Car reviews - BMW - X1 - xDrive25i
Space, versatile cabin, relaxed engine, high comfort levels, build quality
Room for improvement
Some gearbox hesitancy, tyre noise on coarse bitumen, front-drive versions offer better value
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21 Dec 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
BMW markets four variants of the new X1, two diesels and two petrols each with all-wheel drive or front-drive variants.
Prices range from $51,600 plus on-road costs for the sDrive20i front-drive model, right through to the variants tested here, the xDrive25i with an on-demand four-wheel drive system and a $59,900 (plus costs) price tag.
The price bracket puts the X1 head on with its natural rivals – Audi’s Q3 that spreads from $42,900 (plus costs) to $56,900 (plus costs) and even adds a high-performance RS version for $81,510 – and Mercedes-Benz’s GLA that has three models from $48,300 to $58,600.
But it’s not just the Europeans in this prestige baby SUV segment. Lexus this year launched the comprehensively equipped NX in four versions priced from $52,500 to $72,110.
Other considerations include the Volkswagen Tiguan ($28,990 to $44,990) and even the X1’s donor vehicle, the six-model Mini Countryman range that opens at $34,150 and reaches $46,990 in its diesel AWD guise.
So the BMW has a well-heeled group of competitors.
Against its prime rivals – the Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3 – the BMW more than holds its head high.
It is the most fuel-efficient, has the biggest load capacity, tows the most (though equal to the Audi), is the second most powerful, accelerates quicker to 100km/h and even has the most gears (eight) in its automatic transmission.
The equipment level in the xDrive25i (the xDrive indicates all-wheel drive) is comprehensive. It includes automated parking, low-speed collision mitigation, LED headlights with automatic high-beam dip, a five-speaker audio, leather upholstery, satellite navigation, an electric tailgate and a head-up display for the driver.
It also offers some customisation in its option list. The test car added the panoramic roof at $1690, which is standard on the Mercedes GLA and a $2150 option on the Audi.
Metallic paint is an additional $1140. The BMW options are unusually restrained, partly because the X1 is well equipped for its price range and perhaps the maker has yet to exercise the potential of an extensive option list.
The front-drive platform, dubbed UKL, underpins the Mini and is based around a taut base featuring the original Mini’s concept of having its wheels positioned as near to each corner as possible.
In the transition to the X1’s SUV design, that maximizes cabin and cargo space.
It has excellent packaging with a body length slightly (15mm) shorter than the previous X1 at 4439mm but is wider by 23mm and taller at 1598mm, up by 53mm.
As a result the cabin is more accommodating than before and because of the bigger glass area, also feels airy and bright.
Buyers seeking a vehicle that’s easy to exit and access, with a high hip point, are rewarded with front seats positioned 36mm higher (front) and 64mm higher (rear) than before and with better comfort.
The front seats appear narrow but in fact perfectly suited to a variety of body shapes that were invited inside. The smaller seats also added to the openness of the cabin and improved the forward vision of rear-seat occupants, indicating a benefit for travel weary children. A welcome feature is the rear airvents.
There’s room for four adults and at a squeeze – literally – a fifth though foot room around the floor’s centre tunnel crimps comfort. On the upside, compared with the previous model the rear seat legroom has increased by a substantial 66mm.
There are three Isofix baby seat attachments. Devoid of humans, the rear seat folds flat – though the seats’ fabric hoops aren’t as easy to use as rival levers – and the backrests have a recline function. The centre armrest contains cupholders and a flat, lidded storage area suitable for a mobile phone.
Cabin storage is liberal, with decent cupholders, flexible centre storage thanks to the fold-up bin that serves as a front armrest, and generous door pockets on all doors for bottles and other items.
The boot, accessed through the standard electric tailgate, measures 505 litres with the seats in place and 1550 litres when the rear seats are collapsed. It has the largest volume of its main rivals.
There’s a lot to like about the dashboard which, in its simplicity, manages to convey all the vital information while looking appreciably upmarket.
The X1 carries over technology from the other series, including head-up display for the driver, a clear instrument panel and a wide centre monitor with one of the best satellite-navigation – and reversing camera – resolutions on the entire car market.
It gets a five-speaker audio that will suit the X1’s target market, but audiophiles may be prepared to fork out $1192 for a 12-speaker Harman Kardon system.
Engine and transmission
The B48 engine fitted to the X1 is part of BMW’s new family of powerplants that all share one trait – they all have a 500cc cylinder. So the three-cylinder engine (218i) is 1.5-litres, the four is 2.0-litres and the six is 3.0-litres.
It is also a versatile engine and in replacing the PSA joint-venture engine seen in the previous Mini generation as well as PSA’s own products such as the 208, now appears in different tunes in different models.
The version in the X1 delivers 170kW at 5000rpm and torque of 350Nm at a very low 1250rpm. This is the same level of tune as its application in the BMW Active Tourer 225i.
By comparison, it is rated at 141kW/280Nm in the entry-level Active Tourer 220i 135kW/270Nm in the BMW 320i and 185kW/350Nm in the BMW 330i. It could be capable of much more.
The B48 gets all BMW’s top-shelf components, from the twin-scroll turbocharger (it is the reference to BMW’s TwinPower and doesn’t mean two turbochargers) to the dual variable-valve timing, variable-valve lift and direct petrol injection.
Knowing that the Mini and the X1 share an engine doesn’t mean the characteristics of that engine are the same.
Though they each have a locomotive pull courtesy of the high torque available at very low engine revs, the BMW’s Aisin eight-speed automatic is slicker than the Mini’s six-cog box.
The transmission rules the roost here, able to pick up as much performance from the engine as possible in the X1 version while returning a very acceptable 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
The petrol has to be 95RON and above – the same deal as its three rivals listed here – and draws from a 61-litre tank. On test the X1 returned 7.8 L/100km.
There is a bit of lag at low speeds, particularly pick up and when accelerating quickly away from the lights, but generally the engine-transmission package is responsive and more alert than some dual-clutch gearboxes.
The drive is part-time all-wheel that operates on demand. It uses an electro-hydraulic clutch that is controlled by the electronics of the stability-control system.
When it senses a loss of traction at the front wheels, it activates the electro-hydraulic pump that feeds into the clutch to bind its plates, then monitors the traction demands.
By controlling the clutch action and by using the torque-sensing program that operates on each wheel’s brake, the X1 xDrive can maximise traction to individual wheels.
Though this is predominantly a front-drive vehicle, BMW said that in extreme circumstances, up to 100 per cent of power can be sent to the rear wheels.
It is not only suitable for light off-road work but very effective when cornering or driving in wet conditions.
Ride and handling
The X1 is based on the same underpinnings as the 2 Series Active Tourer and Mini but has very different damper and spring tuning.
Owners of Minis will appreciate the go-kart handling, neat-zero body roll and superb handling through smooth-road corners. But, depending on the type of suspension fitted, the ride can be harsh.
The X1 targets its urban market and the need for the SUV to cosset its family buyer. Ride comfort is surprisingly good, on par with the Lexus NX and softer than the Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
While the difference makes the family smile, the X1’s handling is less like a sports sedan. On smooth roads, it exhibits nominal body roll through gentle sweeping corners so you can really gun it and still feel in control – something that can’t be said of all SUVs.
However, it can react to sharp shocks with suspension noise. Part of this could be attributed to the xDrive25i’s standard 19-inch run-flat tyres, less flexible than the 18-inch tyres on the lesser models.
Of interest is the steering. Where the previous X1 followed the trait of other X models characterized by a firm steering feel, the latest SUV is noted for its lightness. It is more like a passenger car and this improves its maneuverability in tight areas yet thanks to its power assistance regulated by vehicle speed, is not detrimental when cruising.
Safety and servicing
Servicing is conditional based, meaning the engine management system will tell you when the car needs to be serviced, based primarily on sensing the condition of the engine oil.
Unless used in harsh conditions, the X1 should have annual service intervals.
There is no capped-price service program but BMW – like Audi and Mercedes-Benz – offers a pre-paid “Service Inclusive” program for $1140 that covers maintenance for the first five years or 80,000km. This pay-and-forget deal is recommended.
BMW has a three-year, unlimited distance warranty that is on par with most of its competitors. It includes three years of roadside assistance.
The X1 has a solid safety package including six airbags, low-speed collision avoidance, front and rear park sensors, reversing camera, LED headlights with auto dipping high beam, a tyre-pressure sensor and automated park assistance.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the X1 will retain 57 per cent of its purchase price after three years, equal to the Mercedes-Benz GLA and slightly better than the Audi and Lexus.
The latest X1 adds more equipment, is quicker and more fuel efficient and thanks to factors including a 30kg-plus weight loss, a much better drive than its predecessor.
It is more than an SUV and will happily fulfill the role of a prestige hatchback with a capacious cabin and occupant-focused features.
The AWD version is good for some soft off-road needs but buyers should consider the cheaper front-drive version and even the thrifty diesel option.
Audi Q3 2.0TFSI Sport from $52,300 plus on-road costs
Audi’s baby SUV entrant is pretty much the “mini-me” of the Q-family in looks and equipment level. It’s the cheapest here but you need almost $7000 to add options to bring it up to the BMW level. The Q3 gets a 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine attached to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and on-demand al-wheel drive. It claims 6.7L/100km. Features include leather, bi-xenon lights, eight-speaker audio and 18-inch alloys with a space-saver spare. It’s the smallest SUV here but at 460-1365 litres, doesn’t have the smallest cargo space. The warranty is three years or unlimited kilometres, servicing is annual with a pre-paid service option plan, and the resale after three years is estimated by Glass’s Guide at 56 per cent of the purchase price.
Lexus NX200t Luxury AWD from $57,000 plus on-road costs
A 2015 entry into the prestige SUV market, the NX is the first to get Lexus’ high-tech 2.0-litre turbo-four that is springing up through the range. It’s rated at 175kW/350Nm in the NX, attaches to a six-speed auto and drives all wheels on demand. Fuel economy is 7.9L/100km. Features include 18-inch alloys, 10-speaker audio with digital radio, LED headlights, sat-nav, heated front seats, leather-look trim and electric tailgate. The longest wagon here has a boot size of 500-1545 litres, beaten only by the BMW. The warranty is for four years or unlimited distance, there’s a four-year roadside assist program and the annual servicing has a transparent menu. Resale is 54 per cent.
Mercedes-Benz GLA250 from $59,900 plus on-road costs
The clever German uses a similar drivetrain to its peers, cranking out 155kW/350Nm from its 2.0-litre engine that drives through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and has an on-demand AWD system. It claims 7.0L/100km. Boot space is 421-1235 litres.
Features are the most comprehensive here, including nine airbags, blind-spot monitor, low and high-speed collision avoidance, bi-xenon headlights and heated seats. The warranty is three years or unlimited distance, there’s three-year roadside assistance, the service intervals are annual and Mercedes has a pre-paid service program. The estimated resale after three years is 57 per cent.
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