Ross Kiddie looks at the makeover BMW has given its X1 sport utility vehicle.
Given the importance of the SUV market, especially the mainstream/affordable section, BMW wasn’t going to let development wane on its popular X1.
Late last year, the X1 received a fairly hefty makeover, so much so that BMW is calling it a new generation model.
While the concept has been retained, the new X1 has a more chunky, muscular appearance providing an aggressive stance. The interior has also been revised to offer more space, and it carries more kit in terms of innovation.
However, most importantly, BMW has revised the engine line-up in the X1 to include two brand new engines – petrol and diesel. All four powertrains are more efficient and more powerful than the previous generation units.
The test car was the xDrive20dn. As its nomenclature suggests it is a four-cylinder, 2-litre, turbocharged diesel model. It is rated by BMW at 140kW and 400Nm, and lays claim to an amazing 4.9-litre per 100km (57mpg) combined cycle fuel usage rating.
I wouldn’t dispute that figure. During my testing time the fuel usage readout was constantly listing around 6.5l/100km (43mpg) with a stunning 4l/100km (70mpg) available instantaneously at 100km/h in eighth gear (engine speed 1500rpm).
Yes, the engine drives through a fabulous eight-speed traditional gearbox. There are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you want to take control over the gear-shifting process, and if you want to force sporty performance, sport mode engine management protocols are available through a central console-mounted switch. It also offers eco pro mode for economical motoring, or normal mode; the latter I far prefer and as you can ascertain, it still provides fuel consumption figures to envy.
And the economy doesn’t come at the cost of performance. The X1 in this form is quick with a 7.6sec standstill to 100km/h time. It feels constantly feisty beneath the accelerator, and when the turbo boost really kicks in through the mid-range the diesel X1 takes on a sporty persona.
That is matched by a well-tuned chassis and suspension set-up. The fully-independent set-up is only moderately firmed so that ride comfort has a high priority. Yet the X1 can be driven like a sports sedan, it has decisive handling manners and accuracy is precise, while body balance is well controlled.
XDrive simply means four-wheel-drive, and that adds in the grip factor. Even when conditions don’t necessitate full involvement of four-wheel-drive, the X1 feels strongly attached to the road all of the time, and that imparts a secure sensation underneath.
I like the way the X1 handles, it is almost unnatural for an SUV and takes on the characteristics of BMW’s desirable sports sedans; its pedigree shows up in its performance.
Maximum torque is spread strongly throughout the rev range, which means the slightest throttle provocation will result in eager response.
The X1 has also been refreshed so that occupants get a comfortable ride. It can be classed as a true five-seater, although at just under 4.5m it isn’t a big vehicle, but for the smaller family it is an SUV which competes fairly in that segment. And it has a load space on par for vehicle type.
The test car was carrying a few optional extras, but even at $80,600 the xDrive20d represents value for a premium vehicle, and bear in mind that the four-model range starts at $65,500 for the petrol-fuelled two-wheel-drive sDrive18d.
For the $80k you get a host of kit including satellite navigation, central display screen, i-Drive infotainment controller, dual-zone climate control, idle stop-start, and ConnectedDrive, a driver emergency assistance platform and concierge service, just to list a few of the items.
The specification level is something BMW does well, you can option up through a long list of accessories.
For that reason, the X1 is an important car for BMW. It is priced so that buyers can reach the brand and enjoy the benefits of a European buying experience.