BMW X1 Review - BMW's new Compact SUV
For the very first time you can find yourself in a German luxury SUV for under $50,000. Meet the BMW X1. Germany's first compact Sport Activity Vehicle and the world's first luxury compact SUV.
BMW Australia has gone through a massive period of change in the last decade with one in every three BMWs sold here being an X Series (X6/X5/X3). The latest addition to the range, the BMW X1, arrived in Australia a few weeks ago and will go on sale on the 10th of April.
To celebrate the arrival of the new compact SUV, BMW brought CarAdvice along to drive from Melbourne out to Milawa to experience a variety of roads and driving conditions in the X1.
Before digging into the driving aspect and features of the new X1 it's worth noting why the model actually exists.
BMW Australia managed to gain around 85 per cent conquest rate with the BMW 1 Series Coupe and Convertible. That means 85 per cent of 1 Series buyers were new to BMW and more than half of them were new to the premium class altogether.
The BMW X1 plans to do the same as the 1 Series but capture buyers looking at compact SUVs instead. BMW believes the X1 will have a 60+ per cent conquest rate and the company will bring two variants here to start with; the BMW X1 xDrive20d and X1 xDrive23d.
Later in June the X1 sDrive18i, X1 sDrive20d and X1 xDrive25i will join the lineup. All models that carry the xDrive badge are all-wheel drive while the sDrive badge signifies rear-wheel drive.
The three diesel variants use the same 2.0-litre engine with a different engine configuration for the xDrive23d which makes use of a twin-turbo setup. The two petrol variants are powered by either a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (sDrive18i) or 3.0-litre six-cylinder (xDrive25i). The range starts at $43,500 and goes all the way to $59,280.
The idea behind the BMW X1 is simple: create a luxury compact SUV for an affordable price. The X1 has no direct competitors until the Audi Q3 arrives in 2011 so for now it's pitched against the Volkswagen Tiguan and to a lesser extent the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Mercedes Benz B-Class.
Will the X1 work? Of course. BMW are the pioneers of starting new premium segments. 1999 saw the introduction of the BMW X5 followed by the BMW X3 in 2004 and X6 in 2008. All three models have gone on to become successful in their own right.
You'd expect any premium model which starts at $43,500 to be lacking in looks, style and standard features. No so. From the outside the X1 is arguably one of the better looking models in the entire BMW range. It's instantly recognisable as a German prestige vehicle thanks to its 1 Series inspired front design with an upright double kidney grille.
The X1 is built in Leipzig (Germany) and demand for the vehicle has been above expectations in Europe. So much so that the launch of the model has been delayed in the U.S.A due to high demand elsewhere.
Getting back to the car itself, our drive program took us from Melbourne to Mansfield and onto Milawa through twisty mountain sections (C521 - for those interested) and a series of narrow dirt and gravel roads. A total of around 650km.
The very first point of difference between the X1 and all its current competition is its dynamic driving feel. Like every BMW built in recent times the company believes its buyers are looking for something with soul and character and X1 owners (expected to be around the 30-55 age group) will be no different.
Just like the BMW 320d Touring recently reviewed, the X1 instils a very stable, solid and confident driving feel. The route from Melbourne to Mansfield meant a drive through parts of rural Victoria where the mountain roads literally came inches away from massive falls.
To most that would sound like a daunting drive but there couldn't have been a better section of road to gain trust in the X1's abilities.
Approach a corner at full speed, jump on the brakes late, turn in hard and you'll be amazed as to how well this car actually handles when really driven. As usual the BMW heavy steering feel is much appreciated. You can keep your foot flat on the accelerator in and out of sweeping corners without any problems thanks to the Performance Control system borrowed from the BMW X6.
The Performance Control mechanism ($400 option on all xDrive models) not only allows for precise individual wheel braking but instead of just cutting power and speed it pushes power to other wheels to help you keep going. For example when the front wheels begin to “push” out of a bend excessively, the inside rear wheel is automatically slowed down by a computer and any loss of drive power is compensated with increase in the flow of power going to the outside rear wheel and the front wheels.
In standard mode the computer will cut in pretty quickly but in performance mode it will allow you to have more fun before stepping in when really needed. If you turn all the nanny systems off it will actually completely turn off and not hide in some subroutine in the background. No other premium manufacturer allows their owners to turn stability and traction control completely off. Big praise to BMW here.
On dirt or gravel surfaces the X1 behaves similarly to a well setup all-wheel drive hot hatch. Subaru Forester owners who have for long stuck with the Japanese brand for its excellent all-wheel drive characteristics finally have a serious competitor to pick from when it comes to the handling department.
Speaking of rivals, the table below will give you a rough idea of how the X1 compares (click to enlarge).
For a car which weighs 165kg less than the X3 it certainly feels quick.
Flatten the accelerator and the xDrive20d will get you from 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds whilst the xDrive23d does the same dash in 7.3. Nonetheless, fuel economy is not sacrificed with official figures rating at a remarkable 5.8L of diesel per 100km for the XDrive20d and 6.3L for the same distance in the 23d. Best in range is the sDrive20d with 5.3L/100km and only 139g/km of CO2 emissions.
During the drive our 23d test car reported figures of around 8L/100km but that was arguably thanks to our enthusiastic driving style. The xDrive20d has 130kW and 350Nm of torque (from 1750 - 3000rpm) and the extra turbo on the 23d adds 20kW and 50Nm.
BMW believes that although the X1 will cut into sales of the X3 (afterall it does have more headroom and a much fresher look and feel), the model will appeal to a whole new range of buyers as well.
When asked about the different buyer groups for the X1 and 320d Touring, BMW's marketing manager Tom Noble said 3 Series Touring buyers are generally more "grown up" and "serious" whilst the X1 is meant to attract those young at heart.
Additionally BMW will spend considerable resources realigning its strategy to deliver more efficiency across the range range. The company believes premium cars will have to be efficient and luxurious to accommodate the modern buyer.
As a result the X1 makes complete use of the brand's efficientdynamic technology. Coming standard with brake energy regeneration, auto-start stop (manual only), gearshift indicator (manual only), detachable a/c compressor, optimised final drive and more.
Step inside and it's a very familiar feel and look. From the iDrive system (optional) to the audio system and sporty steering wheel the X1 has no sense of "cheapness" to it. In fact it's rather hard to believe the base model starts at $43,500. There must be a catch? There is, you can't help but to tick the option boxes given the enormous amount of choice offered.
The optional sport seats are simply brilliant at keeping you planted while the giant sunroof (optional) does a great job for cabin ambience during the day or night.
Although nearly all our test cars were fitted with an array of options there was one car which came with the standard interior. Frankly the use of aluminium and the black leather was a reminder of how well the car looks inside even without options. If you pick no other option, the only must-tick box (given it's only $400) is the Performance Control system.
As usual the only solid criticism of BMWs is their extensive options list and the X1 suffers the same fate. You can indeed add tens of thousands of dollars in options to any of the variants. Options range from basics such as metallic paint ($1,700) and automatic transmission ($2,200) all the way to professional or business pack system for the iDrive and satelite navigation (almost mandatory these days), sports seats, sunroof, heated seats, rear-view camera, xenon lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, 340-watt harman/kardon stereo and a whole lot more.
However to make life easier there are numerous packages that are worth ticking such as the "Design Cool Elegance" which comes with Nevada leather, sports seats for the driver and front passenger, BMW Individual roofliner (Anthracite), fine-wood trim (Fineline Wave), plus the lower dashboard, centre console and floor mats are finished in the colour Oyster.
That's not to say the base model is under-equipped, far from it. Standard on the xDrive18i you'll get 17 alloy wheels, door sill finishers, fog lights, leather interior, park distance control (rear only - front is optional), cruise control, sport leather steering wheel with button controls, start-stop button, full electric windows up/down for all four, six-speaker audio system with support for iPods etc, trip computer, bluetooth connectivity and much much more.
Apart from the engines, the X1 sDrive20d and xDrive20d add anti-dazzle function to the interior mirror, rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. The top of the range xDrive25i and 23d get different 17 inch alloys, automatic transmission (as standard - no manual available) with gearshift paddles, kidney grille slats and roof rails in Aluminium colour plus chrome exhaust tailpipes. Additionally the two variants come standard with the X Line pack (roof rails, front and rear bumper inserts, and side sills all in satin finish aluminium).
As expected in BMWs (even in the entry model) safety is paramount and all of it is standard. Driver and front passenger airbag, head airbag front and rear (curtain head protection system) with splinter protection as well as side airbags for driver and front passenger plus a load of active safety features guarantee the best possible outcome in an unlikely case of an accident.
BMW Australia has had unprecedented interest in the X1 with over 3,000 potential buyers registering their interest to date. However this year will see only 1,400 of the X1s coming to Australia and it doesn't take a genius to work out that if you're keen to buy one, you better hurry!
CarAdvice will soon spend a week with the BMW X1 and bring you a full roadtest & review.