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It has been a big 12 months for the BMW X1. Since its Australian launch in October 2015, the most diminutive BMW SUV has found over 3000 buyers and achieved a first-in-class sales result for the first time.
Now supported by some sales incentives, we take a look at the top selling variant, the range-topping 2016 BMW X1 xDrive25i.
The BMW is taller (1598mm) than both the Audi and Mercedes (by 8mm and 104mm respectively), but thinner (by 10mm) than the Q3. It is these differences, however minor, that give the X1 a ‘mini X3’ stance which obviously broadens the appeal.
The design itself is smart and modern, moving away from any ‘risky’ approaches that BMW may have made in the past. We love the X1 in white too, as it balances well with the dark-plastic cladding and smart-looking, 19-inch wheels.
That size translates well to interior space, and the X1 is a much more usable ‘family’ SUV than the other pint-sized Germans.
Behind the powered tailgate is a 505-litre boot, up a whopping 84 litres on the Merc, which expands by remote-release 40:20:40 folding seats to a 1550-litre cargo capacity. That makes it almost 200 litres larger than the Q3 and again bigger than the Evoque by 105 litres.
The boot itself has a couple of cargo cubbies, tie points, under floor storage and a 12-volt socket as well. No spare tyre though; the standard 19-inch wheels have run-flats.
Clever space extends to the rear seat too, which can slide-adjust on 60:40 split rails and the seats have the ability to recline to help with comfort on longer journeys.
For adults there is great head and knee room, but the narrow body makes sitting three-up a bit of a challenge. Two plus the armrest is a much more comfortable alternative. The centre seat belt is one of those ‘roof mounted’ fiddly ones anyway.
You get map nets, reading lights, air vents, a 12-volt outlet, door bins and cupholders in the armrest for comfort.
For the driver and front passenger, powered and heated seats are standard on the 25i, as is the professional navigation system on the 8.8-inch screen. There’s a standard rear-view camera and front and rear ultrasonic beepers, but no 360-degree view option available on the X1.
It’s comfy too, with the upgraded ‘Dakota’ leather a standard item, as is powered lumbar support.
The goodies continue on the tech side, as keyless entry (comfort access), DAB radio and head-up display are all included as standard equipment on the 25i. It’s easy to see why this is the best-selling variant – some 50 per cent of all X1 sales are of this car!
This is what we like to see, and is an approach taken by Mercedes-Benz, where all the premium-feeling features are included as standard equipment, making option selection more of a personalisation process than a ‘give me the car I should get’ one.
It’s just a pity you have to go for this range-topping model to get that though.
On the move, the 170kW/350Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission make it clearly the most enjoyable X1 variant too.
The X1 is based on the front-drive platform that is shared with the 2-Series Active Tourer and Mini Countryman, and all xDrive models feature all-wheel drive. The system runs a front-wheel bias and will engage the rears via an electronically controlled clutch in the rear differential when the car detects lower traction.
For around-town duties though, it’s going to be front-drive most of the time, and you can’t really tell.
Power away, with peak torque available from just 1250rpm, and there will be the slightest hint of slip before the rear wheels help manage the situation and keep you moving along.
It’s punchy and quite fun with typically excellent BMW turn in and handling feel. It is certainly the most driver-oriented X1 in the range.
BMW claims a combined cycle of 6.6L/100km but we saw closer to 10L/100km over a week of mixed use. Like all these fuel claims, so much of it depends on your driving style so if you are intending to ‘enjoy’ the zippy nature of the 25i, pretty much double what BMW claims.
The eight-speed Aisin gearbox swaps the familiar BMW ‘wand’ for a traditional (and dull) looking gear shift, but it works well enough, and the X1 25i includes steering wheel-mounted paddles should you want to up-the-dynamism of your drive while on the hop.
We were quite critical of the ride of the X1 when we first drove it, arguing that Dynamic Damper control is only a $690 option and should be made standard.
While the harsher elements of the ride are amplified over sharp, man-made edges and on larger potholes on touring roads, it isn’t something you notice at slower street speeds. But, it seems BMW has paid some attention and has made the $2200 optional M-Sport package a no-cost option through its ‘Festival of M’ promotion.
M-Sport adds in new 19-inch wheel styling, shadow-line trim, dark headliner, sport seats and steering wheel as well as specific body styling. You get the Dynamic Damper Control too.
Each part of the M-Sport package is available as a configurable component on build-to-order cars, so if you don’t mind the wait, we’re sure you can get this suspension control thrown in for no extra charge.
It doesn’t dramatically change the car, but in COMFORT setting just softens those sharp edges and provides a more rounded and comfortable drive that is befitting of the BMW badge. Not every buyer needs this, and if you aren’t a fan of the way the M-Sport treatment looks (I prefer the car without it) then we’d suggest test driving both versions back to back to see if the ride changes make any difference to you.
As a premium, compact SUV then, the 2016 BMW X1 xDrive25i is deserving of its sales-winning position. This is the model to get, with all the bundled equipment and superior driving enjoyment, it’s a solid BMW experience.
The real competition then comes from the larger BMW X3 which is now about 18-months away from a new-model update, and with dealers keen to clear current stock, could make a more compelling argument, offering more luxury, more tech and more space for essentially the same money.
For me though, the X1 is just right and as it happens, might soon be the next vehicle to fill the Ward-family garage. Stay tuned…
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.