A top new contender

The Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation, better known as BAIC, is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in China and recently introduced a new crossover into the South African market to rival big Chinese counterparts such as the Haval Jolion and Chery Tiggo 4 Pro.

This year has seen the local introduction of numerous Chinese products, the newest one being the Beijing X55, a compact SUV focused on elevating the BAIC brand in countries where it isn’t all that well known. The X55 has all of the latest in tech and luxury that BAIC has on offer.

According to Hugo Hu, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at BAIC South Africa, the company has invested heavily in developing intelligent cars under a new brand, Beijing, underpinned by cooperation with its partners on intelligent connected vehicle technologies. “We’re bringing the best of innovation to the market, supported by Daimler’s technology. The latter has been our main partner in China for years, operating Mercedes-Benz factories in Beijing through the joint venture, Beijing Benz Automotive.”

Once you see the all-new Beijing X55 in the flesh, you will realise that it marks a fresh start for BAIC within South Africa. It boasts a very sophisticated interior and exterior design, making for an aestetically pleasing car. In fact, the sleek design makes it one of the best-looking compact SUVs on the market. Says Basil Costa, Senior Manager at BAIC South Africa: “The futuristic design is evident in every aspect of the vehicle. The LED lights, floor door induction, hidden door handles, split rear wing and the shark fin aerial accentuate the vehicle’s ultramodern design. Opening the door is like shaking hands, with a stylish, high-class sports car door handle design that significantly reduces side wind resistance.”
I cannot help but to agree. This is a truly beautiful car and it certainly looks more like a sporty wagon than a compact
SUV – and as a bonus, it achieves this without sacrificing space or ride height.

It gets even better inside the cabin. The Beijing range is split up into three model derivatives with varying spec levels. The middle and top models both have leather seats, with the latter also boasting a panoramic sunroof. All derivatives have a digital infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster, which works well thanks to BAIC’s partnership with tech company Huawei. And for a bit of extra style, the cabin also features attractive ambient lighting.

The exterior isn’t just pretty though. It also offers some staggering engineering. As Costa points out, aerodynamics was front of mind during the design process. For instance, the exterior features an induction pop-up, ensuring that when
carrying the key near the vehicle, the Beijing X55 automatically unlocks and pops up the door handles, which are otherwise concealed. In addition, the X55 features a borderless low wind resistance grille, a massive sloping windscreen, flowing curves, a split tailgate, hidden wipers, and a flat chassis.

As for the engine, the Beijing X55 is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo powerplant, mated to a 380 dual-clutch transmission (DCT). This combination offers 130kW of power and 305Nm of torque. The lightweight and aerodynamic body combined with the nippy turbo engine translates into a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.8 seconds. The so-called BMFA architecture of the X55 also allows for a plug-in hybrid, as well as a 2.0 variation which might be introduced in the future.

Details on pricing and warranty have yet to be released. However, Costa did hint at a top-of-the-range price between
R450 000 and R500 000. All will be revealed when the Beijing X55 is officially launched in the local market, which is set to occur before the end of the year.

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