Competing primarily with Audi Q3 is BMW’s X1 - the luxury compact crossover that is based on the platform of 3 Series sedan. The same also underpins Bimmer’s bigger SUV X3. While there was a petrol version in India earlier, the updated range that was launched after the facelift in early 2013 comes only with the 2 litre, 4 cylinder diesel engine. It now generates 181 bhp and 38.7 kgm of torque. What’s more, the engine is coupled with the ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox instead of 6-speed automatic in the older car.
Updated X1 is also considerably more expensive with a price difference of more than Rs 1 lakh from its older version. It comes to India on a CKD basis and is assembled at the BMW plant in Chennai. With regards to price, it lies next to BMW 1 Series which is the most affordable Bimmer at present.
Having gone under the knife, how does the X1 now look and what are the upgrades in its equipment package? How does it feel on the road with the extra power of the 2 litre engine? We do a road test of the crossover to find out the answers
The External Design and Engineering
You can instantly distinguish the X1 as a BMW thanks to some conventional styling cues. The kidney grille, double barrel headlamps and ‘Hofmeister kink’ on D pillar can be seen in their typical styles. On the updated X1 the headlamps get new internal features including LED daytime running light corona rings on Sport Line and xLine trims. This crossover has sharp power bulges on the hood. The design of its front bumper with a wide splitter has changed a little and looks more premium now. Round fog lamps are standard for all three trims. A careful look shows that the chin is rather low slung for an ‘SUV’ design.
The large squared off wheel arches are also characteristically BMW. It stands on 17 inch alloy wheels with 225/50 R17 tyres. There is that sharp crease running upwards on the door panels through the body coloured handles. Plastic cladding for the wheel arches and side skirts is the same as on the pre-facelift model. But the outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs) have gone larger and have integrated side turn blinkers. These are electrically foldable Aluminium satinated roof rails are provided for a sporty look. Sunroof comes with Sport Line and xLine variants.
At the rear the principal change is the tweaking of the bumper. The design of the LED optimised tail lamps has not been modified. To add a finer touch, the tail pipe of xLine is plated in chrome and of Sport Line in black chrome.
With the 3 Series touring super-stiff chassis, the X1 has longitudinally mounted engine and rear wheel drive layout. It gets a long wheelbase of 2760 mm, double jointed aluminium front struts and double wishbone five-arm rear axle.
BMW X1 is 4454 mm in length, 1798 mm in width and 1545 mm tall. It has a ground clearance of 194 mm. The body colour options include Black Sapphire, Deep Sea Blue, Glacier Silver, Marrakesh Brown, Midnight Blue, Mineral White and Valencia Orange.
The Cabin Ambience
In the pre-facelift X1’s cabin, some traces of BMW 3 Series were seen but even with refinement, it seemed a little bland for the price bracket that the compact SUV falls in. And so the interiors of the new X1 have been updated with more equipment and design features. The two-tone dashboard has been changed to all-black theme and the seats are also in black Sensatec upholstery. Beige upholstery is available for xLine and Expedition trims.
The feel of materials is little better than before, if not very superior or best-in-class. You get aluminium finish inlays on the dashboard and centre console for Sport Line and wooden ones for xLine and Expedition. With high-gloss finish around the AC controls and chrome bordering the infotainment display screen, the centre console has a highlighted look.
BMW iDrive (in top two variants) has 22.3 cm display with DVD drive and integrated hard drive for maps and audio files. While Bluetooth with handsfree and USB connectivity is common for all variants, there is extended Bluetooth with audio streaming convenience, voice control, office functions, and contact photo display feature provided in the Sport Line and xLine editions. Park Distance Control is again a standard features for all trims but navigation with maps is offered only with top two specs. The colour of numbering for the two dials on the instrument console can be changed from orange to white.
Both the seats in front are electrically adjustable and the driver’ seat is memory optimised. There is plenty of legroom and sitting here you get a good view of the front. But the seating position is rather low and sedan-like - not what you get in those big SUVs. Besides the seat adjustment, the rake and reach adaptable steering wheel also helps in getting into a comfortable driving position.
At the rear, seats are comfortable and have adjustable reclines but as in most other BMW cars the prominent hump of the transmission tunnel on floor does not let a third passenger sit comfortably in the middle. The legroom is just about adequate but not ample as a chauffeur driven would like to have, especially behind a tall driver. BMW prioritises driving comfort and ergonomics of its vehicles over space and luxury at the back and this is what eats away into space for rear passengers. Also, the X1’s longitudinally aligned engine is pushed quite back into chassis for more balanced weight distribution. Entertainment preparation is provided for the rear part of the cabin and screens can be mounted behind the front seats as a paid-for optional feature.
There is 420 litres of boot space and the rear seats can be split 40:20:40 which makes the storage space even more practical and useful. Bimmer X1 also has smart rubber banjo cords to secure up smaller objects.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
The 2.0 litre common rail diesel engine powering the X1 also does duty in the 320d. It is now tuned for 181 bhp at 4000 rpm and 38.7 kgm torque at 1750-2750 rpm. This neatly specced 1995 cc 4 cylinder oil-burner has an all-aluminium crankcase, variable geometry turbo and piezo electric injectors. Its strength however lies in that massive torque which was already good at 35.69 kgm in the previous model but has been increased further to 38.7 kgm now.
A small let-down with the engine that looks good on spec sheet is that it is fairly noisy at idling. There is some rattle as you crank it up and even though it smoothens out as the engine warms up, it feels loud under hard acceleration and noisier than it is in 3 series. On the other hand, thanks to this torquey unit, the X1 works very well in city traffic conditions. Progress is quick and the 8 Speed auto ‘box responds nicely. If you have driven the X1 with 6-speed transmission, you will feel the difference instantly.
Smooth upshifts also help in reducing fuel consumption and BMW TwinPower Turbo technology too is aimed at improving fuel efficiency. The Eco-Pro mode helps you to save fuel as it makes multiple adjustments in acceleration responses, gear changes and climate control settings for fuel savings. X1 also has engine start-stop and so it is quite easy to drive this SUV in city traffic where you may have to stop frequently on traffic signals. It instantly reacts to your throttle inputs. But bumper-to-bumper traffic is not really the condition where you may want to drag your Bimmer in it’s on open highways and winding roads where the drive gets enjoyable.
The upgrade in X1’s bhp and the closely stacked ratios of the 8 speed auto transmission help it to go from 0 to 100 km/hour in only 8.25 seconds which is 1.2 seconds swifter than the old X1’s acceleration. Torque of 38.7 kgm comes at just 1750 rpms and so the engine pulls cleanly from low speeds with linear acceleration. So it makes for a nice, spirited drive on the highways.
Ride and Handling Behaviour
BMW X1 has its suspension working quietly and it can deal with some poor sections of road without any fuss. While the ride is pliant and absorbent through most road conditions, there is little vertical movement on some potholes. It cannot absorb very sharp ridges and jagged surfaced easily but on the whole the ride quality is appreciable for its size.
Driving the X1 feels like driving a car with just a little more ground clearance. It has good body-control, the steering points in the exact direction you want to go towards, and with hardly any body roll it feels secure around the corners. Yes, the body roll is slightly more than the 3 Series (that’s a sedan after all) with which it shares its platform, but it will not bother you and indeed the X1 is enjoyable to take on twisty roads. And there is immense grip from the 225 section tyres that lets you take on the corners speedily too. There is good ground clearance and it can be taken on some unpaved dirt roads but the X1 is not meant for off-roading.
A feature appreciated by the enthusiasts in the older X1 was the level of driving involvement it provided. While the new one has an electrically assisted steering unit, it is still enjoyable to drive spiritedly. The steering offers ample feedback but feels somewhat heavy at parking speed. Brakes work pretty nicely and make the car feel safe to drive.
There is marginal improvement in new X1’s fuel economy. The older SUV offered 9.8 km/litre in the city and 13.2 km/litre on the highways. This facelifted model is good for 10.5 km/litre in city and goes up to 13.8 km/litre on open roads. The ARAI rated fuel efficiency for new X1 is 17.05 km/litre which makes it one of more fuel efficient cars in its category.
After the facelift BMW X1 feels more upmarket and thanks to those upgrades in power and torque, it has become a better performer too. It does not have the road presence of an SUV and looks more like a hatchback – some others call it station wagon-like. And no, there is no four-wheel-drive yet. But if a burly, brawny and off roading-capable luxury SUV is on your mind and within budget, then you will look into a totally different segment. This German crossover has its qualities in sporty handling and the excellent 8 speed automatic gearbox that makes it easy-to-drive. With prices starting at Rs 30.75 lakhs it is step into the league of plush European vehicles. The competition for X1 in the Indian market comes from Audi Q3 and the more recently launched Mercedes GLA 200 CDI.
Price range for BMW X1 variants (ex showroom Delhi)
sDrive 20d Expedition: 30.75 lakhs
sDrive 20d Sport Line: 36.00 lakhs
sDrive 20d xLine: 36.00 lakhs
Value for Money: 3.5/5