BAIC D20 officially launches in South Africa
With three manufacturers pulling out of South Africa over the last few months, it’s surprising when a locally unknown company makes an 11 billion Rand investment into the local market. But this is exactly what BAIC (pronounced “Bike”) has done. And by the looks of things, they’re here to stay.
Available in hatchback and sedan, equipped with either a 5 speed manual or 4 speed automatic, the first model in the BAIC range is the familiar looking D20. BAIC themselves point out that the D20 resembles the Mercedes B class with underpinnings based on the old generation Smart For Four.
Starting at R149 990 for the base 1.3 litre Comfort model the D20 is well priced and even the entry level car boasting park distance at the rear and a brake override system which activates in the event of the driver pushing down the throttle and brake at the same time. No more heel & toe driving then. Upon closer inspection, the build quality looks sufficient for this price point and the BAIC brass proudly boast that SAAB engineers were involved in the manufacturing process. Not bad at all considering the now defunct Swedish manufacturers penchant for details. The press was invited to an exclusive dinner for the unveiling of the tried and tested D20 which was released in China in 2014.
Addressing the obvious concerns
BAIC mad no bones about the fact that other manufacturers have come and gone and that the conservative South African market is not easy to penetrate. They’ve promised that 20 dealerships are to open immediately and an additional 25 to be opened over the next few years. The 4th largest Chinese motor manufacturer knows all too well that after sales service is what will separate it from those that have floundered. Initially cars will be imported but with the Port Elizabeth plant currently being built and investment to the tune of 11 Million rand, all D20’s will soon be proudly South African.
Engine and interior
The interior too, is reminiscent of the Mercedes B Class. Interior space is good, even at the back with the rear seat of the hatch able to split 60:40 to provide 1 190 litres of load space, while the sedan’s luggage boot capacity is 450 litres.
Interior trim is all plastic but again, at around 150k it’s not bad at all and will give the compact cars in this segment a good run based on spec and looks alone.
At a glance the fit and finish is good with no obvious manufacturing flaws coming to light. BAIC engineers are said to have spent thousands of hours in developing the car to meet European standards of build quality and with picky South African buyers, this absolutely has to be the case.
Power comes from two new, four-cylinder petrol engines, one of 1 322cm3 capacity and the other having a displacement of 1 499cm3. They produce 75kW and 85kW at 6 000r/min respectively, while torque is rated at 128N.m and 148N.m is available between 3 800-4 800r/min.
The BAIC D20 is covered by a 5-year/120 000km warranty. Service intervals are 10 000km with a free service at thrown in at 3 000km. Optional service and maintenance plans are available through the dealers.
I unfortunately didn’t get to drive the BAIC D20 so I cannot comment on what it feels like on the road, but as one sharp witted motoring journalist quipped; “Go drive a low mileage Smart For Four.”
BAIC D20 is on sale and available immediately.