will be useful nevertheless.
The materials used across the dashboard and even the headlining feel special too, with fabrics such as suede-look Alcantara used extensively. There are plenty of lights too, and they are programmable so they can make patterns and change colour depending on your mood or in time to the music being played.
If that’s still not enough light, there’s a huge sunroof which brings a real sense of light to the interior, especially the back. There’s no blind, but apparently it’s not needed as the glass has special coatings to keep the UV out.
In the rear, there’s a decent amount of legroom behind the hard-backed front seats but the back rests are a little more upright than we’d like and the floor is high, meaning adult passengers’ knees might end up being level with their nipples.
The luggage fares a little better. At 362 litres the boot is just about large enough, and there is a big (and oddly shaped) compartment under the floor for cables. The opening isn’t huge though, so you might struggle to load that Ikea sofa.
This is the area where Zeekr thinks it can really make a name for itself, and I can see why. There is all the usually kit you’d expect of course, including a suite of irritating bongs and vibrations to warn when you are apparently crossing a white line or going over the speed limit. The built-in nav was a little laggy too, but we’re told it will be upgraded by the time the X goes on sale,
The screen is 14.6 inches across which is big enough for anyone. In fact there’s a theatre mode for watching films when parked up, and it even moves the seats to make it more comfortable.
The sound system – developed by Yamaha – is impressive too, and a useful upgrade on the tinny systems fitted to many modern cars.
But the most talked about feature will be the external speaker. Almost all electric cars have one which is used to play the audible warning at low speeds, but no once else has dared to use it for any other purpose. Zeekr however will let you hijack the speaker and play anything you like. It could be music from your phone while you are camping, or you are able to use the microphone to talk to the outside world. There are even a selection of pre-loaded sound effects and messages. If you’ve even wanted to play pig noises or tell people at crossings to go ahead, this is the car for you.
If you are carrying real animals in the car, the X has a pet mode – a feature nicked from Tesla – which keeps the interior cool and displays a message on the screen to tell concerned onlookers that your pooch is OK.
There’s certainly no shortage of power in the Zeekr, even the model with just one motor. That model produces 272bhp, giving a 0-62 time of 5.6 seconds. A generation ago that would have been enough to beat a Ferrari. The twin motor model produces a total of 422bhp, propelling the posher ‘Privilege’ to 62 in 3.8 seconds. That’s seriously quick, and can only be matched by cars such as the Tesla Model 3 Performance, or at a lower price level the MG4 X Power.
While this can be fun and comes in useful when overtaking or pulling onto a slip road it feels a bit unnecessary. The Zeekr is not designed to be a sportscar or hot hatch so it doesn’t have the capability in the corners you’d expect from a car with this performance. There is little feel through the steering and the car leans in the bends in a way which make you want to back off rather than push on. In many ways it feels like a big, soft luxury limo which has been given a sudden burst of power and doesn’t know what to do with it.
The up side of this soft chassis is that the Zeekr feels unusually refined. Bumps and rough surfaces are absorbed easily and silently, and the road noise is insulated too. It makes the car comfortable and calm, so long as you don’t use the bottom half of the throttle pedal’s travel.
There is a more wholesome way to use the power too – the Zeekr has a towing capacity of 1,600kg.
There is a good car fighting to get out of the Zeekr X. All of the things we didn’t like, such as the handling, steering feel and safety tech were all dismissed as ‘pre-production’ faults which would be fixed by the time the car goes on sale.
If they manage to polish those flaws out, the X would be a distinctive and high-quality car with some really interesting features. The interior is especially impressive, and the forgiving ride is a blessing for anyone used to stiffly sprung sportscars.