It seems that these days you can’t mention a compact SUV without mentioning one of the upand-coming Chinese brands. And now, thanks to an incredible offering from BAIC, the Beijing X55 has been added to that list. I head to Vredenburg, just opposite the West Coast Mall, where a brand-new facility houses South Africa’s latest brand, BAIC, to find out more.
BAIC Beijing X55 History
Although most of us wouldn’t have heard about the brand, BAIC is one of those Chinese companies that have only recently made its presence known to the rest of the world. But long before its international move, it’s been a staple on the Chinese mainland since 1958. With a rich history in cars, trucks and even electric mobility, BAIC has now officially landed in South Africa as part of a multi-billion Rand deal to provide South Africans with much-needed affordable transport. And, interestingly, the number one consideration for South Africans when it comes to car purchasing, is price.
Styling and Exterior
Available in four colours, the X55 is striking from most angles and has the ability to look more expensive than it is. This was most evident when being pulled over by curious passers-by looking to add another car to their family fleet. Some of the interested parties were driving cars that cost more than twice as much as the humble Chinese SUV. The lights are, of course, LED all-round on all models and the sleek looks are enhanced by door handles that stow away smoothly inside the doors. Other highlights include the grille, reminiscent of modern electric cars.
Inside is where the BAIC once again continues to shine with a premium feel, echoing through the front and back seats. The front seats are a single-piece unit that would not be out of place in a sports car. In addition they are quite comfortable and have heating and cooling functions. The infotainment system is adequate at 10.25 inches, but unfortunately Apple Car Play and Android Auto are not available. However, screen mirroring is available and to use that, one can download an easy and convenient app. Overall, the interior is well thought out, with good ergonomics and a minimalist approach, which again, is more reminiscent of cars much higher up the price totem pole. Boot space is rated at 350 litres and, of course unsurprisingly, the seats fold in a 60/40 configuration. Other interior highlights include the decent space and stowage that can be found in the centre console, door cards and cubby. The interior also uses good quality materials and interesting modern design elements.
How does it drive?
On the road, the BAIC’s turbocharged engine provides enough thrust, producing 130kW and 305Nm of torque. The engine isn’t the most responsive in class, but it certainly packs the most punch. 0-100 comes up in just 7.8 seconds, though the car is best driven and enjoyed at a more sedate pace. The steering is light at parking speeds with enough feedback everywhere else. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.7l/100, which is manageable. I averaged around 8l/100km, but expect higher figures if you engage Sport Mode. The suspension is supple enough where it counts, although I do think the 19” wheels might count against it a bit in the ride comfort stakes, so consider getting the entry-level Dynamic model instead, if you’re after ultimate ride comfort.. For ultimate looks though, the 19”s which come standard on the Elite and Premium models, are a winner.
Whether you’re downscaling into something smaller or shopping around for a sub-R500 000 car, the X55 offers solid value and a warranty to boot. The fact that this compact SUV won South African Car of the Year in its category, is a clear indicator that BAIC is on the right track. Doing a quick finance calculation, my choice would be the top-spec premium version, as it offers so much more in the way of add-ons and value. The BAIC Beijing X55 range comes with a 5-year/150 000 km warranty with an additional 2-year/50 000 km warranty on the car’s drivetrain. The service plan is optional at R16,800 and the duration/mileage is 5-year/60 000 km.
Model Price (incl. VAT)
BAIC Beijing X55 Dynamic from R420 900