BMW X1: Sporty softroader
BMW has finally launched its X1 in both the 2WD and AWD SUV guise, and immediately you notice that these models are very different, bringing with them a bit more character.
This new BMW has a very charismatic and charming feel about it, and in a country where we value our freedom to express ourselves with trinkets and mobile toys, their introduction to our market could not be better timed. It is a welcome alternative to what’s been around for a while, although you must remember that this is not an off-roader, but rather a sporty soft-roader.
But the X1 still encompasses almost every aspect of what an SUV should be, from its good looks to its flexibility, but the most noticeable advantage the X1 has is the clever engine that I am sure we will see moreof soon. This gives the X1abrilliant balance between solid quality and rugged luxury that few of its competitors have been able to offer.
I spent time in the X1 xDrive23d, a 2,0-litre turbo-charged diesel with some 130kW, and an astonishing 400Nm of torque. This common rail diesel unit is the first of its kind and makes use of variable twin turbo layout, whereby two different-sized turbos not only allow a sequential and smooth delivery of power, but at lower revs the smaller turbo gives an immediate response to power demands.
Although a rather well-spaced and dynamic six-speed manual is available, BMW’s six-speed StepTronic is becoming a favourite, partly because of its flexibility and sporty nature, but mostly because of its nofuss, no-hassle attitude when driven hard. Each selection is precise, crisp and immediate, and with a very torquey and spirited engine, it makes for a near-perfect match.
With the X1 sharing a similarsized frame as the 3-series, there is space for behind-the-scenes magic, and the X1 is the perfect platform to show it. The X1 AWD system is made up of a clever, multi-plate, electronically actuated clutch that balances the torque between the front and rear wheels, and as an optional ex- tra, the automatic cornering helps by applying the rear inside brake to assist in a turn.
By dimension, the X1 is not to be confused with its 1-series sibling, and in fact, is a slimmer version of the X3, but it bears more of a resemblance to the X5, especially around the front. The X1 also plays with lights and shadows to give some fluidity to its rather tall stance — especially seeing that the shoulder line rises towards the back.
The greyed inserts in the bumpers and running sills enhance the con- trasts between the executive and sporty personality, and it shows when you look at who is drawn to it. The interior is much the same with a fresh and revived styling similar to the 3-series, but a little leaner and more athletic, and with the choice of materials and colours also a refreshing change.
The cabin is surprisingly spacious and visibility all round is good considering the raised waistline. In the X1 you are also slightly raised from the tar in a more commanding seating position up front, but the rear passengers have a more relaxed and slumped array with reclining seat backs, so the X1 will suit four adults in a luxurious format more than anything else.
Equipment levels are up there with the best, from i-Drive, to SatNav, paddle shift, radio and cruise control at your fingertips and stunning H & K sound to name a few. The layout is also pretty logical and some more unimportant bits of information are also available on request. Thetest model also boasted a removable towbar and a full-glass panoramic sunroof.
On the road, the X1 reinforces the marque’s athletic ability without messing with luxury. Feedback is a little too dampened for my liking and the steering is slightly heavy, but the X1 is precise and sure-footed. With its better-than-average road manners, rigid chassis and good handling, the X1 is not a slouch either. The cornering is precise, although the nose can get heavy. But if you remember that this isn’t actually a sports car, it’s rather easy to drive.
Overall the X1 is something that will have to grow on you, but is sure to leave you impressed. It is a logical, well-thought-out car that has a lot to offer.
All the same, if I had to choose the same-priced 3-series, I would still choose the X1.
On the road, the X1 reinforces the marque’s athletic ability without messing with BMW’s formula for luxury.