Surprise! It’s an X1
BMW X1 SDrive18d
When I first spoke to Ruth about getting a BMW for a story, I was secretly hoping for something like the new Z4 (and I am waiting for the M40i before the weather turns cold) or an M5… instead I got an X1. A small SUV, really? I kind of understand the world’s fascination with the SUV, but the small ones have always had me confused, and in reality most are nothing more than high riding hatches.
I wasn’t turning cartwheels, I saw this as my sacrifice to you. As it turns out though I wasn’t disappointed, more surprised and impressed. Let me explain.
There are $50,000 SUVs with more equipment and luxury… more bells and more whistles. Some have style, while many are just clumsy designs with attempts at style over substance. The X1 is none of that, but it is more.
It has a simple and clean interior that is so BMW, with plenty of texture and shape to bring a quality feel to the car, if not luxury. The M Sport Package seats are a little small for me, but otherwise they are well shaped and provide plenty of support. The mostly manual settings for the seats were a bit of a surprise, but then how often do you shift the seat of your car? There is a cushion extender for under your thighs, and the side bolsters are adjustable by an electric switch to get a little extra hug before heading into the hills.
Everything falls to hand as it should, although the button for changing between drive modes was well enough hidden that it took me a few days to spot it… not that I ever felt the need to use it. BMW has included a wireless smart phone charger that tucks the phone away from view, which is good, but my phone was too big to fit in the grips and it looked a little odd. It still charged though and there was no risk of it flying around the cabin, but it would have been nice to fit properly. Both Android and Apple phones now connect as standard too, which is nice if you like that sort of thing and I am getting used to it.
There is some equipment I would have expected though, and when your fellow Europeans are offering them at the same price point it make for an interesting debate. The most obvious omissions are adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors – how can this car not have blind spot monitors when it has all the scanning needed for parking? – dual-zone climate, keyless entry, electric front seats and an automatic tailgate.
Our test model was fitted with a $1890 panoramic sunroof and the $2500 M Sport Package which is what added a little pizazz – like the seats.
Size wise it is smaller than the Mazda CX5, which is the biggest selling SUV of this type in Australia, but feels more spacious. There was no drama in the rear seats for tall kids and you can do three across the. The boot is also huge, so prams and the like are an east fit with a relatively low sill for lifting in and out.
It is on the road where the X1 shines and lives the BMW mantra of the ‘ultimate driving machine’. The X1 has excellent dynamics, never putting a foot wrong and behaving better than a high-riding front-wheel-drive should.
The diesel version we drove is more than $5000 than a similarly equipped petrol model, but what a great engine. My personal car has a 2-litre diesel engine that I love for a number of reasons, but this same sized engine from BMW (why do they call is 18d when it should be 20d?) takes it all to another level. It is frugal and incredibly smooth, if it wasn’t for the fact that it pulled like a steam train from low revs you’d hardly know it was a diesel. It is enough alone to tempt me into a BMW.
It puts out 110kW and delivers its peak torque of 330Nm all the way from 1750rpm to 2750rpm, and that make it so easy to drive. If you want to go fast, it does that too, and it will make the front drive chassis squirm a little as the wheels scrabble to contain the torque.
This engine is combined with an eight-speed gearbox that makes its rivals weep. It changes smoothly and quietly with a computer that keeps the engine where it is needed. It doesn’t need big lurching and noisy downchanges to find the right gear, it just seems to have you there. For all the work done by BMW’s rivals, and those aspiring to be rivals, you need to match the whole drive train dynamics to be in the game and I don’t think anyone does that yet – although I am yet to drive the Volvo XC40.
The M Sport suspension gives the X1 a firmer and sportier ride, but not so harshly that you are left wondering about the non-optioned up standard setting. Occasionally on some of our bumpier country roads, and yes, our roads are pretty poor Mr Premier, it can struggle a little, but through it all the car remains controlled and grips.
It is actually on these sort of roads that I found my affection for this car up in the Dandenongs. It drives much sportier than it looks, and while you feels some of the bumps and body leans at times it never seems to get knocked off line and just shapes up for the next corner. The brakes also do an awesome job slowing it up, never fading no matter how often pressed, with a beautiful feel that gives you so much confidence.
The X1 is a sleeper of the BMW range. All the excitement is contained in models with speed and tech oozing onto the streets, but when you can the simple well you know the car is a gem. There are better equipped direct and pseudo competitors, but there are not many that do the basics as well as the X1.
For mine, a car with a great chassis and brakes package has all the safety needed in a modern car – and this has it in spaders - but I would have liked a little bit more in terms of safety tech such as a blind spot monitors at this price point.
BMW X1 SDrive18i - $48,846.80
BMW X1 SDrive20i - $54,014.80
BMW X1 SDrive25i - $69,019.60
BMW X1 SDrive18d - $69,019.60
Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum
Citroen C4 Cactus
Kia Seltos GT-Line