Grav­i­ta­tional pull

Re­vamped baby diesel adds practicality and pol­ish — and a price pre­mium — to its shared front-drive lay­out

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

WHEN buy­ers wanted space-ef­fi­cient city cars, BMW ini­tially wouldn’t have a bar of front-wheel drive for fear of com­pro­mis­ing its rear-drive mantra.

Hav­ing paid a price for that stance, the Bavar­i­ans ca­pit­u­lated and along came the 2 Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer and X1, both based on the chas­sis that un­der­pins the Mini.

The Ac­tive Tourer is built in the mini peo­ple-mover for­mat and is a ri­val for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The X1 faces tougher op­po­si­tion in the form of the Audi Q3 and Benz GLA and, given the price and stan­dard equip­ment, is still play­ing catch-up.

VALUE

In the base X1 sDrive 18d, the price is the prob­lem rather than pack­ag­ing or dy­nam­ics. A start­ing sticker of $49,500 makes the baby diesel dearer than an all-wheel drive Q3 at $47,900 or the $48,900 Benz GLA 200d.

There are enough stan­dard in­clu­sions to sweeten the deal, from a pow­ered tail­gate to

sat­nav with real-time traf­fic up­dates shown on a 6.5-inch screen, light city brak­ing and a ded­i­cated SIM card that can call emer­gency ser­vices if there’s a crash.

Be­yond the SIM, the ri­vals have BMW cov­ered on fea­tures, though they can’t match it on ser­vic­ing costs.

DE­SIGN

Be­hind the wheel, it’s hard to pic­ture the X1 as a jacked-up Mini. The chas­sis may be com­mon but the Mini’s ec­cen­tric­i­ties give way to a prac­ti­cal and pol­ished lay­out. If you’re new to the brand you’ll be too busy play­ing with the iDrive con­troller and var­i­ous drivetrain modes to no­tice some of the harder plas­tics on the door pan­els .

The ex­te­rior is a scaled­down homage to the X3 and X5. The grille pro­por­tions don’t quite work but over­all the look is a big im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion X1. Space, es­pe­cially for rear pas­sen­gers and cargo, is im­pres­sive rel­a­tive to the out­go­ing model.

The ab­sence of a dig­i­tal speedo is a pain — to cure it, driv­ers will need to delve into the op­tions cat­a­logue for a $2700 “In­no­va­tions Pack” that bun­dles a plas­tic-shield style head-up dis­play with adap­tive cruise con­trol, dig­i­tal au­dio and an 8.8-inch screen.

AROUND TOWN

Take­offs aren’t tar­mac-tear­ing but the 2.0-litre turbo diesel has enough poke to hold its ground.

Switch­ing into sport mode over­comes the ini­tial turbo lag and the eight-speed au­to­matic cap­i­talises on the avail­able torque to de­liver a bet­ter than de­cent drive out of turns.

But­tons in the cargo area to tum­ble down the rear seats are a hugely handy fea­ture when load­ing bulky items and the pair of hooks in the back ef­fec­tively se­cures shop­ping bags.

The steer­ing is light and pre­cise if lack­ing some of the feed­back found on the more ex­pen­sive mod­els. Stan­dard BMW switchgear is tac­tile to use and log­i­cally pre­sented.

The 11.3m turn­ing cir­cle is 0.5m tighter than a Q3 or GLA.

ON THE ROAD

The vanilla-flavoured X1 is a good thing around cor­ners … if you’re pre­pared to ig­nore the tyre noise and the sus­pen­sion chat­ter over smaller bumps.

If the ride qual­ity fails to im­press on the first drive, tick the $690 op­tion for adap­tive dampers. Tyre roar re­mains but they do an im­pres­sive job in com­fort mode of quelling the SUV’s propen­sity to skip and bounce over the smaller rip­ples.

Be­yond that, the X1 han­dles it­self well. There’s still some oc­ca­sional torque steer when ham­mer­ing out of tight turns but you have to go hard to feel it.

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