Face-off

BMW’s new en­try-level cross­over ditches rear-wheel drive, but gains so much more

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Shake Down - words by Niky Ta­mayo Pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris­tian Halili

Based on the Ger­man car­maker’s fron­twheel-drive UKL2 plat­form, the X1 boasts neater pro­por­tions than its awk­ward rear-driven pre­de­ces­sor. Creative body cladding gives the il­lu­sion of more ground clear­ance than the com­mend­able 183mm it al­ready has. Sweet 18in al­loy wheels round off the pack­age nicely, wide 225/50 Bridge­stone Tu­ranza tires sug­gest­ing that driv­ing ex­cite­ment is not off the menu.

BMW has smoothed out the X1’s orig­i­nal buzzi­ness to ap­peal to a wider au­di­ence. Push hard, how­ever, and it re­veals a depth of char­ac­ter be­fit­ting a Bim­mer. The firm sus­pen­sion ab­sorbs road im­per­fec­tions in stride, tack­ling rut­ted off-cam­ber turns at speeds you wouldn’t dream of in the Coun­try­man or the pre­vi­ous X1. Switch off the sta­bil­ity con­trol, and it is com­mend­ably neu­tral at the limit of grip. No alarms. No sur­prises what­so­ever.

Though not par­tic­u­larly com­mu­nica­tive, the light, pre­cise steer­ing han­dles both the oc­ca­sional thrash and the daily grind with aplomb. The X1 is rather im­pres­sive in the lat­ter sit­u­a­tion. A high seat­ing po­si­tion in con­junc­tion with a low­ered dash­board pro­vides ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity. De­spite the odd thump from the run-flat tires, the ride is com­posed and sup­ple. Delet­ing the spare tire al­lows for a mas­sive hid­den com­part­ment un­der the spa­cious 505-liter cargo bay—per­fect for hid­ing lap­top bags when park­ing out in public.

The com­pact trans­verse en­gine bay and the gen­er­ous 2,670mm wheel­base, on the other paw, en­able the X1 to trump its cramped pre­mium com­peti­tors in terms of legroom. The seats them­selves, how­ever, are a mixed bag. The elec­tri­cally ad­justable front buck­ets boast great side bol­sters but lack ad­justable lum­bar sup­port, while the rear bench, though oth­er­wise com­fort­able, is a bit stiff on the back if you’re heavy­set. Still, those rears re­cline a fair amount for when you’re snooz­ing.

There’s no cruise con­trol for those trips, but the ‘Lim­iter’ but­ton on the steer­ing wheel ful­fills the same func­tion, keep­ing the ve­hi­cle at a set speed re­gard­less of throt­tle-pedal po­si­tion. This has the ben­e­fit of al­low­ing you to pulse-and-glide, drop­ping speed a bit on hills rather than surg­ing as cruise con­trol does. The re­sult: great fuel econ­omy of up to 25km/L at 80kph (with the A/C on) for an all-wheel-drive Ger­man cross­over.

That’s dou­bly im­pres­sive when you con­sider that the X1’s TwinPower B47 diesel en­gine pumps out 187hp and 400Nm of torque. Fuel econ­omy is more mid­dle-of-the-road in the city, de­spite an Eco Pro mode and an auto-stop sys­tem. That sys­tem, com­bined with a grabby brake pedal, can make traf­fic a bit of a herky-jerky af­fair. And the all-wheel drive makes the Bim­mer about 0.51km/L thirstier than the Mini in ur­ban jun­gle use, too.

Th­ese mi­nor nits not­with­stand­ing, the X1 is a solid com­pact cross­over, and pos­si­bly the best-spec’d one in its price range. Un­less you count the Coun­try­man, that is.

This X1 looks con­ser­va­tive be­side the Mini

Sharp creases and fu­tur­is­tic style work well

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