Beemers for all

BMW’s all-new su­per scooter looks the part – but will it im­press the com­muter crowd?

Motorcycle Monthly - - Launch Report - Words: Ross Mow­bray Pho­tog­ra­phy: BMW Mo­tor­rad

In the wider two-wheeled com­mu­nity, BMW has never been widely renowned for its scoot­ers. Of course, over the years the Bavar­ian brand has dipped its toe into the mar­ket a hand­ful of times – and at the time of writ­ing it does have a cou­ple of big 650 maxi-scoot­ers in its sta­ble, though it’s never re­ally man­aged to grab a de­cent strong­hold on the com­muter crowd. But, there’s some real money to be made in the mid-sized scooter mar­ket and BMW knows it. The sec­tor turns over a fairly con­sis­tent 35,000-40,000 units a year world­wide – and BMW reck­ons that it stands a very good chance of mak­ing a dent in that num­ber with its all-new C400X.

First im­pres­sions are good. In fact, pho­tos don’t quite do the lit­tle scooter jus­tice. It’s ag­gres­sive, al­most mus­cu­lar front end is un­de­ni­ably a BMW – in fact, it even shares the same head­light unit as the new F850GS. Over­all build qual­ity is good too – as you’d ex­pect from a BMW.

In­ter­est­ingly though, the ma­chine is made out in China, on a ded­i­cated BMW pro­duc­tion line at Loncin. Don’t worry though, they know what they’re do­ing. The very same peo­ple used to build BMW’s al­most in­de­struc­tible F650GS.

If you com­pare the C400X to the other mid-ca­pac­ity scoot­ers on the mar­ket (Yamaha’s XMAX 400, Suzuki’s Burgman 400 and Kymco’s Xc­it­ing 400i), the C400X seems more com­pact and a lit­tle sportier than the com­pe­ti­tion – which is per­fect when you con­sider its in­tended pur­pose – ur­ban com­mut­ing. Ad­mit­tedly, stor­age space is at a bit of a pre­mium as a re­sult. There are the usual two lock­able cub­by­holes at the front and the right-hand one even comes with a 12V plug-in point. But it’s the un­der-seat stor­age that’s re­ally com­pro­mised. Sure, there’s enough room to fit a half-face lid and a few other bits and pieces, but com­pared to its com­peti­tors there’s not a huge amount of room. BMW has been quite clever though, in­clud­ing a Flex­case sys­tem that al­lows you to ex­pand the un­der-seat stor­age area to al­low space for a full-face lid to be stored along­side a half-face one – al­though, you can only use it when the scooter is sta­tion­ary.

Set­tling into the seat for the first time, I found the C400X ex­cep­tion­ally com­fort­able – with a very nat­u­ral rid­ing po­si­tion. It comes with a

755mm seat height as stan­dard, which with my 6ft 1in frame and 32in legs I could set­tle on with room to spare. Okay, so it doesn’t of­fer the roomi­est of footwells, but there’s am­ple room to get set­tled. It weighs in at 204kg (6kg less than Yamaha’s XMAX 400), but it’s so well bal­anced and well-built that it never truly feels ‘big’.

From an equip­ment and ac­ces­sory per­spec­tive, BMW of­fer an abun­dance of op­tions, al­low­ing you to tai­lor the C400X to your needs. I was rid­ing the top spec­i­fi­ca­tion model, with BMW’s own in­te­grated con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tem, key­less ig­ni­tion, heated seat and grips and LED day­time run­ning light – all in all the kit would set you back close to £1000 on top of the pro­jected £6000 for the stan­dard model. I say pro­jected, be­cause prices for the UK are yet to be set.

Let’s talk about the heart of the BMW C400X, its 350cc pow­er­plant with CVT (twist and go) trans­mis­sion. In prac­tice, it’s a ca­pa­ble lit­tle mo­tor, help­ing the scoot to be sharp off the line and get the jump on traf­fic, while de­liv­er­ing good lev­els of torque right through the rev range up to an in­di­cated top speed of 86mph. Plus, BMW reck­ons it’ll re­turn 80mpg and a tank range of over 220 miles, which is not bad at all.

For brak­ing, the C400X comes with twin discs and ra­di­ally-mounted four-pis­ton By­bre (Brembo’s Chi­nese sub­sidiary) calipers at the front, and a sin­gle disc with sin­gle pis­ton float­ing caliper at the rear. They of­fer de­cent power and BMW claims that at a speed of 62mph, its stop­ping dis­tance is 38m – which sounds fairly im­pres­sive. And I was im­pressed with it out on the road. They’re sharp, with­out be­ing ag­gres­sive – which in­spires con­fi­dence in their abil­ity. Of course, the brakes are also as­sisted by two-chan­nel Con­ti­nen­tal ABS. Ad­mit­tedly, I did find the ABS to ac­ti­vate fairly eas­ily, but even when grab­bing a hand­ful of front brake at high speed and push­ing the C400X to its lim­its, the lit­tle scoot stayed in shape and I felt to­tally in con­trol.

The sus­pen­sion is a fairly un­so­phis­ti­cated af­fair in the form of tele­scopic forks at the front and a twin shock at the rear – but they’re more than up to the job. I found the sus­pen­sion to of­fer a re­ally com­fort­able, yet sur­pris­ingly firm ride – while of­fer­ing a rea­son­able com­pro­mise be­tween per­for­mance and com­fort. I did my best to put it through its paces, bob­bing around into pot­holes and launch­ing over speed bumps, and the C400X han­dled it all in its stride – and I was no worse for wear as a re­sult. What more could you ask for?

From a han­dling per­spec­tive, the C400X is at the top of its game. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on some of its mid-sized scooter com­pe­ti­tion, and I reckon the BMW is the most ag­ile out

of the lot. It han­dled long sweep­ing twisties and tight switch­backs even bet­ter than I thought it would – and in traf­fic it’s truly bril­liant, with a tight turn­ing cir­cle and easy han­dling. Mo­tor­way work is easy too, even as you push the 350cc en­gine right to the top of its power band. The en­gine never feels all that stressed, it’s sta­ble and as­sured, and the wind pro­tec­tion isn’t too bad ei­ther.

Scoot­ers aren’t for ev­ery­one and there’s a big con­tin­gent out there that would ask why would you spend £6000 on a scooter, when you could get your hands on a ‘proper bike’? But they’re miss­ing the point. The C400X is very well built. It han­dles well, stops well and the en­gine is punchy and ca­pa­ble. Sure, there’s a lit­tle less un­der-seat stor­age than some of its com­peti­tors, but it’s also lighter, nar­rower and more ag­ile than them too. It all de­pends on your pri­or­i­ties.

If you want to go blast­ing down twisty B-roads or carv­ing through city traf­fic on your way to work, the BMW C400X has every­thing you need.

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