Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review: 2019 BAIC M50S 7-Seater Ultra-Luxury


Dinuguan is a dish that may taste good, but because of its all-black appearance looks unappetizing. And even if a gourmand isn’t put off by the way it looks, he may become queasy at the thought that it’s pig’s blood stew. Once you get past the dinuguan’s origins and looks though, it’s actually quite tasty and has become a staple, in one form or another, across the Philippine islands. This is the same sort of experience one will have with the BAIC M50S—the dinuguan of MPVs.

Like the Filipino delicacy, the BAIC M50S strikes you as unappetizing at first. It’s confused with some angles looking like a refrigerator van with a nose grafted on, while in others, like a desperate SUV wannabe with all that cladding and decorative (non-weight bearing) roof rails tacked on. It’s also taller than it is wider, contributing even more to its odd stance.



Now, while the M50S won’t win any beauty contests, it does score very high in terms of functionality; perhaps more so than any other small MPV out there. Size-wise, it slots squarely in-between the sub-compact class (Avanza, Mobilio, Xpander) and compact (Innova) MPV segments, but in interior room terms, it’s bigger than any of them. Despite its high floor height (and resulting high seating position), the M50S is blessed with abundant headroom; so generous that it’s easy to shuffle between the second and third row seats without having to slouch or crane necks too much. The seats themselves fold and move in the usual fashion, but the third row’s a bit more limiting because it folds as a single unit. While this reduces the M50S’s cargo carrying flexibility, passenger comfort is actually quite good across all three rows.

Given the M50S’s asking price, it’s no surprise that the fit and finish is solid, but nothing extraordinary. BAIC’s choice of putting in a two-tone interior scheme with high-gloss piano black accents and wood trim do liven things a bit, but there’s no escaping the presence of some flimsy switchgear. They’re few and far between, but once spotted, it cannot be unseen (or unfelt). The biggest culprit? The air conditioning vents which appear to have warped despite this unit doing less than 2,000 clicks on the clock. And it’s a shame because these small trim problems distract from an otherwise solid driving experience.



Come to think of it, the M50S actually is better to drive than the Rush or Avanza. On paper, there’s nothing that suggests that it’ll stand out—it’s got the same basic ingredients: a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and a rear-wheel drive platform just like the aforementioned Toyotas. In reality though, it’s spritelier, quieter, and cushier. At times, the BAIC’s advantages may feel minuscule, but by eking out a win, no matter how small, goes to show how much Chinese-made cars have gone.

It’s not a sportscar in any sense of the word, but off the line, it’s quite responsive. Oddly enough, peak horsepower occurs at 6,000 rpm, a full 500 rpm above the tachometer’s red zone. Instinctively, this leads drivers to shift quickly for fears of overrevving the engine, effectively giving the impression that this is a diesel rather than a gasoline-fed car. Nonetheless, there isn’t any shortage of shove at city speeds because the gearing itself is clearly biased for acceleration with 100 km/h achieved at 2,600 rpm on top gear.



The engine is somewhat vocal, but not uncomfortable while the gearbox has long throws and punishes any half-assed shifts with crunched gears. Still, at least the clutch is easy to master and never tiring; even after two hours of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic. All in all, the M50S completely pummels the Daihatsu-based Toyotas mechanicals if not for one single aspect: fuel consumption. After a week driving in city traffic, fuel efficiency falls to just 5.88 km/L. Together with its 50-liter tank, this means more frequent trips to the gasoline station to satisfy the M50S’s strict diet of 95-octane unleaded.

On the subject of handling, the M50S feels reasonably solid and stable though more abrupt maneuvers do result in dollops of understeer. Still, thanks to its high seating position, short overhangs, large greenhouse, and ultra-light steering, it’s very easy to pilot it through tight confines. One fact that has escaped other reviewers though is this MPV’s low payload capacity. Despite having a 7- or even 8-seater configuration, the maximum payload is just 520 kilograms. This means, full loaded, each passenger must only be, at most, 75 kilograms (165 pounds). In short, just 5 average-sized motoring journalists is all that’s needed to overload this MPV.



As the highest-trimmed M50S, this 7-seater Ultra-Luxury model tops out at just P 668,000 making it cheaper than even the base-trim Avanza. Yet it’s got chockful of features from speed-sensing door locks to a complete set of safety equipment, to a rear parking camera with a Chinese text warning screen. In short, if you’re after an MPV of great value, look no further than this one.

Currently, the BAIC M50S isn’t the top-of-mind choice right now when it comes to an entry-level MPV and that’s quite understandable. The regular buyer may be put off by the way it looks or perhaps by the badge it carries upfront. But give it a chance and anyone will find that it’s quite tasty. It’s by no means the perfect MPV just yet, but at its price, it’s no joke either.





2019 BAIC M50S
Ownership 2019 BAIC M50S
Year Introduced 2018
Vehicle Classification Entry-Level MPV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door MPV
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 114 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 150 @ 4,300-4,500
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 5 MT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 5.88 km/L @ 12 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,525
Width (mm) 1,700
Height (mm) 1,818
Wheelbase (mm) 2,790
Curb Weight (kg) 1,270
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Five-Link, Coil Spring
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Bearway BW380 195/65 R 15 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors No, with Rear Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2 (2nd row),
3-pt ELR x 2 (3rd row)
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front and Rear
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Fixed
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 4-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 50/50, Folding, Sliding, Tumbling Captain's Chairs (2nd row),
Folding & Tumbling (3rd row)
On-Board Computer No
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors No
Proximity Key No
Climate Control Manual, Front,
Manual, Rear
Audio System Stereo
USB
SD Card
Bluetooth
# of Speakers 4
Steering Controls Yes

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