I’m not really sure there is any object that feels more like the first quarter of 2020 than a Chinese market SUV with a special air filtration system designed to combat the Coronavirus. The SUV is Geely’s new Icon SUV, a small, mild hybrid crossover with an actually very novel design. But, most people were interested in its air filtration system, which is specifically designed to protect the passengers from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Will it actually do that? Much like Tesla’s system, it can’t hurt.
Here’s what Geely’s press release says about the system:
“In response to the new Coronavirus epidemic, Geely Auto developed in record time a new Intelligent Air Purification System (IAPS) that is N95 certified. This highly efficient air purification system works in tandem with the Icon’s air conditioner to isolate and eliminate harmful elements in the cabin air including bacteria and viruses.”
So, that N95 rating means that the filtration setup will block up to 95 per cent of particles measuring 0.3 micrometres in diameter. This is very similar to the filter in Tesla’s Model S and Model X-available Bioweapon Defence Mode system, which is a HEPA-rated filter, meaning it will block 99.97 per cent of particles 0.3 micrometres in diameter.
Now, the COVID-19 virus is actually much smaller—0.06 to 0.14 micrometres in diameter—but because it has to be transmitted via respiratory droplets of liquid (eww) the actual particles carrying the virus are large enough to likely be stopped by either filter.
Neither Tesla’s nor Geely’s system can be said to be 100 per cent effective against the virus, but they very likely can at least help.
I’m also pretty sure this is the first time a car feature has been deliberately marketed in relation to a specific disease, unless you count the optional anti-Herpes Cleancrotch™ seat covers that GM was offering on Trans Ams and Camaros in the mid-1970s, though those were never proven to be effective, and I just made them up now.
With so much of the focus of the Icon’s release being about the COVID-19 filtration system, I feel like people are overlooking the design of the crossover, which is genuinely interesting and fresh, not looking like a half-assed copy of everything else out there like so many modern SUVs.
China’s automotive design has been accused of being derivative for years, but I think the Icon shows that originality is possible, and we’re seeing the development of a uniquely Chinese design vocabulary.
The look is boxy yet sleek, very modern and techy, with some interesting details like the recessed/intaglio “fender” character lines, which merge into the hood shutline and daytime running lamps on the front end.
The concentric rectangles are a Geely identifier, and work very well here to define the front fascia look of the car in a way that’s very unique in this segment.
The rocker panels’ rectangular insets and the jog in the beltline do sort of remind me of recent Citroën designs (think the Cactus) but as a whole this feels fresh, and I’m hoping these end up here. Our collective SUV market could use some new design blood mixing things up.
Oh, and, yeah, it’d be great not to get Coronavius, I guess.