BMW X1 (2015) new front-drive crossover takes shape

Published: 11 April 2014

The BMW X1 has always been a purist-riling machine and this Mk2 version due on sale in late 2015 will be even more controversial.

The precedent for its styling has been set by the new X4 and X5 – hardly encouraging – and its front-wheel drive underpinnings are pinched from the new 2-series Active Tourer MPV.

Plus, BMW is mulling an M-badged performance X1 to fight the fast 4x4s from Audi and Mercedes.

Is BMW plotting an M Division X1?

Insiders say it’s being considered for 2015. BMW has been caught off-guard in the hot crossover game, after Audi unveiled its 306bhp RSQ3, before the 355bhp Mercedes GLA45 AMG trumped it. Both use all-wheel drive turbocharged engines to fire bodykitted crossovers to 62mph in less than five seconds.

BMW’s mooted response is the new X1 M28i. Like the M235i coupe, it’s not a true M Division performance car, but rather a tuned up ‘M Performance’ model. Word is the X1 M28i’s power will eclipse the 306bhp Audi RSQ3. Could it be the hallowed 3.0-litre straight-six from the 322bhp M235i?

What about lesser BMW X1s: going front-wheel drive?

Entry-level models will, yes. The current X1’s rear-drive chassis will be binned for a new platform that also sees duty in the 2-series Active Tourer and new Mini. Called ‘UKL1’, the architecture uses high-strength steel construction for increased rigidity while keeping weight within respectable limits. You’ll be able to order ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive on higher-spec models.

And that means three-cylinder engines too?

Sure does. The X1 will join the ranks of Minis and BMWs using a new modular engine system, where each cylinder displaces 500cc and BMW simply adds extra pots depending on the power needed. So, there’ll be petrol and diesel-slurping versions of a 1.5-litre triple, or a 2.0-litre four-pot.

What about a hybrid?

From 2016, you’ll be able to order a plug-in hybrid drivetrain for your X1. It mates an 80bhp electric motor with a petrol-fired turbo’d four-cylinder to develop around 270bhp. Meanwhile, the most potent diesel will have 231bhp, but considerably superior torque.

How is the X1 doing for BMW?

Enthusiasts might turn their noses up at the X1 as simply a jacked-up 1-series, but you can’t argue with its sales figures. Even in 2013 – four years after it went on sale – the X1 shifted more than 161,000 units worldwide. In comparison, ‘only’ 157,000 five-door 1-series hatchbacks found homes. The alternative crossover actually outsold the mainstream hatch!

In 2013, the four-year-old X1 was actually the best-selling BMW ‘X-car’, though its performance is skewed somewhat by the X5 and X6 both reaching the twilight of their respective life cycles. Even so, it’s clear a fresh X1 with greater capacity for parts-sharing is a potential goldmine for Munich’s bean-counters.

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel