As with the range-topping X1 xDrive25d driven here, most models offer four-wheel drive as standard. Those that go without it now receive a front-wheel-drive layout rather than the rear-wheel-drive arrangement of the old model. To combine with the new transverse engine mounting, the four-wheel drive system has been developed from scratch. Based around an electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch, its torque losses are claimed to be reduced by up to 30% over the old system, providing the basis for a big gain in driveline efficiency.
BMW has embraced a range of weight-saving measures that sees the new X1 hit the scales at an impressive 135kg under its predecessor in entry-level X1 sDrive18d guise at 1430kg, although the model tested here is just 10kg lighter than before at 1575kg, owing in part to increased standard equipment levels.
Key to the overall reduction in weight are the materials and techniques used in the new SUV's underlying structure. Hot-formed high-strength steel and aluminium is used liberally throughout the main body, tailored blank steel (sheet steel in varying degrees of thickness) has been adopted for the front bulkhead and B-pillar, the bonnet is aluminium and there are tube-shaped anti-roll bars both front and rear.
The X1 xDrive25d serves up an impressive blend of performance and economy. Power has risen by 13bhp at 228bhp, while torque remains the same as that of the engine this unit replaces, at 332lb ft.
The urgent low-end properties and solid mid-range flexibility of the new engine are fully reflected in the 0-62mph and top speed claims, which BMW puts at 6.6sec and 146mph respectively. Even more impressive is the combined fuel consumption of 56.5mpg and average CO2 emissions of 132g/km – improvements of 5.1mpg and 13g/km over its direct predecessor.
What’s really noticeable over longer distances is the improvement in the shift quality of the gearbox, which is supplied by Japanese specialist Aisin instead of BMW’s traditional automatic gearbox supplier, ZF. The adoption of a standard eight-speed automatic in place of the older six-speed unit on the top-of-the-line diesel model not only brings two extra ratios for added performance potential and fuel savings but also a new electronics package that provides an altogether smoother and more eager action.
In a bid to provide the new X1 with a broader range of driving characteristics than the older model, it comes as standard with BMW’s Driving Experience Control. This offers the driver the choice between Comfort, Sport and Eco-Pro settings, with the mapping for the throttle, steering, gearbox and optional adaptive damping altered depending on the mode.
The good news is that despite the adoption of the new platform and its transverse engine mounting arrangement, the new X1 continues to be a highly rewarding drive with the sort of agility to shame many hot hatchbacks. The basis for its dynamic excellence is its superb chassis balance, which provides the high-riding BMW with genuinely fluid and responsive handling characteristics both around town and out on the open road.
The optional electro-mechanical variable-rate Sport steering system fitted to our test car proved responsive and communicative, endowing the new X1 with eager turn-in properties and typically firm weighting. Depending on the driving mode chosen, the outright body control ranges from family-car respectable to sportingly taut. Grip levels are ample, allowing you to carry decent speed up to the apex without any concern of a loss of purchase. Thanks to permanent four-wheel drive on the model we drove, traction was never in doubt.