No longer the entry-level BMW it once used to be, in size or price, the X1 has a longer wheelbase, more chrome, bigger kidneys and a ton of personality that puts it more in the X3 bracket now. The sDrive18d comes with plenty of M-Sport garnishing on the outside and inside to up its street cred even further. The upright stance, 18in wheels and integrated roof spoiler give it an aggressive, sporty stance but you might want to look away when the BMW rep hands over the power figures to you. Down from the earlier generations 190hp, the new 150hp diesel motor is a substantial drop, but BMW has more than compensated for it by emptying its toys bin inside the X1’s cabin.
BMW X1 review
You might have to do a double take just to assure yourself that you’re looking at an X1 and not an X3 and that is all the introduction this all-new “baby” Bimmer needs.
Everything from the large and beautifully contoured seats to the chunky and perfectly weighted steering wheel feels like a class act from a segment or two above. Fit and finish is of the highest order too and it can be seen from the quality of switchgear in the floating centre console to the dual screens that make up the instrument cluster and infotainment. In typical BMW tradition, the infotainment screen is ever-so-slightly tilted towards the driver, hinting at the “ultimate driving machine” underpinnings.
You can bathe the cabin in a wide variety of ambient colours or moods, accessible by a hotkey on the centre console. Each mood like personal, sport, digital art, expressive or relax, have a corresponding graphic that takes over the instrument cluster too. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it inclusion, but there is the option to override it, so simmer down already! Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto is deeply integrated, adding support for installed (and compatible) apps on your iPhone via the infotainment screen that can be accessed without the need to refer to the phone. Wireless charging on the other hand has been thought of from the get go too. You place the phone straight up against a charging pad in the storage area, right under the central AC vent and it keeps the phone screen always in view and the phone itself is held in place by a gentle guard. So much better than most implementations of wireless charging where either the screen is not visible or you have to contort your body even to slot the phone in the right spot.
3D cameras with park and reverse assist play a handy part in ensuring you’re not alone in the tedious process of avoiding dings. A 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system chimes in with verve and enthusiasm, filling up the cabin with rich sound that could be the best in this segment. Owners can also share access with up to four of their friends via a digital key that uses their smartphone to let them in and drive away. Lucky buggers.
A knurled volume dial is appreciated as one of the few physical buttons on the dashboard or centre armrest but elsewhere, you have to make unnecessary multi-taps on the screen to manage everyday tasks like engine auto start/stop or even fan speed for the climate control. The Max AC mode did nothing to sober the Mumbai humidity, but the unconventional AC vent layout does make the cabin look cooler. Back on the digital instrument cluster, it’s too late to have an opinion about the angular dials for speedo and rev counter but even for the additional information that can be customised into view, the BMW OS feels overdone in terms of graphics. Too many unnecessary patterns, boxes, animations and colours appear in your line of sight. Sure, as an owner you may eventually train yourself to fix your gaze exactly where you want, but in my three-day live-in with the X1, I didn’t become a fan. Mercedes and Audi do a much cleaner job of managing and displaying information. Also, the BMW iDrive jog dial, which was one of the best ways to control layered infotainment systems in the past, ironically has been axed, forcing to keep fiddling with the screen with your digits on the move.
ADAS in the form of adaptive cruise control and emergency brake assist makes an appearance and so does seat massaging in case you’re dangerously close to dozing off on long drives. Seat cooling unfortunately gets a miss though and is one of the only features I missed in this otherwise well-appointed cabin. A panoramic sunroof, USB-C ports all around, sliding and reclining rear seats, electric front seats with memory…collectively make up for a fantastic long-distance environment.
On the move…that’s where the diesel shows its strength with a strong pull and you’re shoved back into your seat. The quick-shifting transmission also comes with paddle shifters, of which, the left paddle adds a momentary boost for quick overtaking moves. If you’re already in Sport mode, you won’t feel much of it but in Eco or Comfort, it does pick up its skirt and make a dash for it. Handling is surefooted, even without the all-wheel drive Xdrive option now and around the corners, it keeps body roll to a bare minimum, whispering into your palms from the steering to go faster. But this also means the ride is stiff and on broken, metro-blessed roads in Mumbai, it was painful to hear the thuds and crashing noises filter into the cabin. As the person behind the wheel, you will appreciate the steering feel, the perfect driving position and the bolstered seats, but in the back, my passengers kept asking me to “take it easy” while I was struggling to even touch the prescribed speed limit! The suspension does not make this for a chauffeur driven ride, which is a shame because the increased legroom and great back seats do make this an X1 that is finally not cramped.
Noise insulation and refinement at low speeds is phenomenal, not giving away the contents of the bonnet at all. Only at higher revs does the diesel make itself heard but even then it’s never gnarly. This X1 18d is a proper BMW when it comes to drivetrain and even with its new found front-wheel drive shoes, doesn’t take away from the pleasure of driving. Not unless you’ve been born and raised in an M340Xi.
The 2 Series GC still is the more engaging car to drive for the quintessential BMW enthusiast on a budget, but if you have a bigger family and baggage to carry, the X1 comes in a close second. It drives, looks and feels like a X3 and is loaded to the gills with cool kit that makes for great bragging rights. It does command a higher price tag too, but once you experience its luxury, it feels worth it. Just avoid broken tarmac and your passengers will nod in approval too.
A grown-up BMW at an entry-level price, the X1 looks the part, feels the part and goes the part too.
|Engine:||4 cyl turbo-diesel|
|Acceleration:||0-100km/hr in 8.9 secs|