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BMW X1 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the BMW X1 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Calvin Luk has finally put the boot into BMW's SUV starter car.

That's good news on the second-generation X1, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Luk is an Australian and he led the exterior design team that's done a smooth and effective job on the new X1.

Secondly, the original X1 was awfully short of carrying capacity, as anyone who tried to load a pram into the tail for family duties - that's me - quickly discovered.

Now the boot is bigger and the car is better after the first total overhaul of the X1.

Part of the update is a switch from a 3-Series base car to a program twinned with the 2 Series Active Tourer, which means a front-drive layout - with on-demand grip for the xDrive models - and a fresh approach to the problem of creating a family-friendly rival to the Audi Q3 and a run of others.

The result is a car that's taller and shorter than before, with seats set higher, more legroom in the rear, and a boot that's 85 litres - call it 20 per cent - bigger than before with the biggest opening in the class.

The bad news is a price that's up to at least $49,500 and tops at $59,900 without options, although BMW is predictably keen to talk about extra value including - at last - a standard rear-view camera across the X1 and other Gen-Y stuff from massive app-ability to LED headlamps, automatic tailgate, parking aids and a full suite of safety assistance systems.

"There is more X-ness. We're expecting more under-40s," says Brendan Michel, product manager at BMW Australia for X cars.

On the mechanical front, there is a new lineup of two-litre four-cylinder turbo engines for both petrol and diesel power combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The all-wheel drive cars are here first, with the xDrive 20d making 140kW/400Nm and the xDrive20i with 170kW/350Nm. The front-drive sDrive 20i with 141kW/350Nm and sDrive 18d with 110kW/330Nm will be in showrooms before the end of the year.

"We're now a front-wheel drive platform for the X1. All-wheel drive models use a rear axle with a hydraulic clutch that gives 50:50 torque distribution on demand," says Michel.

Among the good stuff that arrives on the walk up through the range is a heads-up instrument display, natural leather, dynamic damper control, a larger 8.8-inch multimedia screen - 6.5 is standard - and a giant sunroof.

It has the potential to become the best selling X car

On the price side, value is up by a claimed $8000 in the best case and is helped by engines that deliver up to 17 per cent better fuel economy. The focus is on the xDrive cars - all-wheel drive to you and me - and that's also why they are in Australia first.

"We had to decide whether to get rid of them or make something out of them," says BMW's marketing boss, Sean Ticehurst.

The X1 is a big deal for SUV shoppers and also for BMW Australia, as it has the potential to become the best selling X car in an SUV family that will soon account for more than half of all Australian sales for the upscale German brand.

On the road

There are only two things I don't like about the new X1 - too much tyre noise on country roads and suspension that is a bit brittle in both xDrive cars and cannot cope properly with big bumps in the diesel model. Part of the suspension's shortcoming is some kick-back through the steering.

But the X1 is more likely to be a city-and-suburbs car, and will work well for young families and also people who have weekend hobbies that demand carrying capacity. That means the quieter cabin and a nicer view and more equipment is likely to be more important.

The original X1 had a body that was set back on the chassis with a truncated tail, but now there is a lot more space in the cabin and a huge increase in boot space. You can see it and feel it from the get-go.

The cabin feels more airy, I'm more comfortable with the extra legroom in the rear, and the boot - with buttons to drop the back seats and a 40:20:40 split-fold system - is a revelation. The pram is gone from our house, but the BMX bike will be an easy fit.

The car is relaxed and relaxing

Both engines are responsive and well matched to their eight-speed autos, with paddles for shifting in the petrol car, and it's easy to get away swiftly or flow smoothly along winding country roads. There is good torque for overtaking and the diesel can tow up to two tonnes.

The computer readouts don't match economy claims as low as 4.9L/100km on the diesel, but 7.1 is probably alright for the sort of roads and driving in the northern corner of NSW. The sDrive cars will also do better, although the xDrive means a two-tonne towing capacity and a 0-100km/h time as good as 6.5 seconds.

Best for me is that the car is relaxed and relaxing. It's not as sporty as the original X1, but that's no great loss and I'm sure owners will be happy enough with what they get.

I'm getting a slightly skewed view of the X1, because I'm only in xDrive cars that start from $56,500 and also have extra equipment that lift the showroom stickers, but I'm liking what I'm seeing and feeling.

Verdict

It's impossible to really rate the new X1 without tasting the sDrive base models, and we're also waiting for an ANCAP safety score, but the basics are good and Calvin Luk from Sydney has done a top job for the BMW world. For me, considering the likely buyers and the extra value, it's a four-star car.

What's new?

Price - Base price is up to $49,500 but value matches or betters the rises across all four models

Equipment - Rear camera finally standard, lots of tech tweaks, a full suite of safety but no ANCAP number yet

Performance - Four-cylinder turbos with both unleaded and diesel are smooth and responsive, eight-speed auto is good. As usual, outputs are up and economy is better.

Driving - Switching to front-wheel drive, with on-demand all-paw grip in xDrive models, brings space advantages but ride is a bit firm and there is too much tyre noise

Design - All-new body, styled by Aussie Calvin Luk is bigger in most directions and does not look like a 3 Series with an SUV body dropped on top

Pricing guides

$47,888
Based on 267 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,990
Highest Price
$87,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
X6 M 4.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $58,700 – 74,250 2015 BMW X Models 2015 X6 M Pricing and Specs
X6 M50D 2.9L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $55,900 – 70,620 2015 BMW X Models 2015 X6 M50D Pricing and Specs
X1 Sdrive 18D 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $22,900 – 31,130 2015 BMW X Models 2015 X1 Sdrive 18D Pricing and Specs
X1 Sdrive 18D Sportline 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $17,400 – 24,200 2015 BMW X Models 2015 X1 Sdrive 18D Sportline Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$25,990

Lowest price, based on 239 car listings in the last 6 months

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