Far From the Mainstream: Brilliance

More rooting in the classifieds…

China Brilliance vehicle range
China Brilliance vehicle range

After a bit of break it’s now time to hit the small ads again and see what else you can buy for the price of a quite good second hand car without buying a quite good second hand car.

Today, Brilliance. One of the two models had Italdesign style and the other had the loving hand of Pininfarina to give it form. Both of these cars are new to me so I have to digest a fair amount of information on your behalf.

Who are Brilliance? Founded in 1991 in China, their first major endeavour involved building ultimate driving machines locally for a Bavarian manufacturer. They sell a lot of those. Then Brilliance made a brief attempt to market their own cars in Europe in the period 2008 to 2010. That explains the narrow age range among the used examples I saw on-line. Reports indicated that by 2010 about 75,000 Brilliances would find happy homes in this beautiful continent of ours.

Taking a look at Autotscout, at the time of writing, I found 21 Brilliances for sale ranging from about €2000 to nearly €8000, give or take the price of a coffee and a nice raisin pastry. So what do they have on sale if you want to buy one? Well, those models are the BS4 and BS6. Two thirds of those are BS4s, the smaller of the pair.

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The BS4 has a 1.6 litre engine with 74 kW and a 1.8 with 100 kW in Comfort and Deluxe trim if you believe the small ads. However, Wikipedia says it only had a 1.8 litre Mitsubishi cast off. AutoExpress says the 2008 car had a 1.8 four and a 1.8 turbo four.

Length: 4.6 metres. It´s a front drive econobox with absolutely no distinguishing features. This the gist of AE´s analysis: “Our test car had the non-turbo 1.8-litre motor. It’s refined, but with only 134bhp and a lot of car to propel, the unit feels unresponsive and underpowered. Add in a sloppy five-speed manual gearbox, and there’s nothing about the powertrain that really impresses. It doesn’t get any better in the corners, either. The steering is vague, there’s lots of body roll, and although the ride is reasonably comfortable, the BS4 simply feels off the pace”.

In China the BS4 is/was sold as the Zhonghua Junjie. It failed famously in crash tests and after extensive revision still achieved no stars. Wikipedia indicates the car did not go on general sale. Are these vehicles press car orphans? You can have one for two grand and enjoy the BS4’s unique charms.

The bigger BS6, also a saloon, has a 2.0 litre petrol engine with 90 kW, in Comfort and Deluxe trim. Deluxe refers to climate control as an option. A 2.4 engine also existed, according to AutoExpress who tested it and gave it a very bad review. None of the cars on sale had the 2.4 litre engine.

The car weighs 1445 kg, spans 4.8 metres, and production spanned 2000 to 2010. Behind the so-so design lurks Italdesign which is why it looks like a kind of watered down proposal for a watered down Lexus GS. Presumably that is what it was. Normally these cheap cars from new brands come loaded with kit. AE wrote this was not the case: “Equipment levels leave a lot to be desired, too. Although air-conditioning and a CD player are standard, even the range-topping Deluxe trim comes with only two airbags, and it doesn’t get any form of stability or traction control. What’s more, any passengers sitting in the centre rear seat will have to make do with a simple lapbelt”.  It has a 550 litre boot, also.

As usual a lot of the photos here are very poor indeed. An honourable exception is a series taken by a thoughtful seller in Speyer (the pale side profile, taken at a nice church setting in the gallery). The priciest car is a BS4 with under 20,000 km on the clock and is on sale from a Toyota dealer in Gunzburg, for which they want just under eight thousand Euros. Is that a car to put away as an investment or what? If things had turned out otherwise, there may have been a BC3 coupe, a compact car and an SUV too.

The hardest part about writing this has been keeping the two cars distinct in my mind. The BS6s all tend to be black meaning it’s hard to make out the shape. Neither 4 nor 6 is especially memorable or put it another way, they are quite hard to distinguish, even with photo references to hand. Who is really interested in cars with such devastatingly low crash performance that don’t look good, lack after-market support and don’t look good? For €8000 you can buy any number of excellent cars. Here’s one and it’s not even as costly as the Brilliance.

1975 Rolls Royce
1975 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow: safer to crash in too.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Far From the Mainstream: Brilliance”

  1. The name itself is a liability. We were discussing the French brand Licorne (Unicorn) the other day and, viewed as a brand from the dawn of motoring, it has quite a nice, brave new future sound to it. So would Brilliance, if it referred to a wooden wheeled, 5.7 litre, 34 hp, chain driven 1904 tourer. But today it just attracts a derisory snort in anglophone countries, in particular when it’s conspicuous that the name is so very much at odds with the execution.

    1. From their website it seems that the company now just makes BMWs and Jinbel MPVs and that Brilliance cars are no more. So maybe that Gunzburg one is worth cling-filming.

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