What is it?
This is the second-generation BMW X1 that was launched in India at the 2016 Auto Expo. It’s also the first of the BMWs built on the front-wheel-drive ‘UKL’ platform to come to India. Yes, you read that right – the X1 is built on a front-wheel-drive platform and its engine is positioned transversely. This layout has a huge bearing on the way the new X1 looks. The long-bonnet look is gone and what you see is a more cab-forward design.
In fact, the whole design is a big departure from the old car. The new X1 is slightly shorter in length but is also taller and the proportions are a whole lot nicer now. Where the old X1 looked like a jacked up estate, this one looks like a small SUV.
And it’s rather well done too. The look is unmistakably BMW, with the large kidney grille up front flanked by shapely LED headlights with those trademark LED rings. The particular X1 with us is the range-topping M Sport version that gets sportier, more sculpted bumpers, M badging on the flanks and smart 18-inch wheels. It’s also the only X1 that can be had in this racy shade of Estoril Blue.
At the sides, the X1 manages to look larger than its predecessor and elements like the mildly flared wheel arches and strong beltline give it a nicer look too. The rake of the rear windscreen is also more SUV-like now, and styling at the rear is, again, very modern BMW. The spread out tail-lights with their LED elements look particularly attractive.
What is it like on the inside?
One of the advantages of BMW moving form a rear-wheel-drive platform on the old X1 to a front-wheel-drive platform on the new X1 is in interior packaging. And that is most evident when you sit in the back seat. Where space was only just about sufficient in the old X1’s rear seat, there’s a good deal of room in the new X1. There’s plenty of knee room, generous headroom and even improved shoulder room. The rear seat itself scores big for comfort. The seating position is excellent and the cushioning is well judged.
Drivers familiar with the old X1 will find themselves sitting higher here, with a driving position that is more suited to an SUV. Visibility is good and what helps is that the dashboard is nice and low. The dash is typical BMW fare, so it’s neat, clean, uncluttered, but it does look a bit too much like the other cars. Also, while cabin quality on the whole is good, there are a few areas where the X1 could have been better. For instance, on the door pockets, where the plastics are hard, and don’t feel all that premium.
No complaints about this M Sport version’s nicely contoured powered front seats though. They look rich and offer great support. The M-spec three-spoke steering wheel complete with paddle-shifters also adds a great deal of sportiness in here. Speaking of equipment, the M Sport also gets heads-up display, panoramic sunroof and a high-res 8.8-inch display for the i-Drive infotainment system. There’s navigation and onboard music storage too, but sadly no reverse camera. The lesser xLine trim cars get a smaller 6.5-inch screen for the i-Drive system.
In terms of practicality, the X1 impresses. Its 505-litre boot is a full 85 litres larger than the old X1’s and you also get power fold for the three rear seats. Oh, and under the boot floor sits a proper space saver spare tyre. BMW has been listening to you.
What’s it like to drive?
A bit about the mechanicals first. For now, the X1 is available only in diesel form and uses BMW’s latest 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine. Peak power is an impressive 187bhp and max torque is a strong 40.7kgm. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard fit, but buyers have the option to choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the two obviously available at different price points. In normal driving conditions, the xDrive system powers the front wheels, but when needed, it can send 100 percent of the torque to the rear axle. So how does it all come together?
The engine’s alert from 1,500rpm on, has got a strong mid-range and will even rev happily to 5,000rpm with the gearbox in manual mode. There’s great access to power and you really won’t be left wanting for more anywhere in the rev range. Of course, the engine feels its liveliest best in Sport, but Comfort is quick too. As with all modern BMWs, the quick-shifting gearbox deserves praise here. It really does bring the best out of the engine.
What further strengthens the X1’s case is ride comfort. The X1’s suspension is set up on the softer side and that’s good, because it absorbs all the surface imperfections well and keeps you well isolated from the happenings underneath. The softness of the suspension doesn’t mean the dynamics are bad, because this is a very well balanced car. In fact, BMW claims the new X1 boasts a 50:50 front-rear weight distribution. It’s a keen handler and not that much behind the rear-wheel-driven original X1 in this department. Sure, the new X1 doesn’t quite offer the same old-school connection you got in the old one, but this is still a very exciting SUV to drive. Of the standout elements, one is the steering. It feels precise, good off-centre and it’s well weighted too. The low-speed heft from the old X1’s rack is gone, which makes the new BMW a whole lot easier to live with.
Should I buy one?
The new BMW X1 is quite the package, especially when you see it in light of the old one. Performance from the diesel engine is really impressive too, the ride quality is good and importantly the X1 is an SUV you’d love to drive yourself. Agreed, this X1 isn’t quite as engaging to drive as the old one was, but in the bigger picture, this is a more versatile and a more complete X1, and that’s the reason to like it. What makes it more likeable still is the way BMW has priced it. Prices start at Rs 29.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and top-off at Rs 39.9 lakh. Which compare well with the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. For the money, this just could be the best small luxury SUV you could buy.