It’s 2021 and the Chinese are making their mark in the South African car industry. A lot of their products are undeniably good and don’t fit the “fong kong” stereotype. Take the recent Haval Jolion for instance – a Chinese built SUV with a stunning design and a premium interior layout and features. BAIC, also a Chinese brand has now joined the party and introduced a rather interesting product. It’s called the B40 PLUS.

Now before you dismiss this brand because of its origins or anything else for that matter, BAIC has been around for 60 years and has a military heritage. However, its Journey in South Africa began in 2015, and now the brand is looking to solidify its footing here through not just the launch of the B40 Plus, but with an assembly plant in the Eastern Cape. This should count for something for those still in doubt. BAIC’s local plant will be responsible for local sales and export and they aim to produce 50 000 vehicles a year.

Design

BAIC’s new vehicle is an interesting SUV because your thoughts on it generally depend on where you’re standing. From the front you’re reminded of the large and imposing Hummer – pity they don’t make those anymore. If you’re standing next to or behind the BAIC you may liken it to Jeep’s Wrangler or the original Land Rover Defender. As I said, it’s all about perspective and the BAIC B40 PlUS combines all these different elements in one car. 

Despite its interesting design, the BAIC B40 PLUS is an attractive rooster in the metal, it looks somewhat imposing, like a serious off-roading machine. Fortunately, we were able to put this part to the test during its local launch. With 4WD capability and everything else that goes with it such as low range and hill descent control, the B40 PLUS can handle a moderately challenging 4X4 course without running out of breath. One thing that works in its favour is a high ground clearance at 210mm and good approach and departure angles at 37 and 31 degrees respectively.

Step inside and the interior feels familiar but different. That’s because it’s inspired by Mercedes-Benz. Everything looks similar to the German brand but it’s not quite the real thing, and this becomes even apparent when you run a hand over the surfaces – the quality is not quite German spec. To add flavour to this space, BAIC has matched the colour of each vehicle’s interior panels to its exterior colour. A feature you’ll probably appreciate is the ability to remove the B40 PLUS’s roof panels. You can individually remove the drivers’ side roof or the passengers. Alternatively, you can remove all the panels and drive topless, and it’s a very quick job. This certainly adds a lot of “cool factor” to this car.  

BAIC B40 PLUS engine specs

It’s available in two engines, a petrol and a diesel. Both have a capacity of 2.0 litres. The diesel was the only engine available at launch, so that’s the one we drove. You can either have it with an automatic ZF transmission or a manual. The ZF does what it’s supposed to do without hassle, but you may want to stay away from the manual – for now at least. It’s marred by severe turbo lag, so extreme that you’ll struggle to pull off without revving up the engine to build up boost. The brand is said to be working on remedying this, so only time will tell.

How much is the BAIC B40 PLUS?

The Chinese may have got a lot of things right with this car and others, not so much. This is one of those area’s where they may have missed their mark. In this economic climate, coming in with a relatively new and unestablished product, you may want to err towards asking for less than more. Of course, BAIC has swung hard with the B40 PLUS and is asking for between R549 500 and R629 500 for their new product. At this price point, it may be a steep road ahead for the brand. The BAIC B40 PLUS is sold with a 5-year/120,000km warranty.