The cars we loved.

2007-2011 Brilliance BC3: A Million Chinese Drivers Can’t Be Wrong

2009 Brilliance BC3

2009 Brilliance BC3

The Chinese auto market is huge. As more Chinese workers are able to afford cars, the numbers have grown by staggering rates every year, clogging streets and highways. The congestion is not limited to roads, as the auto industry itself has no less than 100 companies making cars or what passes for them in a country dominated by bikes, trains and pedestrians. Many of these companies do not actually build cars themselves as much as they might subcontract parts and pieces to more established Western companies (under the watchful eye of native clone makers). A good example of this captive engineering comes from one of China’s largest and most ambitious automakers; Brilliance Auto.

In China Brilliance may be better known for building busses, but has been building cars in partnerships with BMW, Toyota and others for years. In fact, the deal Brilliance struck with BMW saw them building partly assembled 3 and 5 Series sedans in kit form. These cars were not quite up to the standards of the Western market BMWs, as they were somewhat de-tuned and stripped versions of what Westerners typically would buy. The lessons learned from these partnerships did give Brilliance some insight into Western design and engineering practices, even though BMW would not probably not want to advertise its association with Brilliance to Westerners.

2008 BC3 Interior

2008 BC3 Interior

With that under its belt, you might assume that Brilliance’s first sports coupe would be tailored to the West, with the high quality fit and finish that Americans have become accustomed to in Asian cars. The company had a test run in Europe with a sedan called the BS6. After scoring poorly in safety tests, European buyers looking for a bargain shunned the low-cost Hyundai alternative for cheaper, safer alternatives like the train. Even a hastily re-designed model did not save the BS6’s fortunes, as the Spanish importer went bankrupt and left Brilliance locked out of Europe, for the moment anyway.

Back to that coupe, the BC3. Brilliance had hoped to sell them in America by 2009. It staged a low key display at the North American Auto Show in Detroit with every intention of exporting the car. There was a bit of buzz, as potential American buyers wondered what a car from China would be like. Would it be sold at Walmart? After the ordeal in Europe, Brilliance decided to wait, possibly to tinker and refine before unleashing the BC3 to American dealers or department stores. The car itself is rather pleasant if not conventional looking with design cues from various Hyundai Tiburon and any number of generic Japanese cars. As typical with many Chinese design’s, it takes the best of everything and mixes them together, often with questionable results. In the case of the BS3, it actually not bad if not a little bland. Under the hood the Brilliance has an all new in-house designed 1.8L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. It produces a  170hp which is a respectable figure for a sub two liter design. The front wheel drive chassis is said to be “stiff” according to Chinese sources implying that its performance tuned. Originally the BC3 came with only a 5-speed manual transmission. Export versions are expected to have a four-speed automatic.
The weight is not known, but with a published 0 to 60 time of 9.7 seconds, it’s either heavy or its turbo kicks in sometime well after 3k RPM. Typical city streets in China are crowded anyway, so getting up to 60 might be irrelevant. In the wide open spaces of North America, the leisurely pace might be an issue with tuner boys (and girls) who might see the BS3 as the new Deuce of the 21st century. The BS3 offers all the standard creature comforts expected in a car whose retail price is somewhere between $15 to 21k. That list includes disc brakes, airbags, CD player and a dash with chrome accents. In Europe buyers shunned the BS6 sedan for safety issues and poor perceived quality. In the United States, Chinese products have a similar reputation, but Brilliance expects that Americans will be more welcoming to a new low price point competitor vying for the small incomes of the urban poor and those wanting a second or third car.   If the quality is like that of the cheap knock off electronics currently coming out of China, Americans might not be as welcoming as they were to Korean car makers like Hyundai over twenty years ago. Hyundai turned out to be a quick study. Brilliance may not have as much time.
2010 Brilliance BC3

2010 Brilliance BC3


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This entry was posted on April 12, 2011 by in 00's, 10's Cars, Brilliance and tagged , , , , .
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