Rugged and handsome BMW X1

The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.
The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.PHOTO: BMW
The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.
The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.PHOTO: BMW
The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.
The BMW X1 is bigger, more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.PHOTO: BMW

BMW's new front-wheel-driven X1 is just as driveable as its predecessor

Five years in the making, the second-generation BMW X1 now looks like a proper SUV - and a handsome one at that.

With design elements of its bigger siblings, the X3 and X5, it has a drag coefficient of as low as 0.29 - not too shoddy for a crossover.

The original X1 launched in 2009 looked disproportionate, coming across somewhat like a jacked-up station wagon when viewed from the stern. But 730,000 people around the world apparently liked it enough to buy it over its rivals in the premium crossover segment.

Do not bet against the new X1 selling more than that. The car has more of everything - more room, a more commanding driving position, more powerful and efficient engines - and is more practical.

The roofline is 53mm taller, which provides a higher driving position as expected by an SUV owner.

  • SPECS/BMW X1 xDrive25i

  • Price: To be announced

    Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve twin-turbocharged inline-4

    Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic with paddle shift

    Power: 231hp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 350Nm at 1,250-4,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 6.5 seconds

    Top speed: 235kmh

    Fuel consumption: 6.4 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Performance Motors

The new engines are now transversely mounted, which protrudes less into the cabin than the earlier model's longitudinal layout.

The result is 37mm more rear knee room with standard issue seats, and up to 66 mm more with the optional adjustable rear seats, which can slide forward or back by up to 13cm.

If even more room is needed, there is the choice for a folding front passenger seat backrest.

The car's boot capacity is 505 litres - 85 more than its predecessor's. The 40:20:40 rear seats, when flattened, free up 1,550 litres of air space to swallow grandma's cupboard.

The cockpit is new and futuristic compared with the hitherto dated dash of the original model. Also, head-up display is now an option if the driver-angled instrument panel is too old-school for the pilot.

Two petrol and two diesel engines from BMW's new line of modular engines with TwinPower Turbo technology replace the old ones. All four have a 2-litre capacity, and by the end of the year, two three-cylinder engines - a 136bhp petrol and a 116bhp diesel - will extend the range.

The test car is an xDrive25i that churns out a highly respectable 231bhp and an even more respectable 350Nm of torque from 1,998cc.

The figures mean it is fast enough to keep up with many performance saloons, with a 6.5-second century dash made possible by a revised eight-speed Steptronic transmission. It is easy to forget that it is a crossover or an SUV, as body roll is well under control.

The driving experience is unmistakably BMW, as the baby X has a low centre of gravity and chassis tuned for an almost perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

It is all the more amazing since the new X1 is primarily a front-wheel-driven car - a first among BMW's X models. However, its xDrive all-wheel-drive system still distributes power to the rear axle if required.

For normal driving on undemanding surfaces, only the front wheels are powered. When the situation calls for it, the system re-distributes some power to the rear. In extreme cases, up to 100 per cent of power goes there.

As far as driveability goes, the front-wheel-drive format does not reduce the appeal of the X1, even if some diehard fans still swear by rear-wheel-driven BMWs.

For the masses, the new X1 will be a big hit because of its rugged good looks, all-round driveability and improved efficiency. Perhaps an even bigger hit than its predecessor.

•The writer is an occasional contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'Rugged and handsome'. Print Edition | Subscribe