To the motorcycle community at large, BMW has never been widely renowned for its scooters. Over the years the Bavarian brand has dipped its toe into the market a handful of times – and although it does have a couple of big 650 maxi-scooters in its stable, it’s never really managed to grab a decent foothold in the commuter market.
But, there’s some real money to be made in mid-sized scooters and BMW knows it. The sector turns over a fairly consistent 35,000-40,000 units a year worldwide and BMW reckons it stands a very good chance of grabbing some of those sales for itself with the 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. The machine is actually made out in China, on a dedicated BMW production line at Loncin. Don’t worry though; they know what they’re doing. The factory used to build BMW’s almost indestructible F650GS.
If you compare the C400X to the other mid-capacity scooters on the market (namely 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 even comes with a 12V plug-in point. But it’s the underseat 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 which allows you to expand the underseat 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 BMW 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 space in which to get settled. It weighs in at 204kg, but it’s so well balanced that it never truly feels ‘big’ (and it’s actually 6kg less than the XMAX 400).
From an equipment and accessory perspective, BMW offers 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 – but it’s highly likely we’ll see a high-spec model at a lower price than if you were to add the accessories separately.
BMW is really pushing its connectivity package for the C400X. Essentially it’s a clever TFT-Display and the BMW Motorrad Connected app. The headline act is its own sat-nay system, which works through the app — and is displayed on the TFT in the form of a basic arrow-based system. The app also allows you to find out where you last parked, check the weather, see where the nearest petrol station is, and view various bits and pieces of data from the machine, including mileage, riding time and average speed.
But now it’s time to get into what it’s like to ride. First, 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. Not bad at all.
For braking, the BMW C400X comes with twin discs and four-piston radially-mounted 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 in fact, BMW claims that at a speed of 62mph, stopping distance is 38 metres – which sounds fairly impressive.
And out on the road, I was impressed. 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 fairly easy to activate, 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.
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 that the suspension offered 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 probably 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 of course, and there’s a big contingent out there who would question the wisdom of spending £6000 on a scooter, when you could get your hands on a ‘proper bike’ for the same cash. But they’re missing the point. The BMW C400X is very well built. It handles well, stops well, and the engine is punchy and capable. In short, it’s practical – and right up there with the best of its competitors. Sure, there’s a little less underseat storage than some, but it’s also lighter, narrower and more agile than them too. It all depends on your priorities.
If you’re looking for a new set of wheels to get you around in style, the BMW C400X could be the motor for you. It’s as capable blasting down B-roads as it is carving through the city traffic. You’d be remiss not to at least consider it.
2018 BMW C400X Specification
ENGINE: 350cc water-cooled single cylinder four-stroke, four valves per cylinder, single overhead cam
POWER: 33.5bhp (25kW) @ 7500rpm
TORQUE: 261b-ft (35Nm) @ 6000rpm
BRAKES: (F) Double 265mm rigid discs with 4-piston calipers (R) Single 265mm disc with 1-piston floating caliper
SUSPENSION: (F) Telescopic front forks with 110mm travel (R) Double aluminium swingarm with double spring struts, adjustable preload and 112mm travel
TYRES: Pirelli Angel Scooter M120/70-15 (R) 150/70-14
MAX SPEED: 86mph (139 km/h)
SEAT HEIGHT: 775mm (760mm option available)
FUEL CAPACITY: 12.8 litres
ECONOMY: 80.7mpg (claimed)
PRICE: TBC (approx. £6000)