The skinny: Now entering its second generation, BMW’s X1 arrives with a fresh face (penned, incidentally, by Australian designer Calvin Luk), as well as a new front-wheel-drive platform - but also offering all-wheel drive - sprung from the 2 Series Active Tourer and MINI range.
A rethink of pricing, and a bag of extra features to add to the value, should see a revival of interest by Australian buyers in the X1.
While BMW pioneered the compact luxury SUV, it now has to battle Audi’s Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. For BMW, this new model - improved in places it counts most - is the right car at the right time.
Vehicle Style: Compact luxury SUV
Price: $49,500 - $59,900 (plus on-roads)
sDrive18d: 110kW/330Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 8spd automatic
sDrive20i: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
xDrive20d: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 8spd automatic
xDrive25i: 170kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
sDrive18d claimed: 4.3 l/100km
sDrive20i claimed:5.9 l/100km
xDrive20d claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 6.3 l/100km
xDrive25i claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 10.2 l/100km
It may not sound like a ‘big deal’, but the second generation X1 compact SUV becomes the second BMW model to shift from a rear-wheel-drive architecture, to a front-wheel-drive platform, one shared with the 2 Series Active Tourer.
The shift is all about improved packaging. The new X1 offers more space, increased flexibility and also looks better.
The new generation of modular BMW engines, petrol and diesel, powers the range, with improved fuel efficiency.
But where BMW has really pushed hard is value, There’s between $6000 and $12,000 of added equipment (depending on the model), like LED headlamps, lane departure warning, forward collision warning with city braking, rear view camera, park sensors, and powered tailgate.
- sDrive18d, sDrive20i, xDrive20d: Sensatec man-made leather upholstery, cruise control with speed limiter, rear view camera, front and rear park sensors, LED headlights with highbeam assist, auto dimming rear view mirror, dual zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, xLine exterior package
- xDrive25i: Perforated Dakota leather upholstery, head-up display, interior and exterior dimming mirrors, proximity sensor with push-button start, electrically adjustable heated front seats, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch display (8.8inch on xDrive25i), iDrive controller, satellite navigation, five-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB inpu, CD/AM/FM/MP3 playback
- Cargo volume: 505 litres minimum 1550 litres maximum, via 40:20:40 folding rear seats
Despite slightly smaller overall dimensions, and a much shorter wheelbase, the X1’s interior dimensions have grown.
There’s also been a boost to interior flexibility, courtesy of some of the versatile fittings borrowed from the 2 Series Active Tourer. Cabin plastics throughout get a boost; a soft touch dash-top and padded wrap-around centre console add a premium air.
Some of the lower cabin plastics aren’t quite so rich, but the whole package is a big improvement over the outgoing X1.
Theatre-style seating means all occupants get a good view forward, and the sought after SUV driving position is intact.
Front seats can feel a little compact, with a short squab and narrow back - they’ll be fine for most, but the long-legged might wish for more under-thigh support.
Standard power seat adjustment in xDrive25i (optional on the rest of the range), and a reach and rake-adjustable steering column make it easier to find that ‘just right’ position behind the wheel.
There’s a whopping 13cm of rear seat travel, and even pushed all the way forward there’s decent, usable legroom. Push the seat back and you could be fooled into thinking you’ve stumbled into a 7 Series by mistake.
As well as slide adjustment, there’s 40:20:40 split fold seats, with reclinable backrests.
Boot space is a massive 505 litres, 85 bigger than the old X1, and hidden beneath the boot floor is an additional covered storage area. Fold the rear seats for 1550 litres, an extra 200 litres more than before.
ON THE ROAD
- xDrive20d: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- xDrive25i: 170kW/350Nm 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Eight-speed automatic, on-demand all-wheel-drive
- Single-joint strut front suspension, multi-link rear suspension
- Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes
- Electrically assisted Servotronic power steering (optional variable sports steering, standard on sDrive25i), turning circle: 11.4m
While the range kicks off with sDrive18d and sDrive20i models (sDrive is BMW-speak for two-wheel-drive) those base models won’t arrive in the country until December.
Until then, the new range kicks off with xDrive20d and xDrive25i models, all-wheel-drive, with high output 2.0 litre diesel and petrol engines respectively, with the xDrive25i as the range topper, taking over from the previous xDrive28i.
From behind the wheel, the flexible nature of the xDrive20d is immediately apparent - it feels swift on the open road, and offers an under-bonnet hush at odds with its diesel origins.
With 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, the 2.0 litre also engine offers decent punch on-road, with power delivered via an eight-speed automatic.
The X1 auto however isn’t quite as polished as the eight-speeder in BMW’s rear-wheel-drive models; it’s still smooth, but doesn’t react as quickly and delivers more conspicuous downshifts under load.
Ride quality is also a little firmer than you might expect given the X1’s generous ground clearance. On some frankly terrible backroads, the ride in the X1 can feel a little tense; it's able to cope with big hits, but less adept at shrugging off niggling surfaces.
The flipside is superior handling at the top of the compact SUV pack, with level cornering, fantastic grip, and spritely and responsive steering.
The xDrive25i model, is equally as quick - in fact, by the stopwatch it is quicker with a 7.6 second 0-100km time compared to the xDrive20d’s 9.2 second time.
Without the swell of torque though, it does need to be pushed to deliver its best. Power is rated at a punchy and generous 170kw, with torque topping out at 350Nm (50Nm less than the 20d diesel).
Otherwise, road manners are much the same. Across a variety of surfaces, the 25i’s 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres make quite a bit less noise than the 18-inch Pirelli P7 Cinturato tyres of the 20d.
Steering is another difference between the petrol and diesel models. The standard Variable Sports Steering with the 25i offers quicker steering reactions at parking speeds (just 2.0 turns lock-to-lock) but then steadies as speed rises (3.0 turns lock-to-lock at speed).
The system works seamlessly, and gives the 25i an extra level of agility over the 20d. (All models in the range can be optioned with the variable system.)
We found fuel consumption for both models to be well above factory claimed figures, but on a demanding route and driving box-fresh engines with less than 1000km on the clock, we’d expect those figures to improve markedly.
ANCAP rating: The X1 has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual side, dual front side, and full length curtain), Dynamic stability control including ABS brakes, cornering brake control, brake assist, and dynamic traction control, three point seat belts and adjustable head restraints on all seats, plus force-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for front seats.
Driver aids include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian warning, and light city braking function (to reduce speed until the driver can take over brake control).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Beside the Audi Q3, which is now getting on in years, and the hatch-like Mercedes-Benz GLA range, BMW’s own MINI brand even dips into the X1’s buyer pool with the Countryman.
Even the larger Lexus NX range sits loosely in the X1’s pricing territory.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Where the first X1 didn’t quite hit the premium mark, the new version's plusher interior puts it back in the game.
The move to a front-wheel-drive platform as the basic underpinning to the range has, if anything, improved the dynamics - certainly true of the all-wheel-drive variants tested here.
And, thanks to the added ride height, the X1 is more comfortable than the stiff-legged 2 Series Active Tourer, too.
With handsome new looks, eager performance and a sharper price - comparatively - the X1 is an easy recommendation. If you're looking for an SUV that feels at home in the city, have a fresh look at the X1.