Back in March, I wrote about a new entrant to the sedan market, the Micro BAIC D20. It was a good car, with a ton of features that you normally wouldn’t see at that price point. All said and done though, it was a tad boring to look at. Perhaps the team that sketched out the D20 were all out sick that day, or maybe they were just feeling a little more adventurous when they designed the vehicle I’m driving today. So, let me introduce you to, for the first time in Sri lanka, the Micro BAIC X25—a subcompact SUV that has all the makings to be the next big craze.

 

While X25 shares the same platform as the D20, it’s a much better looking vehicle.  In order to see if looks are the only thing that’s better, we had to get behind the wheel and  take it out for a test drive–which is what we did. First though, let’s talk about the exterior and interior.

The Exterior

The X25 seems larger in photos than in real life. Defined as a subcompact, it’s designed for busy city streets, and looks like it would be at home on narrow roads but solid enough for the highway.  The halogen headlights come with daytime runners, and though they do feel a little large in proportion to the rest of the vehicle it does stick with the “aggressive” stance that most auto manufacturers are adopting. You also get fog lamps as standard, and are in a black casing which ensures that the front bumper doesn’t have excessive “blank” space.  They’ve gone with the large lower grille design (a little like Lexus) which holds the plates, while the slim upper grille has the BAIC logo with a long horizontal strip. The hood has raised sides, with a flat middle, which is highlighted by raised strips (two on each side), which end just before the edge.

 

Side on, you’ll notice that the windows narrow as you go back, with the front windows quite a bit larger than the rear ones. It’s a strange design choice as it makes the back look chunkier than the front. You also get a raised edge that runs from the front to the back, with everything below the edge depressed in. This use of levels and layers seems like a deliberate attempt to bring perspective to the vehicle, and reduce “blank” flat space. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the X25 looks better from some angles than others.

 

Moving along the rear, you get more of this layering design. Not quite as good looking as the front, the rear has large wrap around tail lights, but they’ve refrained from going to “funky”, staying away from  LEDs and vertical brake lights (thank goodness). The boot door is angled, so when you open it, it feels more like a hatch (as in the hole, not the car). They’ve replicated the shape of the front lower grille, but in black plastic, and is where the rear plates go. Besides that, you get a roof spoiler (which is becoming a standard feature in small hatchbacks and SUVs), and a roof rack. Overall, I think they could have done a bit better with the rear, the sharper angles created by the layers and chrome makes the vehicle look boxy and less agile than the front.

 

The Interior

First thing that I noticed was that they’ve put the BAIC logo everywhere, but they’ve been sneaky about it. You have the obligatory logo on the steering wheel, but if you look closely, you’ll realise that they’ve used the logo as the cover for the A/C vents. Not complaining, it actually looks pretty good. The dashboard, again sees the layered design, with it split in three sections, a hard plastic top layer, then carbon fibre design middle layer and then a hard plastic lower layer. I would have prefered if they gone with a two tone dash, as it does make it seem unnecessarily busy. You have a 7-inch factory fitted panasonic touch screen infotainment system (which works pretty well) and sits up instead of being integrated into the dashboard. This does make it easier to view, but a little more awkward to operate.

 

Moving back to the driver’s seat, you have a leather multifunction steering wheel, which controls your car audio, phone (bluetooth), and cruise controls (no stalk, all controls on the steering), as well as the digital display in the instrument cluster. The layout for the instrument cluster is more traditional, with the rev counter and engine temp guage on the right and the speedometer and fuel gauge on the left. I’m not a fan of the meter design for the engine temperature and fuel, as the boxes that light up make it hard to get an exact reading.

The trim is customizable, which is a nice option not seen at this price point, with the option of red, orange or black trims. The version we drove had a red trim that was also seen on the seats, this particular option won’t be available on the X25 sold to the public, with the seats being fully black. Headroom and legroom in the front was good, with the seats being pretty comfortable. The front seats are 6 way manually adjustable for the the driver and 4 way manually adjustable for the passenger.

 

The back seats do suffer a bit in terms legroom, you may feel a little cramped up if you are taller and the front seats are pushed all the way back. The rear seats are split 60:40, and fold flat to maximise and already pretty large cargo space. You could definitely sit back here on a longer trip though, as the seats are firm but comfortable.

 

Quick note before we talk about the drive, on the version I drove, there was a sunroof, but that’s not a standard option, so if that’s something you want, you’ll need to order it specifically.

 

The Drive

While the price and the looks will dictate the initial success of the X25, the drive will play a role in the longer term success of this vehicle. I mentioned earlier on that this is the same platform as the D20, so you have the same 1.5L engine mated to a 4 speed automatic gearbox, but weight and design have an impact on performance. To be perfectly honest, I think the D20 feels a little bit better than the X25, but it’s not by much. First off, the driving position is a lot lower than you’d expect. It’s not uncomfortable or awkward, but it does feel closer to hatchback than SUV.

 

When you start moving you’ll notice that the X25 is a little sluggish at lower revs. Under 1500 rpm, the subcompact SUV took time to reach a reasonable speed, making you feel a little underwhelmed. This issue did exist in the D20 as well, but it feels worse in the X25 because the vehicle looks like it should be quick.  All those problems quickly disappear however once you put your foot fully down and the revs build up. The 1.5l engine suddenly comes to life and the drive transforms from drab and underwhelming to fun and exciting. Although only churning out 114hp, the X25 is pretty light, weighing in at only 1153kgs. All those horse only come out at 6000rpm, which is probably when it feels cumbersome when you try to keep it at lower revs. Even the 148Nm of torque is witnessed at 4300rpm. I would like to see if BAIC address this and come out with a system that engages better at lower revs.

 

The suspension felt a little stiff, and didn’t do as great a job smoothing out the road as I’d hoped. Usually, after some time the suspension does soften up a little, so this problem could resolve itself. For those that know a bit about it, the X25 employs MacPherson struts in the front and H-type torsion beam in the back.  Brakes on the vehicle are good, with all four tires having ventilated discs, this allowed me to have a little bit of fun with the little SUV but still maintain control.

 

Verdict

Exterior            Interior            Drive        Value for Money        Verdict           

3.5/5                 3.5/5              3.5/5               4.25/5                      3.7/5   

 

While the front of the X25 looks good, the rest of it doesn’t quite match up. The interior is well done, and you get a lot of features but I wasn’t blown away by it. Same with the drive, sure it was fun when I put my foot down, but you won’t be doing that all the time as traffic is going to keep you at lower revs. What is probably the biggest saving grace for this vehicle is its price point, at just Rs. 4.25Mil, it’s a great entry level vehicle for the small SUV segment. The X25 isn’t bad, it’s just average when it has the potential to be great. I think future generations of the little SUV may wow all drivers (locally and globally), especially if they improve the drive system and focus more on the “flow” of the vehicle when they design it. For now, I’d say that the X25 is head and shoulders above some of the other lower end vehicles that blew up in the market (figuratively), and could be how the Micro BAIC line secure their place in the market.

 

Model: Micro BAIC X25
Engine: 1499cc, L4 16V DOHC
Max Power: 114HP @6000rpm
Max Torque: 148Nm @4300rpm
Mileage (Manufacturer reported): 6.8L/100KM in mixed conditions
Transmission: 4 Speed Automatic
Dimensions (H x W x L) 1,583 mm x 1,750 mm x 4,110 mm
Suspension (Front): MacPherson Independent
Suspension (Rear): H Type Torsion Beam
Brakes (Front): Ventilated Disc
Brakes (Rear): Ventilated Disc
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