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Chinese Brilliance? Image by Brilliance.

Chinese Brilliance?
Ambitious Chinese automaker, Brilliance launches new model offensive in Geneva.
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I don't think the Chinese have understood the concept of a press release. The item we were handed at the Geneva Motor Show is a novel! Granted there is a lot to tout from Chinese automaker Brilliance JinBei. The company is effectively writing history by launching a product offensive in the European market, starting with the BS6 and BS4 saloons unveiled in Geneva.

The cars look better than anything we've yet seen come out of China and there's good reason: Brilliance tapped Italian designer Giugiaro to pen both designs. With the sheet metal sorted, the Chinese manufacturer worked closely with various German and Japanese partners to produce a competent car all-round.

Porsche development centre optimised the chassis, while the engines were developed by Mitsubishi Motors, and the cars are built on a production line designed by Schenck AG (under advisement from a BMW production specialist) using just-in-time production methods learned from Toyota!

The design and engineering collaboration has resulted in two saloons. The front-wheel drive BS6 saloon measures 4880mm long and will be the first offering from Brilliance, powered by either 2-litre or 2.4-litre petrol engines. The 2-litre unit creates 122bhp and 125lb.ft of torque, while the 2.4-litre unit puts out 130bhp and 144lb.ft of twist. Both engines feature 16-valve technology and a manual five-speed transmission - the result of cooperation between Brilliance and Mitsubishi.

With the BS4 saloon, the Chinese manufacturer is looking to compete against the Vauxhall Vectra, Audi A3, and Ford Focus in the already crowded C-segment; a lofty goal indeed. Shorter than the BS6 by 230mm, the car will be offered with two engine options: a four-cylinder normally-aspirated 1.8-litre, and a turbocharged version of the same. Creating 136bhp in standard form, the turbocharged 1.8-litre unit will produce 170bhp and 173lb.ft of torque and be mated to a four-speed automatic (independently developed by Brilliance) instead of a Mitsubishi-sourced five-speed manual transmission.

Two comprehensive trim levels will be offered for both the BS6 and BS4 models: 'comfort' and 'deluxe'. The 2-litre BS6 and 1.8-litre BS4 will be fitted with a comfort package including air conditioning, electrically adjusted front seats, parking assist, electric windows, and alloy wheels. The 2.4-litre BS6 and turbocharged BS4 will only be available with a deluxe trim fitting, adding automatic climate control, leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 6-CD changer, and an electric sunroof.

Managing shareholder, Hans-Ulrich Sachs, who has been leading the automobile distribution company HSO Motors Europe (and has been responsible for launching both Hyundai and Volkswagen brands abroad) is convinced that the Chinese manufacturer will benefit from the criticism the Japanese and Korean OEMs experienced in the past. His ambitious goals could see Brilliance models finding a foothold in Europe in the next five years - half the time it took Korean automakers to establish themselves and a quarter of the time it took Japanese manufacturers.

Established automobile distributors are currently being chosen by HSO to sell 15,000 vehicles across Europe this year and Brilliance plans to sell 75,000 vehicles on the Continent by 2010.

The introduction of the Brilliance BS6 - with a starting price of around €20,000 - will debut in Germany, Austria, Poland and Switzerland, with the mid-range BS4 saloon following later in the year. Diesel powerplants will join the petrol offerings in both cars by the end of 2007. No word yet on when we'll see them in the UK, but you can be sure they will be.

We spent five minutes nosing around the BS6 and BS4 in Geneva and they're not at all bad. It's true that interior ambience is not a patch on the likes of the Ford Mondeo, but it is acceptable and certainly better than the Japanese and Korean makers' first attempts to break into Europe. No doubt we'll be getting closer acquainted at some stage in the not too distant future.

Eric Gallina - 13 Mar 2007

2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Phil Ahern.2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Phil Ahern.2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Phil Ahern.2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Phil Ahern.2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Brilliance.

2007 Brilliance BS6. Image by Brilliance.  

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