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Not So 'Brilliance'

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2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
 Brian Laban
Chinese automaker's press conference gets lost in translation.
Click images for more detail
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
Click images for more detail
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
Click images for more detail
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
Click images for more detail
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego
2007 Brilliance BS2 Photo: Sean Frego

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    This is something you don’t get to write very often, but there were fewer Chinese this year... In fact, so far as manufacturers go, Brilliance was the only game in town, with one new car for Europe, one revised car and a slightly odd story to tell about safety, or lack of it.

     

    At the presentation, the message was difficult to nail for an English-speaking writer, as it was delivered in rather fierce, ten-year-plan Chinese and translated only into German, but every so often there were clear references to Euro NCAP safety results and we thought we heard mention of three stars, which out of a possible five wouldn’t be good. On the other hand, we thought he may also have said something about tiramisu, so we could be wrong.

     

    The printed material, however, tells the real story, and in some ways it is even stranger. It is mainly about the safety test results previously achieved by Brilliance, and their response to them. It would be fair to say the first NCAP ratings for the BS6 saloon were poor - as in one star (of a possible five) for the crash tests, with a second star apparently disallowed because of side impact problems.

     

    But in the three months since that disappointment, Brilliance has made changes and (here’s the strange bit) commissioned independent tests in a Spanish laboratory to show the improvements. And that was where we heard that ‘three-star’ soundbite in German, because that’s what the independent tests suggest the BS6 should now achieve if the NCAP tests were repeated. Which would be a step forwards, but still only ordinary in a world where missing five stars is now becoming a bit of an issue.

     

    It’s obviously part of a steep learning curve for the Chinese brand most likely to make the breakthrough into Europe, but it puts into perspective how much more difficult it will be in the short term for China to sell in Europe than for Europe to sell, fully developed, in China.

     

    As for Brilliance’s cars, the newcomer is the BS2, taking them towards the compact segment with a near-production-ready Golf-sized hatch alongside the BS6 and BS4 saloons and BC3 coupé – and styled with help from Italian design gurus Idea. It is powered by a 108-hp Mitsubishi petrol engine with the promise of Brilliance’s own 1.6 diesel to come, and with a comprehensive equipment list that puts at least one tick in the plus box, but there’s no information on its NCAP performance yet, and that could still be an issue again.

     

    In the end, only NCAP themselves can give the definitive answer to all these issues.