The new BMW X1 is all charged up to regain lost ground, and rattle the cages of both the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. We drive it to find out if it can match its rivals pound-for-pound.
In 2011, BMW had a reason to smile as they launched their most affordable vehicle in India – the X1. Sure, it was a pseudo SUV – but BMW was confident that they had a winner in their hands. However, in an effort to be first-to-market it was a bit of a rush job – and BMW got their fair share of criticism about the fact that it didn’t feel like a true BMW. They upgraded the X1 in 2013, but by then the Audi Q3 had completely swept the market and then, the following year, Mercedes-Benz launched the GLA. BMW realised that it was time to go back to the drawing board, and the result is the new X1 – which was launched at the 2016 Auto Expo.
The new X1 comes across more like a compact X3, which is a good thing as it’s lost the previous generation’s gawky hatchback-on-stilts looks. Whether you call it an SUV, or a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV), as BMW prefers to call it, the important thing is how it feels from behind the wheel. So, is it really a step up or is it just easier on the eyes?
The X1 is available in four variants – two with front wheel drive and two with all-wheel drive (xDrive). That’s right, this is a front-wheel drive BMW! That does have obvious advantages however – such as, reducing the bonnet size and, more importantly, increasing cabin space. But we’ll get to the details a bit later.
The new X1 is certainly a lot more butch than before, and has increased road presence thanks to its flared wheel arches, large signature kidney grille, and the new, angular, twin circular full-LED headlamps. We drove the M Sport version, which looked especially imposing sitting on its 18-inch wheels. Also, to ensure that people know that you’re driving the M Sport variant, it’s got badging on both front doors. And, for a personal high, the M insignia is also visible on the steering wheel. The gorgeous Estoril Blue colour certainly makes the X1 stand out from the crowd, although it’s only available in the M-Sport version.
Step inside, and the first thing you notice is that the X1 is now a lot more luxurious than before. The new 8.7-inch display on the centre of the dashboard catches your attention. Though it doesn’t slide into the dash like the Audi Q3, it still looks stylish and comes with a nice metallic border. It is, of course, equipped with the iDrive infotainment system, as well as navigation. What’s disappointing, though, is that the X1 doesn’t come with a reverse camera – something that’s present even in many small hatchbacks today. Truly inexcusable!
One major upgrade from the previous X1, though, is that the cabin is now far more spacious – even though the new model is slightly shorter in length. The headroom has increased by 53mm, but the biggest improvement is the knee room for the rear passengers – which has increased by 37mm. The rear seats are quite versatile too, as they’re split-folding and also slide forwards and backwards. And one has to compliment BMW for crafting very comfortable front and rear seats. The contours of the seats provide ample back and side support. Also the driving position has vastly improved, as the space in the front has increased by 36mm (as compared with 64mm in the rear). All told, these are certainly some of the best seats in this segment.
It’s finally time to get behind the wheel and take control of the new X1. We fired up the 1,995cc, four-cylinder diesel heart, and noticed immediately that the engine noise has reduced substantially. The 187bhp kicks in as soon as you cross the 1,500rpm mark, at which point that hesitant smile turns into a wide grin. The X1 is deceptively quick – before we knew it we were cruising at three-digit speeds. A lot of credit should also go to the quick shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, which makes the new X1 very responsive. And, personally, I love the Head-Up Display – which projects driver-related information onto the windscreen.
And at least in all-wheel drive trim, the X1 is certainly a driver-oriented vehicle – which is what you expect from a BMW. But they haven’t overlooked the comfort angle either. The suspension set up of the X1 is softer than before, and it easily manages to cushion the many bumps and ditches on our roads. And, like all BMW’s, it has a 50:50 weight distribution – which ensures that it’s everything that you would hope for in the handling department.
After driving the all-new X1, it’s obvious that BMW completely shredded the architecture of the first generation X1 and started working on this new model from scratch. It’s now more luxurious, fully loaded with features, and definitely looks much better than before – and the M-Sport kit makes it a lot more desirable. Also the cabin is now more spacious and the seats are simply phenomenal. Even the ride quality is now more suited to our road conditions. And so, starting at `29.90 lakhs, ex-showroom, Delhi, the new X1 should give Audi and Mercedes-Benz some sleepless nights as this new kid on the block certainly means business. Unfortunately, this model with the M-Sport kit is prohibitively expensive – which is a shame because it truly looks the business!
- BMW X1 xDrive 20d M Sport
Engine: 1,995cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC / Common Rail Direct Injection
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All Wheel Drive
Power: 187bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h - 7.6 seconds
Price: Rs. 39.90 lakhs (as-tested, Ex-showroom, Delhi)