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BMW X1 2015 review: snapshot

John Carey road tests and reviews the BMW X1 at its international launch.

In pretty much every way that counts, the all-new X1 is a better small SUV than the current model.

Paradoxically, this proves BMW is a bunch of boofheads. For decades the Bavarians banged on about how only rear-wheel-drive could deliver a truly premium feel behind the wheel. The new X1, which will be built with both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, says otherwise.

The new X1 is better looking, roomier, more efficient and practical, and comes with more advanced driver-assist tech than the rear-drive based model it will replace in October. And, despite sharing much of its innards with the latest generation of Mini models — BMW owns the Brit brand — the X1 is not at all bad to drive.

BMW uses its new-generation modular turbo engines in all X1 models. While 1.5-litre three-cylinder versions are to be sold in some markets, only 2.0-litre fours will be exported to Australia.

Although the engines are new, changes to the names will be minimal. The front-drive sDrive 18d (110kW turbo diesel) and sDrive 20i (141kW turbo petrol) badges remain, as does the all-wheel drive xDrive 20d (140kW turbo diesel). But the xDrive 28i will be replaced by the 25i (170kW turbo petrol). All engines are to be offered only with an eight-speed auto.

It was the xDrive 25i that CarsGuide drove at the international introduction in Germany and Austria. Although Australians prefer to buy the current X1 in sDrive form, BMW didn't include any front-drivers in the drive program.

The BMW feels roomier than rivals such as the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA

The new X1 is taller, and BMW's designers have used the extra height to raise the front and rear seats. It feels more SUV-like, but sitting taller doesn't mean less head room. In fact, the spaciousness of the BMW is outstanding. The rear seat is especially impressive with the fore-and-aft slider option added. Pushed back, there's huge leg room and head room. But even the standard seat brings a noticeable increase in space for knees.

BMW has also increased the volume of the cargo compartment by 85 litres, to just over 500 litres. The BMW feels roomier than rivals such as the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Performance of the xDrive 25i engine is strong, even though power is down 10kW compared with the 28i that's its equivalent in the current X1 line-up. While the turbo 2.0-litre grumbles a little at lower revs, it makes a nice rasp when revved.

Handling is neat and tidy, aided by pleasantly precise electric-assist steering.

All test cars at the launch were equipped with optional Dynamic Damper Control. The switchable shock absorbers were cushy when set to Comfort.

Sport brought an improvement in cornering, without too much negative effect on ride quality.

Like most things about the X1, its suspension is nicely judged.


BMW Australia is yet to decide prices for the new X1 range. There will be little change, BMW promises.

Beemer's on the front foot 

BMW's late embrace of front-wheel drive is a matter of money.

The X1 uses the same set of basic technology — floorplans, engines, transmissions, and more — as the latest generation of Mini models.

As owner of the British brand, BMW saw cost savings in using the same building blocks for Mini and its own small cars.

The first Mini popularised front-drive back in the Swinging '60s, and BMW didn't dare stray from the formula when its bigger, all-new Mini went into production in 2001.

But only with the latest, third-generation versions of the new-age Mini family, which began appearing last year, did BMW decide it should use the same technology for its own cars.

The new X1 is the second BMW to go Mini-me, after the 2 Series Active Tourer.

More will follow, including the replacement for the current 1 Series.

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