THE ALL-NEW BMW X1 REMINDS US WHY THE GERMAN SUPERBRAND HAS BECOME A JUGGERNAUT - NO MATTER WHICH MODEL OR WHICH SPECIFICATION YOU CARE TO NAME, ALL BMW VEHICLES ARE A PLEASURE TO DRIVE.
Take the X1 sDrive 20i compact SUV - front-wheel-drive and the so-called ‘entry level’ model - it’s a cracker.
Sure, the X1 will not challenge an M3 over a hot lap at Mount Panorama but, at under $52K (excluding on-road charges) this sDrive 20i will, for many, provide a tasty entry into ‘BMW land’.
Vehicle Style: Premium Compact SUV
Price: $51,600 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.9 l/100km | tested: 6.7 l/100km
With its mantra of "Sheer Driving Pleasure", BMW was – for years – steadfast that it would not build a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
Times change and you can’t argue with progress - first we had the 2 Series Active Tourer and then we got the X1, both using underpinnings from BMW subsidiary MINI.
Now for the all-new second generation X1, along came young Australian designer Calvin Luk whose penmanship injected a fresh, sophisticated style inside and out, transforming a so-so compact SUV into one we’re very keen on.
Significantly, the all-new BMW X1 delivers on practicality – a ‘not-negotiable’ for many buyers in this market segment - with expanded rear seat legroom and cargo capacity which leaves rivals looking a bit cramped.
And, at $51,600 ($54,815 for the version we tested), the BMW X1 undercuts those major rivals by more than a few dollars.
- Features include: Sensatec ‘leather’ seats, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, electric handbrake, rear-view camera, front and rear park sensors, 40:20:40 Split fold rear seat with sliding function
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch free-standing screen for satellite navigation and audio, iDrive controller, satellite navigation, five-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB input, CD/AM/FM/MP3 playback
- Cargo capacity: 505 litres, expanding to 1550 litres with rear-seats folded
Let’s start from the back and move forward.
First-up, the all-new BMW X1 belts the previous generation for ‘six’ when it comes to cargo space – an extra 85-litres will do that every time. And at 505-litres (1550-litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat folded flat), the X1 could be the best in-class in this vital area.
Rear seat passengers benefit from the all-new model’s extra 90mm in wheelbase length with some 66mm of extra leg-room and 130mm of slide functionality. Again this extra space is immediately evident.
Up-front there’s a fresh look for the centre stack – although still the traditional BMW combination of free-standing screen and audio controls with the iDrive unit, as usual, placed in the centre console.
There is the typical infotainment system and feature list expected of a modern premium car; Bluetooth streaming, USB interface, premium sound and easily accessed apps to take the chore out of being stuck in traffic or to entertain those who do not have their hands on the wheel (which is its own entertainment).
Not so up-market are the standard seats - they’re reasonably supportive but are a tad shapeless and seriously lacking in visual appeal. We’ve since driven another BMW X1 which was fitted with the optional sports seats and found these a big improvement both for style and support.
Nevertheless the driving position in our sDrive 20i – aided by the usual BMW top-shelf three-spoke steering wheel (adjustable for rake/reach) and seat height adjustment – was terrific.
Adjust the front seats to their lowest setting and, behind the wheel, the X1 feels dynamic and sporty - like all BMWs should – while the rear seat is mounted high ‘theatre-style’ for those in the back to get a clear view outside.
The higher-set rear seat also helps when strapping in the juniors.
ON THE ROAD
- Turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder with 141kW/280Nm
- 8-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic and paddle shifters
- Single joint MacPherson strut front suspension/multi-arm rear
- Disc brakes front, rear inner-vented (brake wear sensors front and rear)
The turbocharged 2.0-litre might sit at the base of the range but it could hardly be accused of lacking for punch and the eight-speed auto is sublimely smooth even when pushed hard. But that’s the BMW way.
Of course if you want more, pony-up a few more pesos and you can have the more powerful 25i engine (170kW/350Nm) and AWD.
To be honest we’re more than happy with the performance of the X1 sDrive 20i – zero to 100km/h in 7.7 seconds BMW claims. In real world driving, that zest emanating from under the bonnet sees effortless overtaking and has the X1 poking rapidly around a winding road.
In this, it feels more ‘driver’s car’ than SUV.
You might also factor-in the 5.9l/100kms fuel consumption as part of the appeal; not that the lead-footed TMR correspondents got close to that figure in our week with the X1 sDrive 20i. Still, our 6.7 l/100km is a worthy result.
However we weren’t in love with the exhaust note either at idle or under full acceleration – it’s a bit ‘tinny’ (this from a company responsible for some of the best exhaust noises on the planet!).
But ride and handling, as you would expect, is rated at the top shelf. The X1 is firm like all European cars but the payback is little body roll even at the limit.
Steering response too comes from the German ‘Play Book’ – even though our X1 was a front-driver, there is crispness to its turn-in and the feedback through the wheel lets you know exactly what’s happening below.
It must be noted, however, that things do not fare as well on poor secondary roads. We found our X1 surprisingly ‘lively’ in the rear – a tad loose – when encountering sharp mid-corner bumps.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars (previous model - new model yet to be assessed)
Safety features: eight airbags, Dynamic Stability Control with Dynamic Traction Control, ABS, Cornering Brake Control and Brake Assist, Dynamic Braking Lights, Cruise Control with braking function, Rear-View Camera, among a suite of dynamic and passive safety aids.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
BMW backs the X1 with a three-year/unlimited kilometers factory warranty with roadside assistance.
For some extra coin (varies according to model) you can opt for a BMW Service Inclusive package which covers your scheduled servicing costs for five years or 80,000kms.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI - $52,300: Less power but more torque (132kW/320Nm) the 2.0TFSI Quattro version version of Audi’s excellent Q3 isn’t actually the entry level model – for that you’re looking at the front-drive 1.4TFSI which will set you back $42,900.
So you’re getting all-wheel-drive and that’s a plus but the smaller interior and cargo space aren’t. What is indisputable is Audi’s top-shelf interior styling and abundant quality.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 - $58,600: Looking more like a wagon version of the A-Class than SUV, nevertheless the highly-praised Merc punches out a very sporty 155kW/350Nm, and employs the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Like the Q3, in comparisons with the latest BMW X1, the GLA is a bit behind in rear seat space. No doubting Mercedes-Benz quality though – it’s there wherever you look.
Lexus NX 200T - $52,500: With its head-turning looks and handy 175kW/350Nm, some say the NX 200T is the best Lexus SUV so far. It oozes Lexus quality inside, however the interior space lags the X1.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Let’s think for one second about the people who are buying BMW X1s – families for sure but also urban dwellers without children whose lifestyle dictates an SUV – and, for many, this will be their first BMW.
On that front there’s no question the so-called ‘entry level ‘ X1 sDrive 20i succeeds. Despite the sub-$52K sticker, this thing looks, feels, smells and drives like a BMW.
There’s space out-back for the youngsters (even fussy teenagers) and the family paraphernalia, or space for the dog and sporting equipment. So we’ll tick the ‘Meets Needs’ box too.
Driving dynamics? Yes, despite that slightly skittery performance on crook roads, the X1 impresses with its pin-sharp steering response, poise, sporty ride and refinement.
So we’re not seeing much missing here.
The question is: does all-wheel-drive justify the extra dollars demanded by its German rivals? The X1 sDrive 20i would seem to be the full-bottle without it.