The BMW X1 seems to answer a question: do SUV buyers prioritise driving dynamics over interior space?
Ever since the larger, second-generation X1 was released locally in 2015, its full-year sales results have out-performed the peak of BMW’s original compact SUV that was more engaging to drive.
And the latest X1’s best year of 4090 units (2016) is not far off double that of the first X1’s 2011 high of 2266 units. Sales have tapered since, if not dramatically, though newly arrived to stir more interest in the model is an MY20 update.
BMW design is also stirring plenty of debate at the moment, and the X1 is the latest model to gain upsized kidney grilles (which are now also joined) as part of mostly subtle styling tweaks. The larger twin-kidney grille seems to gel better with the X1’s front end than many other BMWs we could mention, such as the new 1 Series.
BMW Australia has also trimmed between $1400 and $1800 off the two sub-$50,000 petrol X1s in the range – the three-cylinder turbo sDrive18i is now $44,500 and the four-cylinder turbo sDrive20i has dropped to $48,500.
With the only diesel variant sticking at $49,900, that now makes the 2020 BMW X1 sDrive18d the most expensive front-wheel-drive BMW X1.
An all-wheel-drive X1 is now further out of reach with a $2000 increase for the xDrive25i turbo petrol.
Key inclusive conveniences/niceties include LED headlights with high-beam assist, LED fog lights and tail-lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, front/rear parking sensors, and parking-assist system. There’s also lane-departure warning, though autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is still only a low-speed system, functioning up to 60km/h only.
For connectivity/infotainment, a wireless charging tray is new for the X1, as is a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen for 20i and 25i models. The 18d and 18i models stick with the 8.8-inch version introduced as part of a 2018 update, both featuring navigation.
Apple CarPlay is now standard after BMW Australia dropped its controversial subscription service. Android Auto is not yet available.
Obvious omissions are adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate (18d is single zone), blind spot, keyless entry, electric front seats, and automatic tailgate.
Artificial leather is the standard upholstery, with the $2000 option to upgrade to the black Dakota leather of our test car.
There was also a $1890 panoramic sunroof and a $2500 M Sport Package. The latter adds some nice touches that would prompt us to tick this box: M light-alloy double-spoke alloy wheels and M Aerodynamics bodykit on the outside, and sports front seats, blue LED door-trim fibre optics, front mats with M Sport corporate colours, M logo treadplates and M sports steering wheel.
It also brings an M Sport tune for the suspension (more of which later).
As a facelift, the MY20 doesn’t bring the edgier BMW cabin design we’ve seen in the likes of the new-generation 1 Series and 3 Series.
The quality of the interior is excellent, however – reinforcing the X1’s luxury credentials when compared with flagship mainstream compact SUVs, and ensuring it is more than competitive against more direct rivals such as the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA.
There are gloss-black sections for the dash, console and doors, while a combination of smooth and textured plastics is prominent. Where there are harder plastics, they tend to blend in.
The M Sport Package sports seats disappoint with their manual-only adjustment, though there’s plenty of it to help find the ideal driving position. The seats offer great comfort when spending hours in the saddle, and helped by the inclusion of cushion extenders. The chubby side bolsters can also squeeze you tighter for more dynamic drives via an electric toggle.
The X1’s new wireless smartphone charger sits under the lid of the front armrest – like the older-style phone cradle. It has a slide adjuster, though those with longer/larger phones such as a Samsung Galaxy Note will find they don’t fit. Those phones will at least fit in the storage cubby under the armrest, where there’s also a USB. Another USB port and a 12V socket sit ahead of dual cupholders (and a small tray for keys), and these can be closed off with converging sliding lids.
Additional storage includes a decent-sized, flat glovebox (with rubber grip floor), large door pockets that include specific slots for bottles up to medium size, and a storage compartment on the far right of the dash.
At 4447mm, the BMW X1 is in the ballpark dimensions of rivals. And despite being a segment size down from Australia’s favourite SUV, the Mazda CX-5, it offers better rear-seat space and a larger boot.
The outer-rear seats are a fine place to sit for adults. An adult can also squeeze into the middle seat if child seats occupy those outer positions, though for their sake it's best to keep the journey short.
There’s a centre armrest with flip-out cupholders, good-size door pockets, netted seatback pockets and two USB ports. No rear air vents, however.
The X1’s 505L boot is among the best for this size of SUV. It includes a big underfloor compartment as there’s an inflator kit for punctures instead of a temporary or full-size spare. Deep plastic storage cubbies either side of the boot provide extra small-item storage.
The seatbacks fold (manually) in a 40-20-40 configuration for a 1550L total capacity, which is useful if you have longer items to load when the outer rear seats are occupied.
BMW seems to be charging a hefty premium for diesel power considering it’s a $5400 gap between the 18i and 18d that are otherwise identically equipped. It’s an engine that could tempt you to cough up the extra money, though.
Audi and Benz have struggled to match the brilliance of BMW’s four-cylinder turbo diesels, and you can understand why when you drive the 18d. The 110kW 2.0-litre oil-burner is smooth, muscular and quiet (for a diesel). Conjuring 330Nm between 1750 and 2750rpm, an effortless burst of pace is merely a flex of your right toes away.
Keep the accelerator pedal pressed and the acceleration is genuinely satisfying. Only if you’re overly aggressive with the throttle will you overwhelm the front tyres or experience some mild torque steer.
So good is the eight-speed auto that you’re barely conscious of it operating to keep the engine in its sweetest spots.
There is some minor turbo lag at lower revs, though we never found it frustrating and more than manageable around town where it’s most likely to be exhibited. There’s always the option of temporarily engaging the Sport mode, which lifts revs (but is otherwise fairly pointless in a diesel vehicle).
You’ll also spend less on fuel than petrol X1s. We averaged 5.5 litres per 100km during mixed-road testing, which is commendably close to the 18d’s official consumption of 5.3L/100km. That latter figure isn’t a match for the GLA220d’s 4.5L/100km, though the X1 is a more practical SUV in terms of passenger and cargo space.
We can’t tell you how an X1 18d rides on regular springs and dampers, but we wouldn’t necessarily persuade you away from the M Sport Package and its sportier suspension. There’s no doubting the dampers are determined to keep suspension travel on a tight leash. But while the ride is firm and can be lumpy on poorer-quality roads, the suspension absorbs bigger hits with ease and generally provides more than ample comfort.
That ultra-disciplined body control then brings advantages as the X1 remains composed across bumps and depressions, and through corners. The brakes are excellent for both strength and feel.
If only the steering were as good as that on the original X1. While the weighting works well around town, some inconsistency around the straight-ahead reduces the driver’s ability to place the BMW precisely in its lane. It’s at its worst on freeways when trying to guide the X1 around gradual road curves.
BMW’s factory warranty remains below average at three years. The German luxury brand is more generous with servicing costs, charging $1550 for a total of five annual X1 check-ups (covering up to 80,000km).
Maintaining the rival Mercedes-Benz GLA, for example, is more expensive just up to three years, whether you pay as you go ($2400) or pay for your servicing upfront ($1950). BMW also throws in three years of complimentary roadside and accident assistance.
Running costs for the BMW X1 sDrive18d are surprisingly good for a luxury SUV, then, even if it doesn’t truly compensate for the diesel variant’s high premium over the petrol 18i.
It makes it harder to recommend the 18d based on value, especially as you can get extra features including the new, larger infotainment display with the sDrive20i that’s still $1400 cheaper. However, you will miss out on the 18d’s enjoyably effortless pulling power and a fuel-use advantage that would likely be greater in real-world driving than it is on paper.
And the price tag still squeezes under $50,000 for what is a well-executed compact, yet practical, luxury SUV.