WHEN THE BMW X1 was launched two years ago, it had the dual advantage of being the most affordable BMW on sale in EU, as well as being the first in its segment. However, Audi launched the Q3 a little over a year later and stole a lot of the X1’s thunder thanks to the fact that it simply felt more like an SUV than the X1.
Now, BMW is mounting a fresh attack on the Audi Q3 with this, the updated X1. A facelift, updated interiors, more equipment and more power from the 2.0-litre diesel engine all serve to address the old X1’s shortcomings. BMW also sold the outgoing X1 with the option of a petrol engine, but it has now been scrapped, with the carmaker selling the updated car only with the sDrive20d diesel engine.
BMW has made minor revisions to the overall design to make it look more upmarket.
The main changes are on the front and rear bumpers, which get glossy-finish plastic cladding at the chin, the lower rear end and the side skirts. The headlamps retain the same familiar shape of those used on the existing X1, but get new internal elements, including LED corona rings in some variants. It also gets reshaped exterior mirrors with housings for the side repeater lights.
One of the biggest downsides of the old BMW X1 was its drab interiors, and the facelifted X1 addresses that weakness with the use of more premium cabin materials. The two-tone dashboard is replaced by an all-black theme throughout the cabin. Another nice touch is the high-gloss surface around the air-con controls and chrome inserts around the display screen.
The X1 is available in three trims – base, X line and Sportline. The base variant is rather well equipped with a feature list extending to climate control, electric wing mirrors, fog lamps, an onboard computer, a CD audio system, aux-in, USB capability and 17-inch alloy wheels. The X line trim adds underguard elements for the front and rear bumpers, side skirt covers and air intake and grille slats in Titanium-Silver matte finish.
The X line trim also gets special door sills with X line badging, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, multi-colour ambient lighting and matte wood finish trim. The top-of-the-line Sportline (our test car) comes with high-gloss black air intake and grille slats, black-chrome-trimmed exhaust tips, a unique design for the 17-inch alloys, door sills with BMW Sport badging, sports seats, a BMW Sport steering wheel with leather and red stitching, and brushed aluminium trim on the interior. In terms of optional equipment, you can opt for kit like a navigation system with an integrated hard drive and an 8.8-inch screen, a panoramic glass roof, powered seats, rain- sensing wipers and a heated steering wheel.
Getting into the X1’s cabin is an exercise of getting past the high-ish door sill, and sliding onto the low seat. And even when set at full height, the X1’s seats don’t give you the commanding driving position of an SUV. Also, the rear seats aren’t as spacious as you would expect of an SUV.
Thumb the starter button and you’ll notice that the engine still sounds a bit gruff at idle. The updated 2.0-litre diesel engine now makes 181bhp and 38.74kgm of pulling power. Also new on the X1 is the electromechanically assisted power steering and an eight-speed gearbox, which is quick to respond and works brilliantly. It replaces the outgoing SUV’s six-speed unit. The step up in power and the closer-stacked ratios of the eight-speed gearbox means the X1 covers 0-100kph in 8.25 seconds, which is a considerable 1.2 seconds quicker than before. Peak pulling power is available from as low as 1750rpm, which means the motor pulls effortlessly and acceleration is smooth from low engine speeds. It’s just that the engine is quite audible under hard acceleration, only settling down to a murmur when you’re at cruising speeds.
The BMW X1 has a lot of fuel-saving tech on board. You get, for instance, a stop-start system that shuts down the engine when you come to a halt and restarts it automatically as soon as you get your foot off the brake, saving fuel in the process. There’s also an ‘Eco Pro’ driving setting (it optimizes the engine and gearbox for maximum fuel efficiency and automatically adjusts things like the air conditioner too) and these help the X1 return 10.5kpl in the city and a decent 13.8kpl out on the highway.
As for the ride, BMW seems to have opted for a softer rear suspension setup in order to give passengers a more comfortable ride. It is pliant and absorbent for the most part, but the soft setup results in some bobbing over broken surfaces. The X1 has always been a great handling car, and it’s the same story here.
The steering is responsive and involving, and though it’s still heavy at parking speeds, the enthusiast driver will like it. There’s lots of grip, the body control is good, and this combined with the willing engine and gearbox, makes for an enthusiastic car to drive hard.
BMW has given the new X1 a starting price of 37.880 EUR that goes on to this Sportline’s 44.895 EUR. What you get for this price is an X1 that’s better in all aspects than before. Sure, given that it is billed as an SUV, you might be disappointed by the X1’s low stance, but for all other purposes, this X1 is a far better car than before.