Launch review: Beijing X55
Johannesburg – With brands like Haval and Chery steadily creeping up the sales charts, and no doubt giving the established players some sleepless nights, it’s no secret that the Chinese automotive industry has upped its game in a big way.
Now there is yet another disruptor on the scene, and it aims to entice South African midsize SUV buyers with its striking looks inside and out as well as bountiful spec and high-value price tag.
The Beijing X55 is a product of BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation), which already has a presence in South Africa and a factory for that matter, although CKD production has yet to commence. It currently sells the X25 compact crossover and B40 off-roader. But with the Beijing sub-brand, the carmaker is aiming upward, in the same way that Haval differentiated itself from GWM.
But that doesn’t mean it’s become significantly more expensive. The Beijing X55, which is similar in size to the Toyota RAV4 with its 4.62m length and 2.75m wheelbase, is actually priced closer to the segment below. Three models are on offer, with the entry-level X55 Dynamic coming in at R394 900, the midspec Elite at R424 900, and the flagship Premium variant will cost R454 900 to put in your garage.
Beneath the bonnet of all three models you’ll find a 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine that pushes 130kW and 305Nm through the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
We spent some time with the new Chinese contender on a launch route between Johannesburg and Magaliesburg earlier this week, and we were immediately impressed with the performance on offer. The X55 is more than adequately powered for its size and power delivery is relatively smooth through the seven ratios.
BAIC claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.8 litres per 100km, real-world consumption is likely to be somewhat higher than that. We’ll know for sure after we’ve comprehensively road tested the vehicle.
As for the road holding, the X55 does well for an SUV. It has fully independent multi-link suspension, which is rare at this price point, and all models have generously sized wheels, with the base version rolling on 18-inch alloys and the mid/top variants filling out their arches with chunky 19” rims.
Although the vehicle did feel a touch firm over a series of harsh speed bumps on our route, it was perfectly comfortable on most of the rural road surfaces that we encountered, and its overall on-road refinement impressed. Drivers can also choose between four driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart, which learns your driving behaviour.
Striking looks inside and out, but is it functional?
The Beijing X55’s exterior design is sharp, striking and sure to find favour with buyers in this segment, but it’s even more arresting on the inside.
The race car-like sports front seats with integrated headrests take inspiration from the Lamborghini Urus and the cockpit area looks suitably futuristic with its high-mounted floating console, with storage space beneath it, and separate floating screens for the infotainment and digital instrumentation.
It looks really good, but there are a few functional drawbacks. For starters the ventilation system can only be operated via the central screen and there is no dual-zone climate control available in any of the variants. The system also lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
But as a usable family car, the Beijing X55 still impresses with its spacious interior that offers plenty of legroom for front and rear occupants and a generous boot.
Although the cabin build quality seemed solid and decent overall, and I’m reluctant to mention this because it could have been a one-off fault, the interior panel on the passenger side windscreen pillar came completely loose in one of the cars we sampled.
How much spec do you get for the money?
It’s a Chinese model, so generous interior specification is practically a given.
The base Dynamic model ships with push-button start, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, rain sensor, auto headlights, rear park distance control with reverse camera, on-board WiFi and a refrigerated centre console bin.
Safety kit seems generous for the most part, with six airbags, ESP stability control and tyre pressure monitoring, but there is a glaring omission on the base model as it does not have seatbelt pre-tensioners up front. The other two versions do have this essential feature.
The Elite model ups the luxury game with a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, leather-covered steering wheel, electric adjustment for the front seats and automatic deployment for the hidden exterior door handles.
At the top of the pile the Premium derivative comes with front park distance control, front seat heating and ventilation, leather upholstery, eight speakers and ambient lighting for the front door pockets, among other additions.
The Beijing X55 is sold with a five-year or 150 000km warranty and five years worth of unlimited kilometre roadside assistance. A five-year service plan is optional.