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