The latest addition to the growing ranks of motor vehicle manufacturers and distributors represented in South Africa is launching its first product range into the local market. The company is the Beijing Automotive Group Co., Ltd., (BAIC) from China and the product is the D20 small car, which arrives in both hatchback and sedan derivatives.

BAIC, together with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), is investing up to R11-billion in South Africa, including a full-scale vehicle manufacturing plant, which will be the first one in South Africa, and Africa Continent, in the past 40 years. The plant is situated in the Coega Industrial Development Zone in Port Elizabeth. The construction of the first stage of the manufacturing facility is currently underway and production is scheduled to start in early 2018.  However, BAIC is not waiting for the local assembly in South Africa to start selling cars and is now beginning to roll out its model range, starting with the D20 small car, which is made in China.

The D20 hatchback and sedan are the first car models from Beijing Automotive Group Co., Ltd., (BAIC) to be launched in South Africa. These are built-up units imported from state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in China. They have a pedigreed lineage as the basic platform is derived from the one developed by Mercedes-Benz for its Smart ForFour small car.

Under joint-venture co-operation with international companies, such as Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Suzuki, BAIC develops and manufactures vehicles catering to China and international markets. So they have access to the best and latest manufacturing technologies and techniques.

The D20 underwent product development and fine tuning of the suspension at the MIRA research and development facility in the United Kingdom. This well-equipped centre has been in use for the past 30 years and have developed and refined many world-class vehicles.

The two D20 body styles, hatchback and sedan, are in the category of small cars with a length of approximately four metres, with the sedan being 282mm longer in overall length. Both models offer comfortable seating for five occupants with plenty of space for luggage. Overall styling of the hatchback is reminiscent of the first-generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class model.

The bold frontal appearance of the D20 is highlighted by the BAIC ‘family grille”, which features a flying wings design. Fashionable, slim headlight pods flank the grille. The side view has strong feature lines and the Fashion models have attractive 10-spoke alloy wheels. The rear end styling of both models features bold, stylish taillight clusters and high-mounted stop lights.

The spacious interior has a modern, integrated appearance. The sports-style front bucket seats and bench rear seat are fabric-trimmed. The rear seat of the hatch is split 60:40 and the backrest can be folded forward to provide 1 190 litres of load space, while the sedan’s luggage boot capacity is 450 litres.

There are two circular instruments located in front of the driver, with read-outs for time, instantaneous fuel consumption, trip meter and odometer between these dials. The Fashion models also have a 6.5-inch touchscreen with a GPS navigation system and a comprehensive audio system with six speakers.

Power for the D20 comes from two new, four-cylinder petrol engines, one of 1322cm3 capacity and other having a displacement of 1 499cm3. They produce 75kW and 85kW of power at                6 000r/min respectively, while torque of 128Nm and 148Nm is available between 3 800-4 800r/min. Both the engines are of a new design and comply with Euro V emission regulations as well as being fuel efficient.

Power goes to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission, with the latter having three mode settings: Eco for saving fuel, Snow for a smooth pull-off on loose surfaces and Sport for a delayed shift when driving enthusiastically.

Suspension is by means of MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam at the rear. Disc brakes are fitted to all four wheels with ABS (anti-skid braking) and EBD (electronic brake distribution) using a Bosch system. Reversing radar with audible and visible warnings is standard on all models. Steering has variable electric power assistance while the steering column is adjustable to suit the driver.

The Fashion models have a key which opens and locks the doors remotely and is also an immobiliser. Other features exclusive to Fashion models include climate control air-conditioning, an electric sunroof, day-time running lights, external rear view mirrors which fold automatically when the engine is switched off – and they have a heating function, too.

Safety is an important focus in all vehicles built by BAIC and the D20 is no exception. Besides the safety cell body design there are airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, high-mounted stop lamps, rear foglamps, automatic fuel cut-off, height-adjustable headlights, ABS and EBD, child safety door locks, auto on headlights and two ISOFIX mountings in the rear seats for child seats. Rain sensors to switch on the windscreen wiper is standard on all models except the 1.3-litre model.

The BAIC D20 is covered by a five-year/120 000km warranty. Service intervals are 10 000km. There is a free service at 3 000km. Optional service and maintenance plans are available through the dealers.