First Ride

First ride: BMW C400X scooter

First ride: BMW C400X scooter

A ride through the Italian campagna was the perfect way to put the new C400X to the test...

MAXI-SCOOTERS are like marmite. You either love them for their practicality or hate them for their bulbous, ungainly looks. Regardless, with global sales pushing 40,000 it’s a burgeoning market, and it’s hardly surprising that BMW has decided to get in on the action.

Newly-designed from the ground up, the C400X is powered by a 34hp 4v SOHC 350cc single cylinder unit – designed by BMW and built by Chinese firm Loncin. Coupled with a tweaked version of the German manufacturer’s CVT gearbox, the C400X provides smooth, linear acceleration - even uphill or after heavy braking - and ample torque throughout, with peak of 35Nm achieved at 6,000rpm.

Our test route took in about 50 miles of twisting mountain roads to the North East of Milan, interspersed by the occasional speedy stretch.

Thanks to a ‘vibration decoupled engine mount’ – basically rubber bushings damping the engine vibration – the scoot is remarkably smooth, and there’s very little shake through the bars and mirrors. In fact, even at higher speeds you could still get a clear view in the rear view.

More nervous riders can be reassured by the standard addition of BMW’s ‘automatic stability control (ASC)’ – aka traction control – which is arguably overkill on the urban road-going machine. However, it works well as I found out when I heavily accelerated away on the hotel’s gravel driveway. The Continental two-channel ABS – as opposed to linked – is typically BMW – late to kick in, but over-zealous when it does so, pulsing back at the levers.

BMW claims the brakes – 265mm twin discs and radial four-pot callipers up front and a similarly sized disc and single piston floating calliper at the rear – can stop the scoot from 100km/h (62mph) in just 38m. That seems pretty accurate as the brakes provide decent stopping power.

Personally, I am – or was until a couple of week ago – very much on the anti-scooter side of life. That was until I swung my leg through BMW’s new C400X and after the obligatory moving off wobble wound my way through Italy’s beautiful campagna.

Despite weighing similarly to its Asian counterparts – 204kg to the XMAX’s 211kg – the BMW was much lighter and more agile. I felt in command of the machine, rather than sat inside, steering a road-going boat. This is down to the extensive work that BMW’s engineers have put into making the scoot’s riding position as close to that of a motorcycle as possible. As a result, the riding triangle is upright and assertive – with none of that feet-forward nonsense. This agility suits the bike’s sporty looks.

The turning circle is tight, and the scooter is very well balanced – I could stop at traffic lights and balance for a good few seconds. A narrow seat and footboard also makes putting your feet down much easier than on competitor models and inspires confidence.

As for the equipment, as standard the £6,199 scoot is pretty basic, with ABS, ASC and a 12v socket in one of its two ‘glove boxes’. It does feature BMW’s funky Flexicase system, which (when stationary) expands the underseat space to fit a full face and half face lid.

My test bike featured the BMW Connectivity TFT dash – a €600 extra on the scoot’s base price of just below £7000. 

It’s a pretty comprehensive system, and through the app you can use navigation, make telephone calls and listen to music. The navigation aspect is scaled back for urban riding and is actually pretty simple - just direction arrows on the screen and distance. But apart from a couple of wrong turns it works pretty well. A couple of other journalists did complain about the app crashing, but this was an iPhone update issue.

Interestingly, the X suffix means different things to different manufacturers. To Suzuki, it’s the café racer styled SV650X, to Honda it’s adventure-come-commuter machines.

But to BMW, X is ambiguous. The C400 X is the manufacturer’s debut entry into the mid-size scooter market, and their first X model. Technically, it’s an urban machine, but with such a smooth ride, comfortable seating position and pokey power it has the potential to be much more. BMW’s chief of urban mobility, Peter Maier, believes that it even has an adventurous edge, something confirmed by the optional accessories unveiled at Motorrad Days.

It's due to go on sale in the UK in October, with a starting price of £6,199.