Five years in the making, the second-generation BMW X1 looks like a proper sports utility vehicle, and a handsome one at that. With design elements of its bigger siblings, the X3 and X5, it returns a drag coefficient of only 0.29 (depending on the model variant). The original X1, launched in 2009, looks disproportionate, somewhat like a jacked-up station wagon when viewed from the stern.
The first X1 found over 730,000 buyers worldwide. Don’t bet against that number being beaten by the second X1, as it has more of everything – more room, more powerful and efficient drivetrains, more interior practicality, and a more commanding driving position made possible by the 53mm-taller roofline.
The X1’s new engines are transversely mounted and therefore intrude less into the cabin than the earlier model’s, which are longitudinally laid out. The result is a 37mm increase in rear knee room with standard seats and up to 66mm more
with the optional adjustable rear seats, which can slide forward or back by up to 130mm. If even more room is needed, you can tick the box for a folding front passenger seat backrest.
The boot capacity is a voluminous 505 litres, which is 85 more than its predecessor’s, and the 40:20:40 folding backseats free up to 1550 litres of cargo space when flattened – maybe to swallow Grandma’s cupboard (or maybe not). This is 200 litres more boot space than the first X1, and about 225 more than the Audi Q3 trunk.
The cockpit is futuristic compared with the dated original model. Not surprising, a head-up display is now an option, in case the pilot finds the driver-angled instrument panel still a bit old-school. The 6.5-inch iDrive display appears to have slid up from the dashboard like in the 3 Series – very space-age.
The Driving Experience Control switch on the centre console allows the driver to dictate the driving experience – Comfort, Sport or Eco Pro, with each repackaging the responses of the accelerator pedal, steering and gearshift characteristics of the 8-speed automatic transmission.
The damper settings are also adjustable, with either of two pre-set calibrations if the Dynamic Damper Control option has been specified (and paid for). This is available for the first time in the X1 series.
The X1’s choice of two petrol and two diesel engines come from BMW’s current line of modular powerplants with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. All four motors are of 2-litre capacity and accompanied by two 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engines – a 136bhp petrol unit and a 116bhp diesel unit.
Our test car is the X1 xDrive25i, developing a highly respectable 231bhp and an even more worthy 350Nm of torque from 1998cc. The figures mean it is fast enough (zero to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds) to keep up with many a performance saloon, and it’s aided by the revised 8-speed Steptronic transmission.
The 4-pot, though not as smooth as the 6-pot in the newly introduced 340i, does not fall far short in the creamy feel of its combustion action.
Aluminium crankcase and cylinder heads, forged steel crankshafts with an integrated balancer shaft drive, low-weight pistons, forged connecting rods, friction-reduced cylinder coatings and map-controlled oil pumps all collaborate to achieve that.
It is easy for me to forget that the baby X is an SUV, as its body roll is well under control. The driving experience is unmistakably BMW, thanks to the X1’s low centre of gravity and chassis tuned for an almost perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
It is all the more amazing since the new X1 operates primarily as a front-drive car, with its intelligent xDrive system distributing power to the rear axle if necessary. For normal driving on undemanding surfaces, only the front wheels are powered. But when the situation calls for it, the system redistributes some power to the rear. In extreme cases, up to 100 percent of power goes there.
For people who don’t need an X3 (or don’t want to stretch their budget for that), the new X1 will do the job because of its rugged good looks, all-round driveability, all-purpose practicality, strong performance and impressive efficiency.
BMW X1 xDrive25i 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 231bhp at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 350Nm at 1250-4500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 150bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 6.5 seconds
TOP SPEED 235km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.6km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 149g/km
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced