We don’t wait in anticipation for all new-car model launches. Those that qualify usually challenge convention or mark a significant break in the mold of their predecessors. The new BMW X1 qualified by virtue of its claim as the first Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) in the compact premium segment.
Blending the practicality of an SUV with the luxury and handling attributes of a sedan was first brought about with the introduction of the X5 SAV roughly 10 years ago. In response to demand, the ‘X’ model line-up has grown and evolved with the addition of the BMW X3 in 2004, the X6 in 2008 and now the X1. It’s quite apparent that the X1 forms the entry point into the German manufacturers ‘Soft-Roader’ line-up, but having driven the new SAV, we expect the ‘little X’ to do big things for the BMW’s X range of vehicles, which already make up 20% of the brand’s total sales.
The new BMW X1 is built on the 3-Series Touring platform and shares the 3′s 2,76 metre wheelbase, yet it manages to deliver the practicality of an estate-car plus soft-roader capabilities, courtesy of the 194 mm ground clearance and xDrive all-wheel-drive system. The xDrive system operates with a 40:60 front-to-rear power distribution under normal driving conditions and is able to distribute torque to the drive axle with the most grip and, coupled with Dynamic Stability Control, is able to increase or decrease power to one or more wheels in relation to the others for improved cornering agility and safety. In fact, even in sDrive rear-wheel-drive form, the X1 took us confidently up and down the slippery slopes of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve.
The X1 measures 4,45 metres in length (115 mm shorter than the current X3) and despite its long nose, looks compact and muscular, thanks to its flared wheel arches and strong contour lines. The X1 is available in a number of striking colours including Marrakech Brown and Vermillion Red, which add a level of intrigue to the car’s lines. Details such as the ‘eye-lids’ above the headlights, the chrome strip running below the side windows, the silver highlights incorporated into the side skirts and bumpers, as well as the roof rails, add to the premium appeal of the new X1.
Inside, the premium styling continues with a driver oriented cockpit, featuring leather trim as standard on the xDrive models. No less than seven trim colours and five variants of trim bars are available to give the car a very individual touch. Yet a further option is the ‘Design Cool Elegance Package’, which includes sports seats in Oyster-coloured leather, black/yellow piping on the backrests, as well as trim bars in Bright Wave wood. In this case the lower section of the instrument panel and the centre console likewise come in Oyster, as do the floor mats finished in the same colour.
Driving the X1 is a pleasure thanks to the 3-Series underpinnings, which make for composed and confident motoring. The X1 faithfully follows BMW’s driver-centric DNA, both in the new SAV’s ergonomics and driving experience. Passengers are no afterthought however, and the X1 offers comfortable seating accommodation throughout. The rear seats are particularly versatile, folding down in a 40/20/40 split with multiple angles of inclination available for the backrests, while also expanding cargo capacity from 420 to 1 350 litres.
The new X1 is available with a range of diesel engines offering strong performance. In fact the ’20d’ and ’23d’ models all use the same 2,0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine, while a petrol powered sDrive18i model will arrive mid-year. The range topping xDrive23d features BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology. A smaller turbo reacts quickly at low speeds to supply added power, while power from a larger turbo takes effect as engine speed increases. The result is 150 kW at 4 400 r/min and maximum torque of 400 N.m between 2 000 – 2 250 r/min. The xDrive23d is capable of a zero to 100 km/h sprint of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 223 km/h. BMW claim an average fuel consumption of 6.6 l/100km and CO2 emissions of 173 g/km.
The slightly less powerful 2,0-litre, single-turbo equipped, diesel engine in the xDrive20d and sDrive20d models, manages a maximum power of 130 kW at 4 000 r/min and 350 N.m of torque between 1 750 – 3 000 r/min. Sprint times from zero to 100 km/h are 8.4 and 8.1 seconds respectively, while top speeds are 213 km/h for the xDrive20d and 218 km/h sDrive20d. The sDrive20d is also slightly more economical and environmentally friendly than the xDrive20d. Thanks to a lighter drivetrain, the sDrive20d returns a claimed average of 5.6 l/100km and 148 g/km of CO2, while the xDrive20d needs 6.2 l/100km and expels 163 g/km of CO2.
The sDrive18i is due on local roads around the middle of the year. It will be powered by a 110 kW, 200 N.m 2,0-litre petrol engine. The 4-cylinder engine, with BMW’s Valvetronic and double-Vanos technology, will move the sDrive18i from standstill to 100 km/h sprint in 9.7 seconds and reach a 202 km/h top speed. Expect average fuel consumption of 8.2 l/100km and emissions of 191 g/km CO2.
The sDrive models and xDrive20d are available with either a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with Steptronic function is available as a R16 000 cost option. The xDrive23d is equipped with the six-speed auto ‘box as standard.
From a safety perspective the BMW X1′s body structure has been designed with maximum occupant safety in mind. As expected, the X1 comes standard with equipment such as front, side and head airbags, adaptive brake lights and daytime driving lights, while Xenon and adaptive headlights and auto high/low beam are options. A multitude of electronic safety aids are also present in the form of Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control, ABS anti-lock brakes, Dynamic Brake Control and Cornering Brake Control.
Standard equipment in the BMW X1 is as expected and includes such items as air conditioning and 6-speaker sound system with USB/iPod connectivity. The options and accessories list is equally as comprehensive though, examples include the iDrive infotainment system, with navigation, park distance control, colour display and hard drive storage for a music collection. Sport seats, electric seat adjustment including memory function as well as seat heating are optional for the driver and front seat passenger. Furthermore, shift paddles located on the steering wheel for manual gear selection in the Steptronic automatic transmission mode are also available for the BMW X1 xDrive23d.
From our initial impressions we’d say the sDrive20d would be all you’d ever need in South Africa. Despite the 194 mm ground clearance the X1 is not the type of car to tackle Baviaanskloof, but could happily traverse the other 90% of the country’s many ground roads and mountain passes. The lighter rear-wheel sDrive20d is also the most fuel efficient and we’d choose the slick automatic gearbox over the manual that is fitted as standard.
If the current 3 to 4 month waiting period for a new X1 is anything to go by, the baby SAV looks set to be a popular entry point into the BMW X range and a car that offers a benchmark combination of urban sophistication, style and practicality.
|BMW X1 sDrive18i||R335 500|
|BMW X1 sDrive20d||R376 000|
|BMW X1 xDrive20d||R418 500|
|BMW X1 xDrive23d||R464 000|
Price includes a 5 Year/100 000 km Motorplan, non-contributing service and maintenance contract.