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BMW's new X1 is a charismatic luxury compact SUV contender

25 Feb 2011

THE three major German prestige automotive manufacturers have been creating and filling new market niches as if their futures depended on it perhaps they do. A fourth, Porsche, claims it needed the Cayenne SUV for survival.

, But where some vehicles appear to have been designed to answer an unasked question (the BMW X6 looms into mind), the same maker’s X1 should fill an existing need. Its place in the BMW scheme is obvious.

, The company’s first sports utility vehicle (Sports Activity Vehicle in BMW-speak) was the 5 Series-based X5 in 2000, initially available locally only with a 4.4-litre petrol V8 engine. The X5, which in some respects was a rival to the legendary Range Rover, had more off-road ability than, say, a Subaru Outback, while not approaching the Land Cruiser category.

, Then came the smaller but not dramatically less expensive X3 with less all-wheel drive edge. The compact X1 completes this SUV trifecta with a sharp entry price of $45,700 and, frankly, no pretensions to even Subaru Outback levels of all-wheel driving. In fact, there is another trick to the naming of the X1 where ‘X’ conjures up images of trail-blazing excitement: the cheaper variants are not even equipped with all-wheel drive but, like the 1 Series, are pure rear-drivers.

, So if X-factor equates to departing the beaten track (however rarely and briefly) even the all-wheel drive X1 xDrive20d tested here has little of it. What the X1 does is to deliver the BMW brand experience to those who want a compact SUV-style wagon, whether or not is has any real off-road competence.

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