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New X1 is vastly improved over its predecessor, which is a good thing considering the ever-building strength of the competition

Our Verdict

The second generation BMW X1

New crossover is quite different from its forebear but is it better?

  • First Drive

    2015 BMW X1 xDrive25d review

    New X1 is vastly improved over its predecessor, which is a good thing considering the ever-building strength of the competition
16 July 2015

What is it?

BMW was quick off the mark with the original X1 back in 2009. At a time when most of its rivals were still considering whether there was in fact a market for a small, premium-brand SUV, it was overwhelmed by the showroom success of its most affordable X model – so much so that it hurriedly organised for extra production capacity to meet the initial demand.

In the six years hence, the first-generation X1 has garnered 730,000 sales worldwide, easily making it the most successful entry in what has now become a toughly fought segment that includes the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Lexus NX. It is stating the obvious to suggest that this new second-generation model, which is due to make its public premiere at the Frankfurt motor show, has a lot to live up to.  

As part of efforts to more closely align the look of the X1 with its larger SUVs, BMW's design team has provided the new model with a more rugged appearance than that of its predecessor, which was seen by many as being more of a high-riding small estate than a dedicated SUV.

The new styling treatment, credited to young Australian designer Calvin Luk, adopts a much bolder front end dominated by BMW's signature kidney grille, angular headlights, round fog-lights sited independently within the front bumper, a contoured bonnet, prominent front wheel arches, a more heavily structured body, additional cladding within the wheelhouses and sills, greater ground clearance and an angled tailgate now boasting optional automatic operation via the key fob.

Bucking the trend toward ever-larger successor models from BMW, the new X1 is actually 36mm shorter but 21mm wider and 53mm higher than the old model. It also rides on a 90mm-longer wheelbase, providing it with shorter overhangs than before. The tracks have also been extended by a generous 61mm at the front and by 32mm at the rear, increasing its overall footprint.

It is the third model to make use of BMW’s UKL platform. Dispensing with tradition, it sites the various petrol and diesel engines on offer in a space-saving transverse position rather than the longitudinal mounting of the old model. In combination with the altered exterior dimensions, the new platform is crucial in providing  greater levels of interior accommodation as well as an additional 85 litres of luggage space over its predecessor at a nominal 505 litres.

The adoption of the UKL platform has also allowed BMW's design team to endow the X1 with an altered silhouette featuring a significantly shorter bonnet and longer roofline than the old X1. Retaining the five-door layout, it also receives larger rear door door apertures for added ease of entry.

What's it like?

The cabin will look familiar to anyone who has spent any time in the 2 Series Active Tourer or the more recently introduced 2 Series GranTourer. It is orderly but hardly the latest in automotive interior design. The sweeping facia is dominated by a combination of soft-touch surfaces and hard plastic trims. The overall fit and finish is quite good, but certain dashboard elements and trim applications look and feel disappointingly cheap. Still, sizeable door bins and other cubby holes within the centre console help provide adequate oddment storage.

Ergonomically, the new X1 is every bit as sound as any of its rivals. The driving position has been altered slightly from that of its predecessor, with the height of the front seats raised by 36mm to enhance vision to all four corners. It is in the rear where the added space is most noticeable. BMW claims an additional 37mm of knee room with the standard 40/20/40 configured rear seat, which is now set 64mm higher than before. This can extend to an additional 66mm with the optional rear seat, which offers some 130mm of longitudinal adjustment.

When it is launched in the UK in late October, the new X1 will initially offer the choice of turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines in varying states of tune and in combination with either a standard six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox depending on the model.

Although their technical details appear remarkably similar to those used in the old model, both engines are described as new-generation units and are claimed to provide added levels of performance along with greater efficiency. The two petrol engines range in power from 189bhp to 228bhp, while the three diesels offer between 148bhp and 228bhp.  

Also planned, though not from the outset of sales, are turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in a pair of price-leading models.

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.   

The drawback of these engaging handling traits is a somewhat compromised ride despite the inclusion of optional dynamic damper control on our test car. In a bid to provide class-leading body control, the X1 receives relatively firm springs and dampers with quite aggressive compression and rebound characteristics. There is sufficient compliance to ensure it copes with potholes without becoming overly harsh in Comfort mode. However, the otherwise impressive on-road poise and all-round refinement of the new BMW is occasionally challenged by sharp vertical movements and excessive road noise over rougher surfaces.

Buyers can specify optional M Sport suspension, although such is the inherent firmness of the standard underpinnings that you’d be best advised to spend your money on other options, such as a head-up display unit which is now being made available on the X1 for the first time.

Should I buy one?

An upcoming drive on more familiar roads will tell us if our reservations about the ride are going to be an issue in the UK. But from what we’ve seen so far, the new X1 is clearly superior to its hugely successful predecessor in almost all areas.

Having  learnt from the huge demand for the first generation model, BMW’s optimism is such that it has already shifted production of its entry-level SUV from its Leipzig plant to the more flexible Regensburg facility to ensure it can keep up with the expected sales demand. 

BMW X1 xDrive25d

Location Austria; On sale October; Price £36,060 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power 228bhp at 4400rpm; Torque 332lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1575kg; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 132g/km, 24%

Join the debate

Comments
12

17 July 2015
I like the fact it looks like an SUV now, however I hate the dashboard, it's just a current 3 series unit with tweaks, and owning a year old 3 series myself that is not a good thing - article hints that interior quality is not great - well I can confirm that. I'll replace my car in less than two year's time, and unless they upgrade the interior of the 3 series and derivatives then I'll go elsewhere which is a damning verdict on interiors considering that the rest of the car is truly excellent.

Oh, and another stick on display screen - yuck! Do Audi have a patent on the binnacle displays? If not get copying please BMW, and now, not in 2 years time.

17 July 2015
Paul Dalgarno wrote:

I like the fact it looks like an SUV now, however I hate the dashboard, it's just a current 3 series unit with tweaks, and owning a year old 3 series myself that is not a good thing - article hints that interior quality is not great - well I can confirm that. I'll replace my car in less than two year's time, and unless they upgrade the interior of the 3 series and derivatives then I'll go elsewhere which is a damning verdict on interiors considering that the rest of the car is truly excellent.

Oh, and another stick on display screen - yuck! Do Audi have a patent on the binnacle displays? If not get copying please BMW, and now, not in 2 years time.

Again I agree with Paul Dalgarno re BMW's interior. For me it falls well short of the competition. On this model it's made worse by the tacky red strip that articulates ... exactly what? BMW used to have driver oriented dashboard that was good to use and aesthetically pleasing. But that idea was swept away by Mr Bangle.

17 July 2015
Agree with you on the Audi pop-up infomat system, it oozes quality and puts the Sat Nat/Radio etc in the most logical, easy and safe place to look at. The only problem is it probably costs quite alot more than putting it in a stationary position, although at least the BMW version is quite high

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

17 July 2015
xxxx wrote:

Agree with you on the Audi pop-up infomat system, it oozes quality and puts the Sat Nat/Radio etc in the most logical, easy and safe place to look at. The only problem is it probably costs quite alot more than putting it in a stationary position, although at least the BMW version is quite high

I think Mr Dalgarno was referring to the instrument binnacle display as seen on the TT and forthcoming A4. I agree that this is by far the best place for these displays, the Audi pop-up is really just a neater version of this BMW screen. But at least both are high up, unlike some other recently released cars such as the Corsa, where the centre screen is ridiculously low.

17 July 2015
a screen that rises from the dashboard, and then sinks away again when not in use, just like Volvo (not Audi) started using about 15-20 years ago..

17 July 2015
Might be my next car in 3 years time though when the current government have made my romance with hybrids no longer advantageous. The base specification is impressive with kit, all you need really and a 2.0d manual plenty quick and tax friendly. Only concern is the ride. I would prefer a capable mile muncher than a like-on-rails experience (look at the damage that did to the old X3). On the same point refinement sounds a bit iffy. Instead of offering even harder sportier models perhaps BMW should offer 'comfort' or 'family' versions with easy going suspension. After all most their customers will be high motorway mile business drivers or school run mums. Both need the bigger boot more than hard shocks.

17 July 2015
comment about the needs of a customer ie a bit of "comfort", its what Ford have realised with the new Mondeo, they have softened it and made it a bit more comfortable (as per customer needs), and all reviews from "drivers" magazines have slatted it for that reason, when in fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

17 July 2015
This is damn close to the Active Tourer in 4 wheel drive form (and maybe in 2 wheel drive too). Do the two cars feel any different to drive? I guess the next Countryman is going to be another clone.

jhg

17 July 2015
The appaling news on air pollution in London this week means that people should stop buying diesel cars. Unfortunately SUVs are overwhelmingly diesel, and there is going to be 1000s more vehicles like these on our roads. Dirty cars bought by dumb people who would panic at the thought of going off road but buy SUVs because they like the feeling of superiority it gives them.

17 July 2015
scrap wrote:

The appaling news on air pollution in London this week means that people should stop buying diesel cars. Unfortunately SUVs are overwhelmingly diesel, and there is going to be 1000s more vehicles like these on our roads. Dirty cars bought by dumb people who would panic at the thought of going off road but buy SUVs because they like the feeling of superiority it gives them.

An alternative view may be that people should stop using older diesel vehicles, or older of any type perhaps. The newer ones have to meet increasingly strict emissions criteria, but the older ones do not. I would suspect that it would take quite a number of new diesel cars to produce the same pollution levels as just one truck or bus. I see lots of them in London. Maybe vehicles beyond a certain age (to be determined) should be banned from cities? What was that statistic a few years ago, that it would take 20 new Fiestas to produce the same emissions/pollution as just one of the original Fiestas. Those, I recall, had either a 957cc or 1100cc petrol engine.

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