B40 Plus is a four by four that wears its Made in China stamp with pride

There is always that moment when playing with a new four-by-four. The one that happens in the middle of a challenging and critical obstacle. When said 4×4 transitions from ‘it might make it’ to ‘no problem’ and the driver comfort that comes with the inspired confidence.

Say it ‘Bike’

The newly launched BAIC (pronounce it ‘Bike’) B40 Plus sits in that realm. It’s a real off-roader. Built and designed for fun times in a mix of modern, high-tech with some good old school design ideas.

Now BAIC has been an active player in the local market since 2016. Did you know that it even has its own assembly facility in Coega in the Eastern Cape? Where it already builds semi knocked down versions of the passenger cars it markets?

So, while the B40 Plus is fully imported from China, the SA plant is slowly ramping up to its full production capacity of 50,000 vehicles with completely knocked down assembly coming during the next year too. From when it will also supply both left and right-hand drive cars to the Sub-Saharan market.

BAIC is already well established in SA

BAIC already also has eight fully operational dealers around the country with a number of contract service centres over and above. See, while that’s still a small footprint in the local market, BAIC is happy to allow demand from car buyers to dictate the pace of its dealer network expansion.

“BAIC SA is proud to add the B40 Plus to the model line-up,” BAIC SA marketing suit Mr Hu admitted. “We believe this vehicle will be well received by the market and will find quite a following amongst consumers that want to stand out in a crowd.

“BAIC is committed to the people of South Africa. “We are actively working to improve the standard of the local automotive manufacturing industry and creating more local employment opportunities. Our goal is to provide South Africans with a wide range of quality products to suit various lifestyles and needs.”

Don’t compare it to a Jeep!

It is impossible not to seek comparisons between the B40 and the Jeep Wrangler – they look similar and, indeed, both have their roots in the military with the original B40 having been designed and assembled specifically for the Chinese army.

The bold and imposing B40 Plus however goes its own way with striking and iconic Great Wall inspired five-slot grill and imposing DRL headlights. It has aggressive bumpers and wheel arches and rear fog lamps. And a vertical windshield, large wing mirrors and a high seating position for great visibility.

B40 Plus has a removable roof with individual panels over the driver, passenger and over the rear passengers. Each can be removed singly or together. They clip into a built-in high plate and pipe roll cage designed to safely withstand a 50-metre hillside roll.

Well kitted cabin

A modern sleek and well-appointed SUV-like colour-coded cabin has dual climate control, 6-speaker audio, chrome accents and reclining rear seats. Add a reversing camera, park distance control and a customisable multi-information display. Latest sound deadening tech reduces weight and vehicle mass.

That display packs in an altimeter, pitch and yaw angles, inclinometer and other settings and the reverse camera has various angle choices. This modern looking dash is however plasticky. The retro passenger grab strap, and door opening chain restraints are cute.

The B40 Plus is available in either a 160 kW 2-litre petrol turbo or a 110 kW 350 Nm 2-litre turbodiesel. The petrol auto came out top on the off road course. The diesel only comes in six-speed manual, but the clutch is quite heavy and the gearbox a tad notchy. Old school, if you prefer.

B40 Plus Packs all the four by four kit

Its selectable 4×4 system has mechanical central transfer case and rear differential. There’s standard anti-lock EBD braking and an electronic parking brake. Some models add ESP, Emergency Brake Assist, Traction, Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control.

B40 Plus gets double wishbone coil spring independent front and 5-link coil spring live axle rear suspension. Minimal overhangs and 210 mm ground makes for an approach angle of 37 degrees, departure angle of 31 degrees and 23 degree ramp-over angle.

“The B40 Plus is more than capable off-road,” BAIC marketing man Basil Costa pointed out. “Our rigorous ‘5 high and 1 drought’ test included high temperature, high altitude, high humidity, high cold, high salt content and of course, a drought.

B40 Plus IS Stringently tested too

“That stringent testing process ensures adaptability to extreme conditions that is 10% higher than regular passenger vehicles.”

B40 Plus comes in at R549K for the Diesel. The range includes the Petrol and City Hunter Diesel and Petrols up to R629K Champion Petrol. They’re backed by a 5-year/120 000 km warranty and service plans are available. Service intervals are 15 000 km 12 months for both Petrol and Diesel models.

All in all we enjoyed our introduction to the BAIC B40 Plus. This is one time where the ‘Made in China’ stamp can be worn with some pride. And it’s a little peek into the next Chinese auto attack in SA. Bring it on! – Colin Windell

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