What is it?
BMW’s new junior off-roader – the X1. UK sales are slated to get underway around October, with local BMW officials hinting at a starting price of £25,000 for the entry-level xDrive18i and rising to around £35,000 for the range topping xDrive28i.
BMW is going for a broad reach with the X1, which will come with the option of three petrol and three diesel engines from the outset. The petrols include two 2.0-litre units with 141bhp and 168bhp, and a 254bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit. On the diesel side there is a trio of 2.0-litre common rail fours producing 141bhp, 175bhp and 201bhp. We’re testing a prototype of the 201bhp xDrive23d here.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all but the xDrive30i and xDrive23d, both of which receive a six-speed automatic with remote shift buttons on the steering wheel.
Drive is sent permanently to all four wheels via BMW’s xDrive system, which employs a multi-plate clutch to apportion the engine’s reserves to the wheels in a nominal 30:70 split front-to-rear, but which can vary 100:0 or 0:100 depending on conditions.
The X1 sits on a lightly modified platform from the four-wheel drive 3-series – a model not offered in the UK, but which has proven popular in other European countries in recent years.
What’s it like?
The first thing that grabs your attention is the gutsy engine. The 2.0-litre diesel unit is relatively small in outright capacity. However, the combination of twin turbocharging and the latest in common rail technology helps provide it with the sort of shove to shame many larger engines. With 258lb ft of torque at 2000rpm, it hauls BMW’s new junior off-roader along with ease. At 75mph it barely raises a sweat, ticking over at 2500rpm in top gear.
BMW puts the xDrive23d’s 0-62mph acceleration at 7.3sec, yet in real world driving it feels even quicker. It’s also frugal, averaging almost 45mpg. It is all helped by the slick shifting nature of the standard six-speed automatic gearbox, which adds to the feeling of refinement.
With relatively compact dimensions, the X1 is perfectly suited to urban driving. Despite its long bonnet, the raised seating position provides a good view of the road out front. However, a shallow and heavily angled rear window and high mounted tailgate combine to make it difficult to judge during reversing.
In on-road situations it is highly satisfying to drive, feeling more like a traditional estate than a high riding off-roader, turning in with enthusiasm and cornering in a highly progressive fashion. With relatively wide tracks helping to distribute the weight, there is also little body roll and, thanks to four-wheel drive a good deal of grip, too.
The steering is reasonably weighty in the best of BMW traditions, although at 3.2 turns from lock to lock it not at all quick. But this is no sportscar, it’s an off-roader. It is the overall smoothness of the ride which impresses the most.
After traversing muddy fields and rocky trails we’re confident the X1 offers a good deal more capability than most owners will seek.
For anyone with passing familiarity with recent BMWs, the X1’s cabin will be immediately recognisable. Although the dashboard and door trims of the pre-production cars we drove were partly disguised, it is clear the materials and overall quality of the production version will be similar to the existing 3-series.
BMW describes the X1 as a five seater. While three adults can find room up back, entry is tight through small door apertures and there is a lack of shoulder room once you’re seated. The rear seat is also mounted rather low and its cushion is flat.
BMW puts the X1’s nominal boot capacity at 420 litres – some 60 litres less than in the X3, although with the reclining back rest of the rear seat pushed all the way forward it extends to 480 litres.
Should I buy one?
From what could be gleaned during our time with final prototype versions, the BMW X1 clearly sets out to be the driver’s choice in an ever increasing group of compact off-roaders.
In simple terms, it takes all the likeable qualities of the 3-series and wraps them up in a higher-riding estate style body, also allowing you to head off-road when the need arises.