German automobile giant BMW is prone to remind us that the X1, when introduced, did not have a spot in the market, so the company created one, the premium compact sports activity vehicle segment.
Now, despite dominating the class since, the X1 has been given a mid-life makeover adding even more appeal to the already successful crossover.
The range of engines has been extended with the addition of three new variants – two petrol, one diesel – joining the already familiar X1 xDrive20d diesel. Standard fitment is a six-speed manual gearbox, while BMW’s Steptronic eight-speed automatic transmission is an option.
The xDrive 20d test vehicle was powered by the carryover 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine – the same unit as in the entry-level diesel, the xDrive 18d -- with added oomph giving it a power output of 135kW and peak torque of 380Nm, producing acceleration from rest to 100km/h in a nippy 8.1 seconds.
The xDrive of the X1 title refers to an all-wheel drive system that electronically controls torque distribution between front and rear axle – 40:60 under normal driving conditions – depending on which has the better traction. It’s one of those discreet systems that prevents the driver from getting into too much trouble under difficult going.
BMW ConnectedDrive adds cruise control with braking function, plus rear park distance control as standard, the latter a great help in warning of low-set obstructions not visible from the command driving position.
ConnectedDrive can also add optional adaptive navigation, professional and business systems, internet functionality, music interface for smartphones, high end Harman Kardon sound system, Bi-xenon headlights and a rearview camera.
On the outside, the new X1’s already distinctive look has been beefed up with paint jobs to the front and rear bumpers, while side indicator lights are now integrated into the exterior mirrors reducing the chance of them being inadvertently left operating, confusing other road users.
An upgrade in headlamps has resulted in a facelift to the X1, which can be given additional shine with optional Xenon lights incorporating white LED corona rings and a white LED arch.
There’s more to the passenger cabin too, with better material on the centre console, new centre panel trim surrounds and chrome trim. An on-board computer is linked to a premium sound system with USB audio interface with Bluetooth hands-free facility.
From the driver’s angle, the X1 presents vehicle system information in a clear and concise manner, controls come to hand readily, and there were no complaints from other occupants during the test.
The BMW X1 xDrive 20d with a six-speed manual sells for $54,900, plus on road costs. Our test car also had automatic transmission ($3500), performance control ($400), panoramic glass roof ($3000), metallic paint ($1700), Navigation Package Business $2900) and performance control ($400).
The car also wore all the accoutrements of an xLine package, which adds a further $3200. This included Y-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, aluminium roof rails, ambient lighting, BMW xLine door sill finishes, velour floor mats, sport leather steering wheel, Nevada leather upholstery with contrast piping and highlight stripe on the seat backrests and ‘X’ stamping on headrests. It all adds up very quickly if you find it difficult to resist temptation.
Don’t expect this X1 to roar off from a standing start. The turbo takes time to cotton on to what is required of it but once up to speed, the car bowls along willingly until the need to pull up, something that hit home hard in the test car.
Travelling at pace in a line of heavy traffic, the vehicle in front dramatically stopped. Foot hard on the brake pedal, the ABS at full weight and the X1 stopped too. No harm done. Throughout the whole manoeuvre the SUV kept its line, thanks to the optimally tuned suspension and related rubber.
The latest BMW X1 diesel turned out to be safe and steady; more activity than sport.
With further BMW EfficientDynamics technology thrown in, fuel economy benefits from brake energy regeneration, Eco Pro mode and the optimum shift indicator for manual models.
The maker puts X1 xDrive 20d manual combined fuel consumption figures at 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres and carbon dioxide emissions of 145 grams per kilometre. The eight-speed automatic drops them to 5.4 litres and 143 grams respectively.
On several days town driving we averaged 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres. On the open road this dropped to 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres, not the figures published by BMW, but the company is hardly alone in this regard.
The icing on the fuel consumption cake was the auto engine stop-start function. Research has shown that in the average daily urban commute, this technology can result in fuel savings of up to 30 per cent.
A tip for those who haven’t experienced a stop-start system: on moving off, be patient and allow the motor to start up before tramping on the accelerator pedal, otherwise the car can lurch severely as if driven by a learner.
The smallest SUV in the BMW collection makes an excellent small-medium station wagon, being not only practical but also providing excellent on-road dynamics, not to mention that little thing called prestige.
X1 sDrive18d 2.0-litre diesel five-door wagon: $44,900 (manual), $48,400 (automatic)
X1 sDrive20i 2.0-litre petrol five-door wagon: $46,900(manual), $50,400 (automatic)
X1 xDrive20d 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $54,900 (manual), $58,400 (automatic)
X1 xDrive28i 2.0-litre petrol five-door wagon: $58,200 (manual), $61,700 (automatic)
BMW X1 xDrive 20d
PRICE: From $57,593
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel, 135kW/380Nm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed sports-auto, FWD
THIRST: 5.4L/100km, 143g/km CO2