2013 BMW X1 sDrive20i Automatic Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Compact dimensions, great rear seat comfort and typical BMW dynamics.
What's Not
Interior not quite as cohesive as other BMWs.
Small wagon ease-of-use and on-road verve with chunky SUV looks.
Kez Casey | Apr, 26 2013 | 2 Comments


Vehicle Style: Premium compact SUV
Price: $49,593 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 135kW/270Nm 2.0 litre petrol turbo/8-speed auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 9.7 l/100km



BMW introduced its compact X1 in 2010 as the first premium SUV in the compact class. Since then, there’s been a rash of competitors rushing to get on board.

With a refreshed X1 range, engines have been rearranged, an eight-speed automatic introduced and the interior finessed to bring the smallest X model up-to-speed in the showroom.

Light revisions, yes, but just enough to keep the little Beemer in the hunt against newer, fresher challengers.

And, though it naturally carries a premium, some buyers may be surprised that they can get into a neat BMW wagon at a price not too far above an optioned-up CX-5 or Santa Fe.



Quality: Interior changes are mostly limited to a rearranged centre-stack with a more user-friendly layout. Materials have been upgraded too for a richer feel.

That noted, there are enough hard surfaces across the dash and doors to bring the ambience down a tad, and BMW’s usual attention to detail seems to be lacking.

Take a look, for instance, at the vastly different look and feel of the gearshift and handbrake boots (this marks it down at the price).

Comfort: Front seats are plain to look at, and at first seem a little flat, but time on the road reveals that they are comfy enough.

There is not a lot of shaping however to hold you in place when pressing the envelope on a winding road and lumbar support is lacking.

Rear seats are probably best in class. Space isn’t gargantuan, but those blessed with long legs will still fit quite easily. Foot-width though is a little cramped due to intrusion from the transmission tunnel which also renders the centre position awkward.

What is best about the rear seats is the actual comfort - reclined by a few degrees, the X1 rear seats are just naturally comfortable with good visibility out the rear windows.

Equipment: Newly added standard equipment for sDrive models includes USB audio connection, Bluetooth telephony, cruise control, auto headlamps and wipers, and rear parking sensors.

Unlike BMWs past, the modern crop are not lacking in those key standard features most of us look for.

Storage: Thanks to the reclining rear seat, cargo space can be varied between 420 to 480 litres, but with the seatback in its most upright position it becomes all but unusable for passengers. 1350 litres of space is liberated with the 40/20/40 backseat dropped.

The centre console hides a second cupholder, but the phone dock under the lid robs storage space. A healthy glovebox makes up for it though, and all doors feature door-pockets.



Driveability: The 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine in the sDrive20i pushes 135kW of power to the rear wheels between 5000 and 6250rpm. Peak torque of 270Nm arrives from a diesel-like 1250rpm to 4500rpm.

It doesn’t exactly feel swift, but with such a broad wave of torque there’s a constant push that means the X1 never runs out of puff.

On road, it has a nice ‘alive’ feel and will accelerate sharply if you need to overtake.

Coupled to BMW’s brilliant eight-speed automatic, gear changes are precise, smooth and rapid.

EcoPro mode dulls reactions across the board, but encourages gentler driving (no bad thing looking at the real-world thirst on test.)

Refinement: On the road there’s little to separate the X1 from its larger siblings. Road and wind noise are kept at bay and the engine stays muted, even when pushed.

The quaking stop-start system is a little crude at times, and on this test car the rear cargo cover rattled and chattered over bumps and jumped out position a few times.

Suspension: With a little extra suspension travel compared to BMW’s standard passenger range, the X1 rides smoothly over lumps and bumps in the blacktop and takes the harsh edge off the ride.

Body control is excellent, roll is minimal and turn in is sharp, though the wheel is less communicative than BMW owners may be accustomed to.

Braking: Low speeds see the four-wheel vented disc brakes grab just a little too eagerly, making traffic crawls more tedious than they need to be. The payoff comes on the open road though with strong braking and a much more linear pedal feel.



ANCAP rating: 5-Star

Safety features: ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, Stability and traction control, three-point seatbelts all round with front load limiting pretensioners, dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags.



Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.

Service costs: Service intervals vary with vehicle usage but to ease the cost of maintenance BMW offers Service Inclusive packages with coverage ranging from 3 years/60,000 km to 5 years/100,000 km.

Two levels of coverage are offered the first includes basic servicing needs, including the annual vehicle check, oil change and labour cost, the second adds maintenance items such as brake pads, brake discs and windscreen wiper blades. Contact your local BMW dealer for conditions and pricing.



MINI Countryman Cooper S ($44,650) - BMW-owned MINI has a ready-made rival with the Countryman but philosophical and engineering differences set the two cars worlds apart.

From a smaller engine the Cooper S offers the same power, but slightly less torque.

Front-wheel drive and six-speed auto are the obvious differences, but MINI’s tremendous handling reputation is little-damaged by being wrapped in an SUV body (see Countryman reviews).

Audi Q3 TFSI Quattro ($48,950) - A price just below that of the X1 looks all the better with the inclusion of all-wheel-drive. Interior practicality is ahead by a nose and fit and finish is exceptional.

On the road the Q3 doesn’t quite feel as sharp as the X1 but in most driving situations you’ll be hard-pressed to notice. (see Q3 reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



The X1 sDrive20i occupies an odd little market niche, not quite an SUV but more than a wagon - perhaps BMW points the way as the two categories begin to converge.

Unfortunately, with no real space advantage and with a features list and interior feel that’s slightly short of truly premium, the X1 doesn’t quite tick all the boxes at the price you’re asked to pay.

If making a statement is most important, the MINI Countryman wins in a canter; and, for value, the nod goes to Audi. The coming Mercedes-Benz GLA will add pressure too.

But if you’re in the market, take a look at the X1; it’s a very nice drive but perhaps short of earning a ‘must see’ recommendation.

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