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First drive: BMW X1 minimises X5

Apply here: BMW is looking to attract new customers to the brand with its new X1 compact SUV.

BMW says its new baby is the world’s first true premium compact SUV

1 Apr 2010

YOUNGER and new-to-BMW buyers are the targets of the all-new X1 series – the world’s first true premium compact SUV, according to its maker.

“We want to do to the compact SUV class what the (2001) Mini did to hatches,” says sales and marketing manager Tom Noble, adding that attracting a higher proportion of female owners than usual for BMW also rates highly on the agenda.

On sale from April 10, and brought to Australia just months after its global debut, the E84 X1 is a five-door wagon with five semi-raised seating positions.

Heavily based on the existing E91 3 Series Touring platform, it will initially offer a choice of two four-cylinder diesels in AWD all-wheel drive guise.

These will kick off from $52,700 and $59,280 for the xDrive20d and xDrive23d respectively, but from June the range gains a four-pot petrol powerplant that will lower the X1 entry price to $43,500 for the sDrive18i with RWD rear-wheel drive, while an in-line six-cylinder petrol engine (xDrive25i) lobs in from $56,800.

In BMW parlance, ‘s’ says RWD while ‘x’ expresses AWD. Going the latter adds about 85kg to the X1.

All eight models include a full suite of safety gear with six airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes for a five-star EuroNCAP crash-test result, EU5 emissions-rated engines, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, cruise control with brake functionality, rear parking radar, a multi-function leather steering wheel, minimum 17-inch alloy wheels on Runflat tyres, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a cargo floor storage facility as standard.

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“Since we’re first in the premium compact SUV class we want to set the bar as far as pricing and equipment go,” says product planning manager Toni Andreevski. “This is our opportunity to do it.” “Premium” as defined by BMW goes beyond luxury, performance and high equipment levels to include best-in-segment efficiency and this, the company believes, will help the X1 to easily achieve its 1400 sales target in 2010.

The 20d models are currently the most economical X1s, and are expected to account for up to half of all sales, split down the middle as far as what drive configuration is chosen.

Under the 7 Series-style bonnet is a 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection four-cylinder diesel with a variable intake geometry turbocharger to help produce 130kW of power at 4000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1750rpm to 3000rpm.

In the sDrive20d with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, the 0-100km/h sprint-time takes 8.1 seconds (AWD: 8.4 the ZF six-speed Steptronic automatic adds 0.2s), the carbon dioxide emissions rating is a leading 139 grams per kilometre (auto: 155g/km AWD: 153g/km AWD auto: 164g/km) while the combined average fuel consumption figure is 5.3 litres per 100km (auto: 5.9L/100km AWD: 5.8L/100km AWD auto: 6.2L/100km).

The base diesel’s impressive efficiency is enhanced by the manual’s auto idle-stop function that cuts the engine at standstill, as well as a gearshift indicator. Other EfficientDynamics measures include optimisation measures for aerodynamics and the alternator.

Around 25 per cent of all X1 sales this year should be made up of the auto-only xDrive23d flagship, which adds twin turbochargers known as TwinPower to up the 2.0L’s outputs to 150kW at 4400rpm and 400Nm between 2000-2250rpm. The 0-100km time drops to 7.3s, while CO2 and L/100km figures rise to 167g/km and 6.3 respectively.

The remainder of volume will be split about equally between the sDrive18i opener and auto-only xDrive25i.

The former employs BMW’s familiar 2.0-litre Valvetronic twin-cam four-cylinder petrol unit delivering 110kW at 6400rpm and 200Nm at 3600rpm for a 0-100km/h run-time of 9.7s (auto: 10.4), a 191g/km CO2 rating (auto: 195), 8.2L/100km (auto: 8.4), and up to 202km/h performance (down from the others’ 205), while BMW engine traditionalists might gravitate towards the 3.0-litre Valvetronic in-line petrol six with its 160kW at 6100rpm, 277Nm at 2500rpm, 7.9s 0-100km/h acceleration figure, 217g/km CO2 output and 9.3L/100km.

Expect more engines to come on line next year and beyond, although Mr Andreevski said no X1 M high-performance model was in the pipeline. UK buyers are offered an eco-focussed sDrive18d using the 2.0-litre engine.

Being E90-generation 3 Series based, BMW’s smallest compact SUV employs the same 2760mm wheelbase as the E91 Touring wagon. Length, width and height measurements are 4454mm, 1798mm and 1545mm respectively. The front track is 1500mm while the rear’s is 1529mm. Ground clearance is 145mm.

The front suspension uses a double-joint thrust bar axle and the rear employs a five-arm axle design, while the steering is via a rack and pinion of hydraulic power motivation.

Kerb weights range from the entry-level car’s 1430kg to 1600kg (xDrive25i). Towing capacity is limited to 1400kg.

Cargo space is rated at 360 litres with the backrest at the 31 degree recline position. If you tilt it forward to its one-degree upright ‘cargo’ mode, this increases to 480 litres, while folding all three portions of the back seat down increases that to 1350 litres.

Options are extensive as per most models in the BMW line-up include satellite navigation, Performance Control rear lateral torque differential, cornering adaptive Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, a Panorama glass sunroof, a rear view camera, rear DVD system and seat heating.

So how is the X1 different from the ageing E83 X3? The latter is better off-road, has a bigger boot, appeals to an older demographic, and is more expensive. That model’s F25 replacement to be unveiled in the middle of the year will be significantly larger, moving the series closer to the existing X5.

Released in Europe late last year, the X1 has sold twice as well as forecast, BMW says, forcing the US launch later this year to be delayed in order for existing orders to be sorted. As a result, there will probably not be an increase to the 1400 vehicles already allocated for Australia.

“The X1 is the first,” BMW declares, but key rivals as cited by the Bavarians include up-spec versions of the Toyota RAV4 such as the Cruiser and V6, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester XS Premium and the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI. BMW seems to dismiss the Land Rover Freelander II and Mazda CX-7 as direct competitors despite their obvious similarities in terms of positioning (Land Rover) and sportiness (Mazda). Conquest sales may be as high as 80 per cent.

But BMW won’t have the premium compact SUV segment to itself for much longer, with the as-yet still secret Audi Q3 and upcoming Land Rover LR1 looming just over the horizon. Mercedes-Benz is also thought to be developing a sub-GLK SUV that some pundits have dubbed MLK.

Built in Leipzig, Germany, alongside the 1 Series passenger car models, the X1 is the fourth BMW SUV after the X5 (2000), X3 (2004) and X6 (2008) to be sold in Australia.

2010 BMW E84 X1 range pricing:
sDrive18i manual $43,500
sDrive18i auto $45,700
sDrive20d manual $49,300
sDrive20d auto $51,500
xDrive20d manual $52,700
xDrive20d auto $54,900
xDrive25i auto $56,800
xDrive23d auto $59,280

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