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BMW X1 xDrive 20d review

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    Good looks, a roomy cabin and plenty of flexibility in the back end may not be enough for the new BMW X1. Photo Gallery

Paul Gover and Alison Ward road test and review the BMW X1 xDrive 20d.

Something went wrong between a good idea and the BMW X1 parked in the Carsguide driveway.

The newest member of the X-car family looks right, and the idea is right, but when you get behind the wheel it lags behind the Subaru Outback which first got the world going down the compact all-wheel drive wagon trail. It's a surprise, because BMW's X5 has been the premium SUV pace-setter since the first car arrived a decade ago, and the baby 1 Series - which provides the base for the X1 - is a pocket rocket and a Carsguide favourite.

What lets the X1 down? It's something about the packaging, something about the cabin quality against the price, and something about the dynamics of the chassis and the response of the two-litre turbodiesel engine. Don't get me wrong, the X1 is a sure-fire showroom winner in Australia, but that will be more about the badge and yummy mummies in trendy suburbs than the quality of the basic design and engineering. Is this harsh? Yes. Could I be wrong? Perhaps.

But I jumped straight from the X1 into a diesel-engined Outback and found the Subaru ticked more of the boxes, despite a body shape which is way, way behind the BMW on style and impact. The Japanese car is roomier, the engine is quieter, and the Subaru has a starting price of $37,990 against $56,800 for the German contender, at least until the rear-drive model lands from $45,700. Don't forget the X1 also needs to be rated against a classier crew led by the Volvo XC60, Audi Q5 and even the Volkswagen Tiguan.

But back to the X1 story. The car comes as BMW stretches every one of its basic models into new shapes and customer groups, moving the 1 Series customer success story on with a high-riding wagon that taps into the worldwide demand for compact cars that tick all the boxes.

It has all-wheel drive to boost excellent basic safety, a higher roof and bigger tail for more cabin and luggage space, and a Steve Irwin edge to the styling intended to hint at an ability to conquer the outback.

BMW Australia has gone turbodiesel on the engine front, with 2.0 single turbo and 2.3-litre twin turbo, and the X1 comes with the usual fruit including alloy wheels, aircon, cruise control with a brake function, rear parking radar, and Bluetooth, as well as six airbags, anti-skid brakes and stability/traction/hill descent controls.

The biggest change from the 1 Series is a wheelbase that can optimise the length of the 3 Series sedan, which means plenty of space in the high-set cabin.

"The youthful, versatile and efficient BMW X1 broadens the attraction of our very successful X family and will appeal to young urban customers with an active and varied lifestyle," says the boss of BMW Australia, Stavros Yallouridis.

DRIVING Paul Gover

The X1 will be a winner and nothing I say or write will change that. It's the same as the X6, which I have always believed is the answer to a question no-one asked, yet continues to crank out big showroom numbers. The X1 looks great and the idea is spot-on for today, as Subaru continues to show with the Forester and Outback. But the X1 is noisy and unrefined in some areas, not particularly quick, and the cabin quality is down a bit on BMW's usual standards. As a drive, it feels wonky and wobbly. Not just compared with an X1 five-door hatch, but those Subarus and serious showroom rivals led by the XC60 and Tiguan.

But there is good stuff. The cabin feels roomy, there is plenty of flexibility in the back end, and I know the X1 will take owners with X-drive confidence to the beach or the snow or the other places Gen-X families and singles like to go. The pricing is also pretty good until you dig deeply into the list of extra equipment, but that's a BMW trap that runs right through the range.

But I cannot help criticising the 2-litre single turbodiesel engine, which is very noisy at idle and needs to be stirred to give its best. In combination with a notchy six-speed manual gearbox, this can be tough. The engine would work much better with an automatic, which is how most will be sold in Australia, but I'm not a fan yet.

It's the same with the handling. The car has a smooth ride and is quiet for the class, but push it into a corner - even at speeds well below 1-Series pace - and it feels wonky, unresponsive and lacking grip. But I know BMW can do it because the X5 and X6 are class leaders.

So I'm stepping away from the X1 with questions and doubts. Perhaps more time and an automatic gearbox, or the punchier but costlier 23d TwinPower turbodiesel or the rear-drive petrol X1 in June, can win me over. Right now, though, it's not a car I will recommend.

SHE SAYS Alison Ward

When I saw the BMW X1 on display at the local shopping centre, I couldn't wait to drive it. I've owned Beemas in the past and love the brand, but this car lacks the Beemaliciousness I expect. It's a disappointing car and falls short, for me, in many ways. I feel this new model wasn't an upgrade or a new design - like seeing a comedy show twice, when you laugh the first time but the jokes run thin on the second viewing.

The exterior promises a sporty, fun and roomy car, but the engine rattles like Flo - the tractor of my childhood - and unlike the bigger X cars lacks agility and steering response. I really like the fuel saving stop-start system, which is a great feature and works really well. The interior is standard BMW stuff and a bit too plastic in some places. I also question the value.

Practically, the X1 is ok. It can fit a pram. It can fit (just) my giant baby bag, the dogs, the kid and my mum. But what the X1 cannot fit is my expectation for a car that promises so much - but then fails to deliver.

RATING: 75/100
THE BOTTOM LINE: Where did the love go in the X-car family?

BMW X1 2.0d

PRICE: $52,700 ($68,104 as tested)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder
POWER: 130kW at 4000 revs
TORQUE: 350Nm from 1750 revs
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
BODY: Five-door wagon
DIMENSIONS: Length 4454mm, width 1798mm, height 1545mm
WHEELBASE: 2760mm, tracks front/rear 1500mm/1529mm
WEIGHT: 1575kg
STEERING: Power-assisted rack and pinion power steering
SUSPENSION: Double-joint thrust bar axle front; independent multi-link rear
FUEL TANK: 61 litres
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 5.8l/100km combined
BRAKES: Anti-skid all-round discs
WHEELS: 17-inch alloys
TYRES: 225/50 R17
SPARE TYRE: Run-flat tyres
SAFETY: Airbags, stability, traction and hill descent control, anti-skid brakes, seatbelt pretensioners
CO2 EMISSIONS: 153g/km
FEATURES: Air-con/climate control, cruise control, alloy wheels, parking sensors, automatic wipers
MISSING: Leather seats, heated seats


Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI: 82/100 (from $36,690)
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI: 80/100 (from $60,500)
Volvo XC60 D5: 84/100 (from $58,950)
Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI: 77/100 (from $39,490)

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 11 comments

  • X1 is based on 3 series not 1 series as incorrectly stated.

    Ben Posted on 18 October 2010 10:47pm
  • Since I’m limited to 1200 characters, and I wanted to add more of my wisdom… I love the fact that it’s a great fast engine on a smaller SUV/SAV even on the 18d model. Add to that brilliantly low MPG and one can only wish for a cheaper equipment!

    Kresimir Kolumbic of Croatia Posted on 06 July 2010 2:41am
  • I’m close to buying X1 sDrive 18d. Pretty entry level but yes equipment adds about EUR 6,000 to the price. A good part of the whole value. It doesn’t even come with standard Automatic climate in Croatia. But oh well. I’ve test driven xDrive 18d and I loved it! I currently drive Volvo C30 1.8i and you can feel the extra power even on 18d and even on xDrive. So my sDrive will have even better accelaration. 9.6s is totally fine with me. Somebody said that it doesn’t have enough ground clearence. I’m not sure what you expect from this car. For my city driving, it’s perfect. Just enough so I can park the car almost anywhere I want and hence I don’t need to worry about scratching my bottom side of the car on sidewalks like I do in C30. To say this is the best car for wannabe beemers is also stretched because there is 1 series you can get more cheaply. I’ve seen also the interior of course since I’ve driven it, and it’s not really top class but you just need to put some stuff inside to make it look better. Engine noise is a bit obvious but I even liked that. My C30 has only 5 gears and when you’re cruising down high way it’s always screaming. Wind noise is also there but forgivable.

    Kresimir Kolumbic of Croatia Posted on 06 July 2010 2:37am
  • Test a non base model and get back to us.

    nonagon of USA Posted on 07 June 2010 11:19am
  • There is an old proverb, ‘don’t give coconuts to monkeys’... because they don’t know what it is and how to use it. This is my feeling about the above people who tested X1 unfortunately.

    renny thomas of crawley, united kingdom. Posted on 01 May 2010 11:55am
  • I am Subaru Outback owner… read this review with interest as I am looking for replacement that has Outback quality plus improved drive and more luxuries. This X1 doesn’t seem to fit the bill especially the engine noise, plasticly interior, ground clearance. Very disappointed indeed. The review PG and AW were spot on. You will have to be beamer die-hards or sales reps to disagree with them as I went to showroom and tried it myself.

    Raj of Sydney Fringe No Broadband Yet Posted on 01 May 2010 9:22am
  • At the end of the day the BMW 1 series and X1 are for people with limited funds wanting the BMW image. What they don?t know is they look like pretenders trying to give off a false sense of wealth when if they were truly wealthy they would have just bought an x5 in the first place.

    Cameron of Brisbane Posted on 27 April 2010 1:54pm
  • Both the X1 20d and X1 23d have 2.0 litres engines, with the 23d 20kW and 50Nm more powerful than the 20d.

    John Bu of Melbourne Posted on 23 April 2010 3:32pm
  • Having looked into a few BMW products lately I do have to agree with you that the materials and engineering do not seem that much better to command such a premium. However the X1 is based on the 3 Series and come with a pair of 2 litre diesels, the 23d is just a high spec twin turbo version.

    George Posted on 23 April 2010 10:04am
  • Why do you keep on saying 1 Series? The X1 isn’t based on the 1 Series but 3 Series wagon. Interior room too pretty much 3 Series where as 1 Series is a lot smaller. So no, this review is incorrect. It is not based on the 1 Series and it is not riding on a stretched 1 Series wheelbase either. Poor review guys!

    The X1 is based on the 1 Series story: customers who wanted a smaller BMW. That first translated into the passenger car body types, and now into an SUV body. But yes, it is based on the 3 Series platform solely because the 1 Series at the moment doesn’t have xDrive, which was crucial for the smaller SUV.

    Uglyx1 Posted on 23 April 2010 4:57am
  • Authors of this article may need to do some homework. I do like to read carshuide reviews, but in order to trust them, I would expect authors to be knowlgable about basic car facts.
    First, according to BMW, the X1 is based on 3-series, not 1 series. Secondly, both x20d and x23d have 2 litre engine, the later is twin-turbo which brings extra 20KW and 50 Nm. Next, the car does not intent to compete with Q5, but Q3 that’s not yet available, Tiguan maybe yes. And finally, I’m reading all reviews comparing X1 with x-overs with different aspirations (more off-road like x-trail, economy and lazyness as rav-4), or even bigger brothers such as Q5, X3, X5, but noone mentions comparison of other x-overs with sporty aspirations (CX7 for example)? side-by-side compare of X1 x20d manual (as tested above), tiguan diesel (dieler suggests manual over auto) and CX7 diesel (only comes as manual) would be a perfect story to compare direct competitors with “sporty SUV” aspirations?

    N.J. Posted on 22 April 2010 10:24pm
Read all 11 comments

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