BMW X1

Space to the fore; dynamics take a back seat

DAMION SMY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

BMW reckons that it had it right with the first X1, but marked itself an honest ‘could do better’. So this all-new second-gen brings far more handsome brings far more handsome shrunken-down-X5 styling and a raft of new features, underpinned by the same frontdrive architecture as the 2 Series Active Tourer and latest F56 Mini.

The front-drive platform and transverse engine location freed up Aussie-born designer Calvin Luk to alter the proportions drastically. That formerly ‘wasted’ space up front has been shifted to the rear of the X1, with a shorter bonnet and a better balanced, more aerodynamic shape.

The wheelbase is a whopping 90mm shorter, but overall length is cut by only 15mm, while growth in width and height creates loads of space up front and impressive rear legroom – the latter up by 66mm. The 505-litre boot tops its main rivals’, and that greater space is also cleverly flexible thanks to second-row sliding seats.

Cabin quality is also noticeably improved as part of a sharp interior that conforms to other familiar X-badged cars.

The new 170kW/350Nm turbopetrol engine we’re driving here is standard in the flagship xDrive 25i, which replaces the previous 28i model. While there’s 10kW less power, the 25i has the same 350Nm and matches the 28i’s 6.5sec 0-100km/h claim, but improves its economy figure by 0.7L, down to 6.6L/100km. It’s a smooth engine that’s more willing in its power delivery than punchy or athletic, with commendable refinement and even a subtle rorty note when pushed. It’s mated to a smoothshifting eight-speed auto with wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.

But a firm, fidgety ride lets the X1’s overall performance down on Aussie roads, with excessive tyre noise from the 19-inch Bridgestone run-flats. The X1 is upset by the smallest of bumps, with reverberations felt through the wheel, and it takes far too long to settle. Switching to a lower-spec 18-inch-shod X1 didn’t solve the ride issues either, and showed that it’s not worth optioning the top model’s Sport Steering, but it is worth paying $700 for sports seats, as the base car’s are way too flat.

The $49,500 kick-off is $3200 higher, but BMW claims $8K worth of extras in the cheapest X1, and $12K of extra kit in our xDrive 25i test car that remains at the same $59,990 as the model it replaces.

The X1 is better looking, far roomier, faster and more efficient – as well as improved value – but falls down in terms of dynamics.

It has the potential to be a strong contender if BMW can get the ride sorted once adaptive dampers become available in December.

But we doubt any new X1 will be a match for the sharp-steering, beautifully balanced old model. h th

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale BMW X1 xDrive 25i 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 170kW @ 5000-6000rpm 350Nm @ 1250-4500rpm 8-speed automatic 1540kg 6.5sec (claimed) 6.6L/100km $59,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Remote steering; harsh, bumpy ride; lacks dynamic composure Excellent packaging; ample passenger space; strong, refined drivetrains

X addiction

AUSTRALIA’S SUV habit means that the X1 is crucial to BMW as it chases Mercedes and tries to hold off Audi. The original X1, codenamed E84, arrived in 2009 and has since accounted for a third of BMW’s total X-car sales globally. It trails only the X5 in BMW’s SUV sales charts, the first of its X-cars that kicked things off in 1999. Since then, the range has blown out to X1, X3, X4, X5, X6 and – come 2018 – the X7, which will share its platform with the uber Rolls-Royce SUV. Will we ever kick the habit?