When a company sits on the number 137 spot on the fortune 500 ratings, it is definitely worth a visit from The Singh. The website of this mentions something about the “domestic brand of BAIC opens a new chapter in the 2.0 Era”. My curiosity was piqued and we contacted the local BAIC press team.
Words like “differentiation, innovation, intelligent, service” and a plethora of derivatives leap out at you as your mind grapples with the press statement. Is this product really that good? Let’s find out.
The company acronym stands for: Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company, Ltd (China) and they have been around a long time — half a century — I wonder what’s taken them so long to land on our colourful shores?
BAIC has just signed an R11-billion deal with President Cyril Ramaphosa to build a factory. Perhaps they also have a genuine desire to assist with job creation and social cohesion, two systematic hashtags that have become part of our developing culture.
BAIC has begun their invasion by bringing in three models: The D20 Hatch, D20 Sedan and the X25 Mini SUV. We got to test the top-of-the-range crossover, the X25.
As we know this vehicle segment is flooded with options and in order to present a viable option, BAIC must incentivise, advertise and offer superior quality or find itself lost in the deluge of mass marketing while surrendering its quest to the reputation of similar brave initiatives, which went the way of the Sri-Lanka Shrub Frog…
The X25 we received had already done almost 15 000km, so it was already well run in. The Mercedes influence can be observed with the air-vents that mimic the logo, a splatter of imitation carbon fiber and a slow-responding touch screen. A well presented three-spoke, multi-function steering wheel hovers on the dash with an easy-to-use button set-up. The cabin feels like a blurred photocopy — all the bits are there, but it lacks the finesse and detail of a higher end brand.
In this segment we look at value for money, service delivery and of course fuel economy. The BAIC X25 is also trying to penetrate a market where new buyers should be diligently researching their vehicles before purchase.
The brand is a true global citizen, in that it has a four-speed auto box from Aisin (Japan), an ABS-EBD system from Bosch that works sometimes, a suspension system designed by Porsche (not really, but it handles pretty decently), a sunroof manufactured by the same company that makes BMW viewing ports and a SAAB design platform, add to that the MBtech partnership and you have a car that displays a smart, if borrowed, profile. A flash of Ford with a sprinkle of Honda garnished with Mercedes Benz. As I said: a global citizen.
It comes with a reasonable spread of techno helpers. We have power windows, an automatic boot lid, which also works sometimes. A smaller than average boot, but this segment is filled with the “I can almost fit an entire suitcase in, but must settle for cabin baggage.” So until I drive other cars within this segment I will withold comment.
The four-speed auto box has probably the longest second gear ever, and the little X25 reaches 165km/h in the amount of time it would take to order eight chicken spring rolls from McDonald’s. Fear not, it is not that bad, we timed a rough 13-second 0-100km/h. As a first effort, the X25 is commendable. It handles well and the steering is actually quite well balanced.
If driven faster, the 1.5-litre engine is quiet thirsty and the auto cruise shamelessly shifts down to maintain speed, which sounds like you tearing the engine’s innards apart, but you get accustomed to it, once you realize its quiet tough.
The car draws the attention of more than a few onlookers who often ask “What make is this?” or “Where does this car come from?” It often leads to stirring conversations about other brands that look similar and feel the same. Not a bad discussion point.
The overall finish of the X25 displays the amalgamated design of multiple nationalities and this consolidated endeavor will be definitely worth watching in the 2.0 Era. In my limited opinion, if the X25 was priced lower or offered some aftermarket service plan it would be a serious contender in the mini SUV market. The challenge the brand faces is that the competitors offer far better value and back-up than the BAIC.
Sex Appeal 5 (undecided, it does draw attention)
Steering 5 (precise for its class)
Fuel 5 (rather thirsty)
Acceleration 4 (at least we not using a sundial to measure it)
Creature Comforts 5 (adequate)
Traffic 5 (4-speed box, zzzzzz)
Servicing 5 (no idea actually)
Lights 5 (not too bad, spots are a bit high)
Sound 5 (it does scream, maybe not in a good way)
New Driver 6 (even an adolescent can be trusted with this)
50 (road rating)