The new BMW X1 is the German car giant’s fourth addition to its 4x4 range, so although the original X5 might have been beaten to market by Mercedes’ M-class, since then the company has always been one SUV step ahead of its homeland rivals. The X3 was launched in 2004, but Mercedes and Audi have only recently launched the GLK and Q5, and as yet there’s no sign (and perhaps there never will be) of either producing a rival for the oddball X6.
Now BMW has the new X1, a compact SUV that won’t have a direct premium adversary until the new Range Rover LRX and Audi Q3 are launched in 2011. CAR has just driven the new BMW X1, so read on for our full verdict on this baby BMW 4x4.
I presume the BMW X1 has the usual array of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines?
Not in the UK. BMW customers throughout the rest of the world can pick petrol power – there’s a choice of unleaded-supping 2.0-litre four-pot or a 3.0-litre straight-six – but only diesel engines will be available here in Blighty.
There are three variants on other, all 2.0-litre lumps, but various tweaks and a different number of turbochargers spirit up different power outputs. The range starts with the single-turbo 141bhp/236lb ft 18d, a more powerful 20d variant offers 174bhp and 258lb ft, and the top-dog twin-turbo 23d engine – previously the reserve of the sportier 1-series – has 201bhp and a fulsome 295lb ft.
Just diesel power for the new X1? I suppose you’ll tell me next that you can have this 4x4 with rear-wheel drive?
Yes, we will. The 18d and 20d come as standard in sDrive guise, BMW-speak for rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive (xDrive) costs £1280 more on the former, £1305 on the latter, and on both adds several tenths to the 0-62mph times, 14g/km to the CO2 figures and worsens the official figures by nearly 5mpg. The 23d comes as standard with four-wheel drive.
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So all the bits and pieces you don’t see are fairly familiar, but what about the bits and bobs that you can see on the new X1?
Visually, the BMW X1 looks pretty much identical to the Concept X1 unveiled at the Paris motor show in 2008, which means an upright kidney grille, a heavily contoured bonnet, oddly shaped wheelarches and 5-series GT-aping rear lights.
Inside it’s the expected mix of buttons, dials and switches from the 1-series, but the dashboard design isn’t so upright and formal. It’s reasonably spacious front and rear, with enough room for four lanky fellows to squeeze in. But it’ll be tight for a fifth, the driving position is slightly offset to the left (or at least it was in our left-hand drive test car), the boot is a smaller than that in a 3-series Touring, and there isn’t the split tailgate you’d expect in an SUV.
How does the X1 fair on the road?
Very well. As 4x4s in this sector go, it’s definitely up there with the class leaders, sharply turning in with very little body roll, and backed up by a helm that has no slop or slack. And at speed it’s quiet too, with only a faint rustle from the enormous door mirrors.
The engine is also a peach, spinning smoothly and sweetly, but it’s more audible in the X1 than the equivalent Three. Blame the extra kerbweight, and our test car’s six-speed automatic, which does its best to restrain an otherwise fine engine.
We’ll reserve our judgment on the X1's ride until we try one in the UK though; over some (rare) rough German tarmac there was enough of a hint that the X1 might be too stiff for our roads.
Some of you will hate this car because it’s a BMW, some of you will hate it because it appears to be a 4x4. But spec the X1 with a manual transmission and rear-drive chassis, and we reckon it’ll come close to being as great as a 3-series Touring. The official figures won’t be far off either.
But in four-wheel drive and auto ‘box guise it’s not quite as good. Our bones of contention are relatively minor – the new BMW X1 is still more fun to drive, faster, cleaner and more efficient than any other rival we can think of. It’s basically as big as a 3-series Touring, yet costs a few grand less. What’s not to like?
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