What is it?
The wait for a Chinese-built car that can cut it against international competition has been a long one, with many false dawns along the way (the Borgward BX7 being a recent example.) On the basis of a very limited test drive, it’s too early to give a definitive verdict on the new Lynk&Co 01, but the early signs are certainly promising.
Behind the silly name, the 01 is a mid-sized crossover based on some impressively solid engineering and the first product from Geely’s newly established Lynk&Co sub-brand. Geely’s ownership of Volvo provides the oily bits, with the 01 sitting on the same Compact Modular Architecture that underpins the new Volvo XC40 and set to be powered by Chinese-built versions of Volvo’s Drive-E engine family.
The 01 has just launched in China with two turbocharged petrol motors, a 148hp 1.5-litre three-cylinder and a 188hp 2.0-litre four-pot, but other powerplants are going to be added to the mix quickly, with the plan being to launch in Europe with the three-cylinder hybrid engine that Volvo told us about last year and a pure electric version following. As such, it’s profoundly unradical – but it also has the advantage of using a range of proven powerplants that have been developed for a known and well respected brand. Lynk boasts that this is a Chinese-built car that has been engineered in Europe.
The design tries harder from the front than other angles and certainly won’t be all tastes – apparently the Chinese appreciate a car that makes a grand entrance. The elongated light units mounted on the top of the front wings give the 01 hints of the Nissan Juke, or a more angular take on the Porsche Macan, although the actual headlights are mounted lower. From side and rear it looks handsome if slightly generic; but then, if you launch an all-new brand no one knows what it is supposed to look like. At 4512mm long it’s pretty much exactly on the segment average, and just 87mm longer than its XC40 cousin. The wheelbases of the two cars are similar, with the 01’s 2735mm a 33mm stretch over the Volvo. The shared platform and Volvo’s safety expertise also means that Lynk’s engineering team are confident the 01 will perform extremely well in all major comparative crash tests.
Despite having only two engines from launch, Geely has taken the unusual decision to launch the 01 in China with three different gearboxes: a basic six-speed manual and two autos – a six-speed torque converter box and a more advanced seven-speed twin-clutch version. The conventional slusher isn’t intended to be part of the mix for long and will only be available with front-wheel drive, so it won't come to Europe. The twin-clutch we drove comes with all-wheel drive through a part-time Haldex-style rear axle. The hybrid that will eventually make it to Europe will use this gearbox, with the innovative feature of an electric motor powering one of its input shafts and the internal combustion engine turning the other. Lynk execs also confirm there won’t be a diesel version.