Arguably, BMW paves the way when it comes to motorcycle engineering and build quality. The BMW S 1000 RR has dominated the superbike category for the past 10 years and the R 1200 RT is the workhorse of practically every police constabulary, advanced riding school and blood biker in the UK. And although these particular models have dominated their specific fields, it is the BMW GS range that is the best known, and has dominated the premium adventure motorcycle market for years.
BMW has been keen to expand its range in recent years and, in 2011, they entered the maxi scooter market, previously dominated by the Yamaha TMAX, with the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT. Two years ago they joined the bigger volume mid-range scooter sector with the C 400 X, which has now been joined by this, the C 400 GT (Gran Turismo). BMW describes it as a scooter offering ‘increased comfort and enhanced touring capability’, which we put to the test in a day’s riding around the Midlands.
This specific category has a lot of manufacturers trying to elbow their way into this relatively new scooter class, and some have been more successful than others. Unlike 125cc scooters, which can be ridden on an A1 licence (or even on a provisional licence after completing the CBT), the C 400 GT (which confusingly actually has a 350cc engine) needs a full (or at least A2) licence.
The BMW is up against the bigger capacity Yamaha XMAX 400 and the understated Suzuki Burgman 400, as well as the slightly smaller 300s, like the popular Honda Forza 300 and the Kawasaki J300, which is a rebadged Kymco Downtown 300i. With all these competitors in mind, BMW had to create something that set them apart from the rest. A scooter that people would automatically think of when looking for a mid-range scooter. In true BMW Motorrad style, they have arguably achieved this with the C 400 GT.
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The 34 bhp single cylinder engine was effortless on a 50-mile road test along narrow country roads, busy towns and open dual carriageways. I never felt a need for more power as this scooter is more than capable of sitting at 70mph for many comfortable cruising miles. The touring spec means you’re guarded by the tall screen and wind protecting bodywork. As well as delivering sprightly performance, the 350cc motor returns roughly 69 mpg. Accompanied by a 12.8 litre fuel tank, the C 400 GT should be capable of close to 200 miles on a full tank. As this road test was conducted on a rainy morning in March, the scooter’s ASC (Automatic Stability Control), which is a fancy name for the traction control system, got rid of any anxiety when squeezing on the throttle when exiting slippery white lined roundabouts and junctions. Adding to that, the ABS system gives any rider the upmost confidence when reaching for the brakes in such inclement conditions.
Whether it be a scooter or a moped, one of the main criteria for such a machine is storage and usability. The C 400 GT comes with two storage compartments and BMW’s ‘Flex Case’ which allows you to fit a full-face helmet under the seat when parked. However, the bike will not start when the ‘Flex Case’ is extended as it may be possible for the bottom of it to catch on the top of the rear tyre, if the rear suspension is compressed enough. There is no way of getting around this, the bike will simply not start if it is left extended, so you cannot store an extra helmet under the seat while riding.
You can clearly see that the build quality of this scooter is that of a premium product. The standard ‘keyless ride’ keyless ignition is a nice touch, however to get your C 400 GT to premium status you will have to tick a few extra boxes in the optional extra catalogue. First off, you would almost certainly need to add the 6.5-inch full colour TFT monitor and handlebar mounted multi-controller, which is the same technology found on the new R 1250 GS. It’s called the ‘connectivity’ package and it is an additional cost but is integral to maximising the usability of this machine. Adding to that you would also need to kit out this scooter with the ‘comfort pack’ that includes heated grips and a heated seat. £7995 will get you the C 400 GT SE which has the ‘connectivity’ and ‘comfort’ packages already installed. The base model is £7050, but it would be hard to argue against not spending that little bit extra on the SE model to ensure you get the very technology that makes using the scooter a premium experience. Many C 400 GT riders will be purchasing through a PCP finance option, meaning that any additional costs will likely be spread across a number of years anyway.
You wouldn’t have thought that there would be much demand for this type of machine, and in the UK it is true that they’re unlikely to be ousting the Honda PCX125 as the country’s best selling scooter any time soon. In continental Europe these type of scooters are two a penny though, and the streets of Milan, Madrid and Marseille are littered with this type of easygoing transportation. These types of scooter are cheap to run, maintain, and most importantly have the ability to transport two people across town in a relatively comfortable way, all while carrying a bunch of groceries, with the benefit of being able to head out of town from time to time. Indeed, it would be more than capable of donning some luggage and heading up the road on that tour you have been planning for a while.
BMW claims that the C 400 GT is a premium addition to the mid-range scooter market. At almost £1000 more than the bigger capacity machines from Suzuki and Yamaha, the C 400 GT does look pricey on paper, but you do get a very good quality product with a premium badge on the bodywork.
But specify the SE version, at almost £8000, and the C 400 GT is transformed. That TFT screen and smart connectivity really does turn the C 400 GT into the premium scooter that BMW claims, a truly integrated machine that devours the urban jungle and has just enough go for those days when you want to go that little but further.
Type: Water-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke engine, four valves, overhead camshaft with rocker arms, wet sump lubrication
Headlight: High beam/low beam: LED
Rear Light: LED brake light/rear light
Front: Telescopic fork, Ø 35 mm
Rear: Aluminium double-sided swing arm, double spring strut, adjustable spring preload
Front: Twin 265mm discs/4 piston fixed caliper
Rear: Single 265mm disc/1 piston floating caliper
Front: 120/70 ZR15
Rear: 150/70 ZR14
ABS System: BMW Motorrad
Seat Height: 775mm
Total length: 2210mm
Total weight (without rider): 212kg
Fuel Capacity: 12.8 litres
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