BMW X1 2020 review: xDrive 25i
Is the X1 more than just a small SUV for the sake of BMW having one it its line-up? Can it really own a slice of a manufacturer once hell-bent on its dedication to "the ultimate driving machine"?
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When the iPhone first appeared just over a decade ago, I can remember thinking a phone without buttons would be a giant pain in the neck. Until I used one, and now the idea of a keypad phone sounds akin to starting a car with a crank handle.
The new 1 Series is likely to offer most buyers a similar revelation, with its move from the BMW-traditional rear-drive layout to more conventional front and all-wheel drive. That is assuming you gave a damn in the first place, as I suspect it’s only hardcore BMW traditionalists that care about a rear-drive premium hatchback in 2020.
And that’s not who is buying the 1 Series, with the Bavarian brand’s cheapest model intended to appeal to younger buyers who are more likely to care about connectivity, practicality and personalisation options than the excitement of losing grip from the rear. It certainly hasn’t stopped plenty of people from buying 1 Series-rivalling A-Class and A3s from Mercedes-Benz and Audi over the years.
|BMW 1 Series 2020: 118i M-Sport|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Yes, that kidney grille is rather large. If you want everyone to know you drive a BMW, you’ll love it. If not, get used to it. The X7, recent 7 Series update and upcoming 4 Series suggest they’re only going to get bigger.
Nose aside, the 1 Series hatch has always had a distinctive, long-bonnet profile, which has generally been attributed to the rear-drive layout. Despite the move to a transverse engine, the new one is actually very close in proportions when compared side by side.
It’s just 5mm shorter in overall length and 13mm taller, with body width being the most notable change at 34mm wider.
The key difference is that the front and rear wheels have been moved further back into the body, because of said engine layout change, and to make more back seat space in the rear.
Surprisingly for a model aimed at a younger demographic, the new 1 Series interior design isn’t quite the same step forward as the recent G20 3 Series.
However its headline act is the Live Cockpit driver display on both models, which gives you fully digital instrumentation and replaces traditional analogue gauges once and for all.
With my modest 172 cm height, I never had any trouble with the old model, but the new 1 Series is a bit more more spacious by all the important measures.
The back seat base and backrest are a bit flat though, which is probably to help the backrest fold almost flat, but probably not very supportive during hard cornering.
There's also no centre armrest in the back or cup holders, but you do get bottle holders in the doors.
You also get two ISOFIX child seat mounts and there’s two USB-C charge points in the back of the centre console, but there's no directional air vents unless you opt for the dual-zone climate control that comes standard with the M135i.
The boot has grown by 20-litres to a pretty impressive 380 litres VDA which includes a very useful cavity under the floor instead of a spare tyre. An inflation kit is there for those duties. With the back seat folded flat, boot space expands to 1200 litres VDA.
For the F40 generation, the 1 Series range has been cut back to two variants from launch, with the 118i for volume sales and the M135i xDrive hot hatch taking aim at the new Mercedes A35 and the Audi S3.
Both versions were priced $4000 higher than the equivalent models they replaced from launch, but have recently jumped a further $3000 and $4000 respectively. This puts the now-$45,990 118i beyond the starting prices for the equivalent Audi and Mercedes, and the $68,990 M135i xDrive is now nudging the A35’s list price.
The launch prices were largely offset by extra equipment over the previous generation, but the more recent hikes have taken the shine of this somewhat.
Thankfully, both 1 Series models now come standard with wireless Apple CarPlay. The previous ‘one year free, the rest you need to subscribe for’ plan has been scrapped since we shot the launch video below in favour of free CarPlay for life. There’s still no Android Auto, but this is due to change in July.
The 118i packs more standard equipment than before in general, including the M Sport styling pack, head up display, wireless phone charger and adjustable ambient lighting.
The M135i adds bigger brakes, a rear spoiler and 19-inch wheels, plus sport seats with leather trim, and Harman/Kardon audio among a few other things.
You can get even more from the M135i with the $1900 M Performance Package, which drops the 0-100km/h claim by one tenth to 4.7s thanks to enabling engine overboost and lighter forged 18-inch alloys, which is signified by gloss black grille surrounds, intake elements in the front bumper, mirror caps and exhaust tips.
Other options include the $2900 Enhancement Package, which brings metallic paint and a panoramic glass roof. On the 118i, it also brings 19-inch black alloys. On the M135i, it also brings active cruise control with stop and go function. This package costs an extra $500 if Storm Bay metallic is chosen.
The Comfort Package costs $2300 with the 118i and $923 with the M135i, and brings front seat heaters and lumbar adjustment for both front seats. On the 118i, it also brings proximity keys and electric front seat adjustment. On the M135i, it also brings a heated steering wheel.
The Convenience Package costs $1200 with either variant, and adds a powered hatch, modular storage system and cargo net and a ski port for the back seat.
The 118i can also be optioned with the $1000 Driver Assistance Package, which adds active cruise control (plus 0-60km/h AEB), adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams and a tyre pressure monitor.
Beyond the 118i’s standard M Sport pack, it can also be augmented with the $2100 M Sport Plus Package. This brings sports front seats, a rear spoiler, M-coloured seat belts, a sports steering wheel and upgraded M Sport brakes.
Both cars use versions of the three and four cylinder petrol engines from before, with the popularity of automatics leaving the previous manual option consigned to history. The 118i’s 1.5-litre turbo three cylinder now produces 103kW/220Nm, with max torque available all the way from 1480-4200rpm. The 118i now uses the seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, as seen on Mini models that use the same engine.
The M135i’s 2.0-litre turbo has been tweaked to take the place of the six-cylinder M140i from the last model and now produces 225kW/450Nm, with max torque available all the way from 1750-4500rpm. Its auto remains a torque converter though, but now the transverse-mounted unit also shared with Mini models with the same engine and splitting drive to all four wheels via the xDrive system for the first time. The drive split is constantly variable, but the rear bias tops out at 50 per cent and the only limited slip diff is an electric unit on the front axle.
Official combined fuel consumption is a decent 5.9L/100km with the 118i, but the M135i steps up to 7.5L/100km) 2.0 litre four in the m135i. Both engines require premium unleaded.
Fuel tank sizes vary across the two models also, with the 118i measuring 42 litres and the M135i managing 50 litres, despite its need to package rear drive components somewhere under there also.
This results in a decent theoretical range between fills of 711km for the 118i and 666km for the M135i.
The new 1 Series comes with most of the important safety gear, but like the X1 and X2 SUVs and 2 Series Active Tourer that the new 1 Series shares its platform with, you still can’t get proper auto emergency braking unless you opt for active cruise control.
Both versions do offer partial automatic braking, which confusingly was enough to earn the new 1 Series a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating according to 2019 standards, but we feel this is not good enough and is worth considering before you put your money down.
Aside from the options packages mentioned above, active cruise control with AEB (up to 60km/h) can be added to either version for $850, but when it’s been a standard item on something as cheap as a Mazda2 since 2017, it’s not a good look.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
BMW is yet to step up to the five year warranty offered by most mainstream brands and now Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, continuing with the three year/unlimited coverage matched by Audi.
As always, BMW describes the service intervals as condition based, and the car will alert the driver when a service is due. This will occur at least every 12 months though, but individual intervals will vary based on how the car is driven.
This can all be bundled into five year/80,000km service packs though, with the Basic pack costing $1465, but the Plus pack adds brake pad and disc replacement to regular fluids and consumables for $3790. Assuming 12 month intervals, these prices are about average for a premium branded product.
For a brand with a marketing slogan of pure driving pleasure, this is the important part, particularly given the new 1 Series has lost its rear wheel drive USP.
Why do some of us love rear wheel drive? It tends to be more fun when you're driving on the limit, and generally makes for nicer steering because you're only using the front wheels to turn corners.
So how does the new 1 Series drive? That depends on which version.
The 118i is quite a nice package really. It rides a bit more gently than what I remember in the A-Class and generally feels more like a premium product. It also feels a step ahead of the 2 Series Active Tourer it shares its underpinnings with, which is a good thing.
The three-cylinder engine is quite smooth for a fundamentally unbalanced triple, and it makes enough power to get you out of trouble.
Do you miss rear wheel drive? Not really, as you can only tell the difference when you're going real fast, which let's face it, is not somewhere 118i drivers are likely to go very often.
The M135i is a vastly different beast, as you'd expect. Aside from being real quick, it's that much tighter everywhere, but still definitely on the more comfortable side than what we expect the future full house M version to be.
The continuously variable xDrive all-wheel drive system does a great job of putting its power down, but the rear bias maxes out at 50 per cent, which is probably spot on for chasing lap times, but means you miss out on the tailiness of the old one altogether.
So it’s not as classically fun as the old M140i, but it’s easily faster, and that's what will probably matter most to most buyers.
To answer the question of whether it matters that the new 1 Series is no longer rear-wheel drive, I say no it doesn’t. It may not be as romantic on the absolute limit, but it is better in every measurable way, and still feels distinctly BMW despite moving to the conventional layout of its rivals.
Be sure to check out Mal’s video review from the 1 Series launch last December:
|118i M-Sport||1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO||$35,600 – 46,090||2020 BMW 1 Series 2020 118i M-Sport Pricing and Specs|
|M135i Xdrive||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$51,700 – 65,340||2020 BMW 1 Series 2020 M135i Xdrive Pricing and Specs|
|118i M Sport||1.5L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO||$35,700 – 46,200||2020 BMW 1 Series 2020 118i M Sport Pricing and Specs|
|M135i Xdrive Pure||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$51,800 – 65,450||2020 BMW 1 Series 2020 M135i Xdrive Pure Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||6|
|Engine & trans||8|