BMW X1 REVIEW
Both camps are right in some respects. The X1 serves its niche well, but there are compromises.
The 2010 X1 is an entirely new addition to the BMW stable. It’s the baby brother to the X3 and X5, and is BMW’s second compact SUV.
What’s the appeal?
Younger buyers are the target market, although with an entry price of $43,500 for the two-wheel drive X1 sDrive18i manual, those buyers are most definitely of the better-heeled variety.
The X1 also offers more up-to-date styling than BMW’s other compact soft-roader, the X3 – at least until the new X3 arrives in early 2011.
The X1’s more carlike stance may not gift it with tremendous ground clearance, but it does make it easier to park and easier for passengers to get in and out of.
What features does it have?
As standard, it boasts dual-zone climate control, cruise control, power windows, push-button ignition, a trip computer, USB and 3.5mm audio inputs, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, foglamps and auto-on headlamps.
A set of 17-inch alloys are standard for the xDrive23d, but ours came fitted with the optional 18-inch y-spoke alloys.
Our tester also came fitted with a number of other options. Active xenon headlamps, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, navigation system professional, a reversing camera, puddle lights and a premium audio system.
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s only available with a six-speed automatic transmission (lesser models in the range get a manual option), which has a tiptronic function and steering wheel mounted shift paddles.
Four-wheel drive is standard on the xDrive23d, with the base sDrive18i being rear-wheel drive only.
Top speed is a claimed 205km/h; it will also reportedly sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 7.3 seconds.
The X1 is built atop the same chassis as the 3 Series Touring, and shares its 2760mm wheelbase – although the X1’s overall length is markedly shorter at 4454mm.
Suspension is MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link setup at the rear, while disc brakes are fitted to all four corners.
How does it drive?
Turning the wheel from lock to lock in, say, a shopping centre carpark is a chore, and something that got on our nerves after only a few days.
The wheel lightens up significantly at speeds higher than 50km/h, but just tootling around the suburbs gives the upper body a substantial workout thanks to that heavy tiller.
There’s also a bit of steering kickback when travelling over rough ground.
There’s good power from the turbodiesel engine though, and that 400Nm of torque gives great off-the-line performance. However, peak torque is only available between 2000-2250rpm.
The lower-output xDrive20d may have 50Nm less than the 23d, but its far more usable torque-spread ranges between 1750-3000rpm. The 23d has plenty of low-down tractability, but it’s a bit lifeless beyond 2500rpm.
Not only does the automatic shift program deliver the best performance, but the push-pull layout of the paddle shifters makes them frustrating to use.
Ride quality is surprisingly harsh, however a lot of that is probably attributable to the optional 18-inch alloys and the stiff sidewalls of the low-profile run-flats.
Those stiff tyres also transmit a bit of tyre roar into the cabin on coarse-surfaced highways, which adds to the diesel throb from the enginebay.
On the plus side, handling is excellent and there’s loads of grip on tarmac - whether it be wet or dry.
Visibility from the drivers seat is good, even though the seat itself isn’t as high as other quasi-offroaders and the pillars are on the thick side.
The glasshouse is expansive, while the view through the hatch glass is very good.
What did our passengers think?
Packaging is definitely on the small side though, and the X1’s cabin can very easily become claustrophobic on long trips.
Both front seats have plenty of adjustability (and had electric adjustment on our tester), but front passenger knee room can be compromised by the glovebox lid and dashboard – particularly if the seat is moved forward to accommodate a rear passenger.
Rear legroom is acceptable, but becomes very tight if taller people are seated up front. The rear seat squab is long and features good under-thigh support, but don’t expect three adults to sit across it without complaining.
A lack of rear airconditioning outlets is a big oversight, and with that giant panoramic sunroof in place, the X1 could very easily become a veritable greenhouse in a typical Aussie summer.
Interior quality and feel?
As is typical of BMWs, the X1’s interior quality is excellent. Materials used are of a high grade, the design is pleasing to the eye and everything is screwed together very tightly.
High gloss black trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are standard, but our test car had optional wood trim, an anthracite headliner, Nevada leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof fitted.
The white leather wouldn’t be our choice due to concerns about keeping it clean, but it looks classy and feels durable. The soft-touch plastic surfaces don’t mark easily, and all switchgear feels very robust.
Reducing the backrest recline to its most upright position, 480 litres of space is available.
That expands to1350 litres when the seatbacks are folded flat. There’s also under-floor storage in the boot, and each door is equipped with a small storage bin.
How safe is it?
The BMW X1 has 5-Star crash performance according to Euro NCAP, which tested a left-hand drive European-market model.
Standard safety equipment include ABS, EBD, brake assist, dynamic stability control and dynamic traction control, as well as front, side and curtain airbags.
Three-point belts are fitted to each seat, and ISOFIX child seat anchorages feature on each outboard rear seat.
Fuel consumption and green rating
BMW says the X1 xDrive 23d consumes 6.3 l/100km on the combined cycle, while average carbon dioxide emissions are a claimed 167 g/km.
Over a mostly urban test route, we saw an average of 9.2 l/100km.
The government’s Green Vehicle Guide scores the X1 xDrive23d 7 out of 10 stars for CO2 emissions and 5 out of 10 stars for particulate emissions.
How does it compare?
There’s not even anything in the way of competition from BMW’s traditional rivals, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Instead, comparisons must be made with other models from the BMW stable.
The 3 Series Touring has better dynamics and a larger boot area, but is near the end of its lifespan and is not available with the 150kW diesel engine of the X1 xDrive23d, nor its AWD system.
At $63,300, the 320d Touring also retails for slightly more than the $59,280 X1 xDrive23d.
The X3, like the 3 Series, isn’t available with the high-output 2.0 turbodiesel, and is significantly more expensive with a starting price of $62,200 for the base xDrive20d.
At the smaller end of the scale, the 123d gets the 150kW/400Nm turbodiesel engine of the X1, albeit without AWD and in a much, much smaller package. On the plus side, it ‘only’ costs $50,790.
Is it expensive to maintain?
None of BMW's latest cars require servicing at pre-determined intervals, but instead use a number of sensors to monitor wear and tear on critical components.
The on-board computer only triggers the servicing light when a particular part requires replacement, meaning servicing costs over the life of the vehicle can vary depending on its usage.
The BMW X1 xDrive 23d comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre vehicle warranty, with a three-year paint warranty and 12-year bodywork warranty.
A complimentary three-year roadside assistance subscription is also offered.
The X1 range is available in a total of twelve colours. Two – Alpine White and Black – are solid colours, with the remaining ten being metallic hues.
The 2010 BMW X1 xDrive23d retails for $59,280, before on-roads and not inclusive of any factory-fitted options.
It’s certainly an attractive alternative to the more expensive 3 Series Touring and X3, and a nice step up for buyers trading in their 1 Series hatch.
We can live without the heavy steering and overly stiff ride, though, and we’re betting the target buyer (younger females, some with young children) will feel the same.