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BMW X1 2012 review

The gearbox is good, either left on its own or encouraged with manual shifts.
EXPERT RATING
8

A minor tizzy and tweak is all the BMW X1 gets for another three years in Australia.

There is an eight-speed automatic to improve efficiency, as well as engine developments that bring more punch for less fuel across the board, but most of the work for the 2012 model of the smallest Xer is cosmetic. And minor.

Even so, there is one change _ and it's a big one _ since Carsguide first drove the X1 and complained about the driving enjoyment of the 3-Series based soft-roader. The rear suspension is softer and more compliant, something that happened unnoticed - at least in Australia - a year into the X1's life in response to customer complaints.

So the X1 feels a little better and drives a little better, but is it enough to unseat the Audi Q3 that's become our favourite in the class? We won't know for a while, but it won't be easy.

VALUE

We're not expecting any sort of price hike when the updated X1 arrives in October. The changes to the final finishing should not have added any cost and BMW is pushing hard to maintain the price line against tough opposition from Audi with the sweet new Q3, although Mercedes-Benz still does not have the GLK which would be the logical rival to the X1 - if only the company had bothered to build it with right-hand drive.

TECHNOLOGY

The upgrade from six to eight speeds in the automatic is the big change for the 2012 upgrade and it makes a significant difference, helped by a stop-start system and on-demand engine ancillaries, with BMW claiming improved power and torque from all the X1 engine choices but still with better economy and lower CO2 emissions.

On the engine front, we're expecting 20i and 20d four cylinder power plants at the expense of the current 18i. The powerful 23d goes - even though it was the engine for the preview drive in Munich - and it's likely there will be a 28i petrol motor with 180 kiloWatts, and perhaps an 18d.

The bottom line? The 20i petrol engine makes 135kW/270Nm, up from 110/200 in the outgoing 18i, and can be coupled to either a rear or all-wheel drive package. BMW says a rear-drive manual will sprint to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds and return 7.1 litres/100km.

The 20d is the economy headliner at 5.0L/100km for an auto all-wheel drive, with output up to 135kW/380Nm from 130/350. BMW says owners will be able to access Google, Twitter and Facebook in the car, although those connections are not confirmed for Australia.

DESIGN

You would need a keen eye - or a BMX expert with a laser pointer and a giant screen - to pick the changes for twenty-twelve. The X1's headlamps are new and get the signature 'corona' daylight rings, the nose and tail look a little more upmarket, and inside there is more chrome and high-gloss black paintwork to try and give a more upmarket look.

BMW says the new console is more driver focussed and there is more soft-feel plastic, while also touting new X and Sport Line packages of optional equipment. It's the same approach as the rest of the family, mostly just chrome-and-black accents, kick panels on the door sills and nicer steering wheels - but it's hard to know where the standard car finishes and the extra-cost stuff starts.

SAFETY

The X1 has a solid five-star safety rating and that should not change when the new model lands in Australia.

DRIVING

The tweaked X1 is better than expected, but not because of any of the latest changes. It's down to the smoother ride that came last year, when BMW engineers tweaked the rear suspension. It was a major job, much more than you would expect, because it meant thicker sheet metal in the rear wheel housings that had been lifted complete from the 3-Series Touring wagon.

Carsguide should have known, but even BMW Australia was not aware of the running change that smoothes the X1 from a rough rider into a compliant cruiser, at least on smooth German bitumen. We could be wrong for Australian roads, but probably not.

The 2012 update is highlighted in Munich with a long line of X1s, but all of them run the 25d engine that's not expected in Australia. So the drive is enjoyable, but mostly focussed on the eight-speed auto and testing that suspension change.

The gearbox is good, either left on its own or encouraged with manual shifts, and definitely helps keep things quiet and comfortable. The X1 definitely has good grip and brakes, it gets along well, and you cannot argue with the 300,000 people who have bought one since it was spun into the X-car range using bits and pieces mostly from the 3 Series bin.

But some of our earlier criticisms of the X1, including the inadequate boot space and tight rear seats, remain. And, after a recent run in the impressive and roomier Q3 we cannot see - at least for now - the X1 trumping its Audi rival. And don't forget there is also the ripper new Range Rover Evoque for people who want maximum SUV style and are prepared to compromise on cabin space.

VERDICT

Not much to see, but enough to feel to justify a second look at the X1.

Pricing guides

$16,990
Based on 39 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,990
Highest Price
$21,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
sDrive 18d 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $14,630 – 19,250 2012 BMW X1 2012 sDrive 18d Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18d Sportline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $17,990 – 21,990 2012 BMW X1 2012 sDrive 18d Sportline Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18d xLine 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $14,080 – 18,480 2012 BMW X1 2012 sDrive 18d xLine Pricing and Specs
sDrive 18i 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $14,888 – 18,488 2012 BMW X1 2012 sDrive 18i Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8