While I was driving the Beijing X55 at the recent launch, my colleague asked me what my thoughts were. It was tough because it has been so long since I drove something brand-spanking new. So new is it to our shores that I had absolutely no expectations. I couldn’t answer him in that moment. I said to give me a minute to collect my thoughts. Which I have now done.
BAIC OR BEIJING OR BOTH
I knew so little that I didn’t even realise that Beijing was not, in fact, the name of the model. It is rather an upmarket sub-brand of Baic and the model’s name is X55. As Dave Taylor, from cars.co.za fame, puts it, “Think of the relationship like that between Great Wall Motors and Haval, where GWM is the parent brand and Haval is its fancier SUV offshoot.” Now that that’s out the way and you probably think I should change careers, let’s delve in to the gorgeous-looking X55.
This has to be one of the most striking models on our roads at the moment. I am not sure if the pictures will do it justice, but my goodness, in the metal, it is truly quite remarkable looking. I love its sharp contours and futuristic ‘smile’. It is not often that I talk about a cars design so you must know that I think this is quite the looker to be writing about it. It even has hidden door handles that come alive when you unlock the car, much like the Range Rover Velar.
Many journalists, as well as Baic, refer to this as a compact SUV. It is not that. I am going to start challenging manufacturers when it comes to categorising their vehicles. It’s like they want you to think it’s compact so that when you step inside you are pleasantly surprised by all the space. A Chery Tiggo 4 Pro is a compact SUV. A Kia Seltos could still be considered a compact SUV. But this X55, which competes with SUVs such as the Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-30 even, cannot be considered compact. Therefore, I am not going to spend much time on the space on offer because it should be pretty obvious that this is a rather spacious mid-size SUV.
There are three trim levels to choose from namely Dynamic, Elite and Premium (I am certain these names have been used before 😉 ). As has now become the norm with Chinese cars, the standard spec list is impressive. The entry-level Dynamic even has push-button start, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, a multi-function steering wheel, auto headlights, rear park distance control with a reverse camera, on-board WiFi and a centre console bin that’s cooled. It also boasts six airbags, ESP stability control and tyre pressure monitoring. For seatbelt pre-tensioners, however, you will have to opt for the Elite or Premium. Which also add a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, leather-covered steering wheel, electrically adjusted front seats, the hidden handles I spoke of, front park distance control, front seat heating and ventilation, leather upholstery, ambient lighting and eight speakers.
While the cabin looks super sleek and modern and everything is pretty user-friendly, if there is one thing that can put me off a car instantly, it is climate controls integrated in to the infotainment system and no traditional buttons for operation. On top of this, the system takes an age to load and so you sit melting in your car waiting to be able to put the aircon on. All the nopes for me.
POWER TO THE X55
All models are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine that produces 130 kW and 350 Nm. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The drive is really where the X55 shines for me. The engine feels super refined and the cabin is so well insulated that there is almost no wind or road noise. The power is instant and smooth in delivery. Everything about the drive was pleasant. And I am quite tough on performance. If you have read any Chinese car brand reviews lately, you will know what I am going to mention next, and that is the high fuel consumption. I got a reading of around 9l/100 km and I just wish this was something that could be sorted out asap because these cars are good in every other way.
PRICING OF THE BEIJING X55
- X55 1.5T Dynamic: R394 900
- X55 1.5T Elite: R424 900
- X55 1.5T Premium: R454 900
The Beijing X55 comes with a five-year / 150 000 km warranty and five-year / unlimited km roadside assistance, but a service plan is sold separately at R16 800 five-years/60 000 km.
The pricing of this new model cannot be beat. This is why Chinese car brands are taking over at the moment. They have come in hot and they are not messing around. This car has so much going for it and at this price point, you could even overlook the high fuel consumption. I can’t wait to spend more time in it. Especially now that I have the highest of expectations for it.