Beijing X55 - here’s what you should know
It hasn’t been too long since we attended the local launch of the Beijing X55. If you missed the article with our first impressions of the X55, the long and short of it is that we were impressed by what BAIC (the parent company) did here. We’ve since had the opportunity to spend more than an hour behind the wheel of the vehicle, through a thorough weeklong evaluation. Here’s what we discovered.
Unfortunately, the design still hasn’t grown on us, but surprisingly many seem to like it. It’s those lightning bolt-shaped headlamps that throw us off, making it look more like a toy than an actual car. However, different strokes and all that stuff, visual appeal is a subjective matter in any case. Speaking of the headlamps, we did discover some shortcomings in the X55 and they all pointed to poor workmanship. We’re tempted to say poor build quality but that would be premature at this stage.
The ugly truth
With the severe rains the country has had to deal with recently, the Beijing wasn’t immune to any of it. Eventually, it started showing signs of fatigue. Moisture from the rain was finding its way into both headlamp clusters, causing a misty effect beneath the clear surface. It’s not something you would want to see on your new car, and the unit in question isn't even six months old. The shortcomings went beyond its cherry red shell and we were reminded of them every time we clicked it into drive. The gearshift selector in our test unit was unlike any other we’ve come across. It was loose with noticeable play. Again, a case of poor workmanship. It had nothing to do with the transmission but with the actual part, which felt like it wasn’t screwed on properly. Now, something like this wouldn’t cause a catastrophic failure in the vehicle and some would argue that it's negligible, but it's bizarre how no one would have picked up on it from the day it left the factory to its arrival at BAIC’s head office. Or is it the case that such things are not considered significant by the Chinese?
Technology is always embraced, and vehicle manufacturers are constantly in a battle to stay one step ahead of the competition. The way Beijing has gone about this is similar to other brands, but they may have taken it a step too far. Most new cars come with a media screen that allows you to do a host of different things, from accessing your media to your changing the vehicle's settings. In the X55, the bulk of its functions are found behind a menu on the screen. Things such as your air conditioner controls, the different drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Smart), and even the button to open and close the tailgate are all accessed through the screen. On paper, this may sound impressive, but in reality, it's very impractical. You have to take your eyes off the wheel and flip through different screens to get to something as mundane as changing the aircon fan speed. Again, it’s the little things. They do count.
What you can look forward to
On the bright side, the vehicle is still as impressive to drive as it was the first time. A responsive 1.5 litre petrol engine makes navigating inner-city and open road settings effortless. The Beijing X55 is a car that makes spending time behind the wheel enjoyable - comfortable, nimble, and well-built are three words that quickly sum up the driving feel. There is a price you pay for that engine responsiveness. You guessed it - fuel economy. It isn’t shy where the juice is concerned, and we realised this soon after taking delivery of the car. Cabin space is another area where the X55 shines - it offers a commodious interior that is enhanced by the panoramic glass roof found in the top-spec variant. We touched on this in our initial write-up, but you’ll likely enjoy spending time in the rear seat as much as the front. The rear offers what seems to be endless legroom and the perfect seating position through that reclining backrest.
In a nutshell, the Beijing X55 has its flaws, and so far it seems like the problem is with the way it's being assembled. It could be the case that these issues were unique to that one unit, but someone should have picked them up. With it being part Mercedes-Benz and part BAIC, hopefully, the Daimler influence will improve things.
How much is the Beijing X55?
Beijing X55 1.5T Dynamic R394 900
Beijing X55 1.5T Elite R424 900
Beijing X55 1.5T Premium R454 900
Words: Gugu Masuku