2013 BMW X1 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small Luxury SUV
Price: $44,900 (plus on-roads), $56,647 (as tested)
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.0 l/100km | tested: 6.3 l/100km
The last time I reviewed the BMW X1, I didn’t think it was all that great.
The steering was too heavy, the transmission was dated and the interior quality wasn’t the most inspiring either.
But BMW has revised the X1 range since, adding new engines, ditching the old six-speed auto and giving interior quality a real lift.
Put all those factors into the mix and the result for BMW’s smallest wagon might surprise you.
Quality: The interior changes mostly amount to a revised centre stack, reshaped centre console and better plastics and tactile surfaces.
The ventilation controls have been pushed to the bottom of the centre stack, swapping places with the audio buttons to improve ergonomics.
There’s still only one open cupholder on the centre console though, and, in our tester, there were some alignment issues where the front of the console met the lower dash.
It’s a nice cabin, but there’s no hiding that this is now an ageing interior.
A lot of switchgear is borrowed from the previous 1 Series, and the cruise control functions are still tied to a stalk behind the steering wheel, rather than mounted on the wheel itself.
Comfort: It might look like a big-ish wagon, but it ain’t. Inside you have legroom that’s about on par with the average FWD hatchback, although the X1’s taller roofline means headroom is more generous.
You also don’t sit terribly high. SUV buyers frequently cite “a taller seat height” as a primary reason for buying offroaders or crossovers, but the seating position in the X1 is about as high as a Falcon or Commodore.
The cushioning is also very firm, although the (optional) sports seats of our test car gave good support and weren’t uncomfortable on a long drive.
The back seat has enough elbow room for two adults to sit in good comfort, and there’s good under-thigh support and a nice shape to the backrest.
However, the absence of rear ventilation outlets detracts from back seat comfort, especially with that big glass roof overhead.
Equipment: For 2013, Bluetooth telephony, a USB audio input, cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and rear parking sensors have all been made standard on the entry-level sDrive models.
On top of this, our tester was optioned with a panoramic glass sunroof ($2308), sat nav package ($2900) and Sport Line package ($2538).
The latter adds a bunch of cosmetic enhancements, as well as sports seats and a leather-upholstered sports steering wheel.
Including the $1308 charge for metallic paint and $2693 for an automatic transmission, the total cost of options on our tester tallied to $11,747. That pushes the retail price up to $56,647 - a lot of coin for a small car.
Storage: The X1 has a useful 420 litres of luggage space (480 litres if you move the rear backrest to a near-vertical position), but the load area doesn’t really feel much bigger than a typical hatchback, merely taller.
Drop the 40/20/40 split rear backrest and you get 1350 litres of room. All doors have a storage pocket and the glovebox is a handy size, but the centre console box is small.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 2.0 litre turbodiesel in the X1 sDrive18d is smooth and torquey.
It produces 320Nm of torque, all of it available between 1750rpm and 2500rpm.
While peak power is a relatively modest 105kW (and the engine gets breathless above 4000rpm), it’s at its best with revs kept low to exploit the generous bottom-end torque.
And that’s exactly what the gearbox does. BMW’s 8-speed Steptronic auto was added to the X1 late last year, and it complements the 18d’s turbodiesel in a way that the previous six-speed automatic never could.
With eight ratios, there’s a gear for every conceivable situation.
Whether it’s crawling in traffic or cruising at triple-digit speeds, the 8-speed auto always puts the engine right in its sweet spot. The X1 can be pretty swift when a burst of speed is needed.
The auto is a $2693 option, but well worth the extra coin.
Fuel economy is listed at an average 5.0 l/100km for the automatic (4.9 for the manual), but the best we could manage was 6.3 l/100km. (However, the greater part of our driving was at surburban speeds with few highway stints, which points to a pretty good real-world result.)
Refinement: The X1 18d’s engine is like most modern European diesels - quiet and smooth.
Equipped with start-stop, the engine judders slightly as it re-lights, but this is about as harsh as it gets.
Our car was equipped with larger 18-inch alloys (standard wheels are 17-inch), and the road roar through their low-profile run-flat tyres was noticeable.
Suspension: Being 2WD and based on the last-gen E87 1 Series platform, the X1 sDrive18d rides and drives much like a larger 1 Series hatch.
That is, it’s pleasingly nimble, with good body control and stable on-road dynamics.
It doesn’t have the jacked-up suspensions of its competitors, and the lower centre of gravity gives it better grip when cornering. The steering is also much improved, with a lighter touch and better feedback through the wheel.
Ride comfort is good too. The suspension is a tad firm, but there’s decent compliance over sharp bumps.
Braking: No complaints here. The pedal is responsive and generates good stopping power through the X1’s all-disc hardware.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Stability control and traction control are standard, and include the functions of ABS, EBD and brake assist. Three-point seatbelts all round and dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, among a host of safety features.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Service intervals vary according to vehicle usage, with a condition-based servicing program only requiring the vehicle to be brought in when the on-board computer determines a part has reached the end of its life.
As a result, servicing costs are not available.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 2WD ($44,800) - We rate the Q3 as the best small luxury SUV around. A tall ride height, good looks and a spacious practical interior see the Q3 edge ahead of the X1; better-trim and finish cements that lead.
Although it’s not quite as sharp on road as the rear-drive X1, the Q3’s 2.0 litre turbodiesel delivers identical power and torque numbers. It’s only real downside is that it’s unavailable with an automatic transmission. (see Q3 reviews)
MINI Countryman Cooper SD automatic ($49,955) - Producing the same power and 15Nm less torque from its 2.0 litre turbodiesel, the Countryman Cooper SD nevertheless has an all-weather grip advantage thanks to its AWD drivetrain.
It’s expensive spec-for-spec, though, and it’s also much smaller inside than the X1.
There’s hefty dollops of the unmistakeable MINI style, but you really do pay a premium for it - and that’s without delving into the extensive (and expensive) options list. (see Countryman reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Did you notice that we didn’t refer to the X1 sDrive18d as an SUV? That’s because it isn’t one... really.
The X1 sits at the meeting point between hatchback, SUV and wagon. To our thinking, its rear-wheel-drive drivetrain and low ride height make it more crossover wagon than SUV - despite its official segment category.
If you want to sit up high and enjoy all the trappings of a modern small SUV, then your money is better spent on the Audi Q3.
However, for the sharper handling (and if the lack of an auto option for the Q3 FWD 2.0 TDI is the deal-breaker), the X1 sDrive18d is worth looking into.
Us? We’d probably save up a few grand more and shoot for the 3 Series Touring. It’s newer, better-looking and a cracking drive, without any pretension of ‘offroadability’.