Bavarians want baby back

X-it strategy leaves a wagon-shaped hole where an SUV lives

ASH WESTERMAN

IN THIS business in which I work, itís seen as a badge of honour to own a car; one you donít need, that you rarely drive, and receives none of the love and attention that you originally promised it.

Itís why the easiest way to spot me in a crowded room of motoring journos is to look for the rumpled bloke with the pebble-crete complexion and zero badges of honour.

The last car I did buy, purely for my own pleasure, was way back when my head of hair was thick, and my Nokia phone even thicker. It was an E30 BMW 323i, a car which did see ample love, at least until I was lovetapped into a stout tree on Sydneyís lower north shore.

Anyway, according to research regarding buyer loyalty, that car makes me a prime candidate to purchase another BMW, which is the hypothetical I find myself immersed in here, as the X1 stands cleaned and fuelled, and ready to return to its maker.

So would I? Letís start with the positives, of which there are plenty. The overall dimensions and packaging were spot-on for me: ample load area with the seats folded, or sufficient room for my leggy teenage daughter behind my driving position. The X1 never feels cramped, yet is still sufficiently compact to feel wieldy in tight spaces.

Then there was the feel-good factor, both literally in terms of seating and comfort, as well as that little inner glow when you slide into a well-built, nicely appointed car. I found the driving position, seat support, oddment storage, instrument clarity, and general user friendliness of the thing difficult to fault.

More credits in the powertrain department, too. The extra urge of the high-output 2.0-litre turbo was always nice to have. Its refinement and eagerness is superb. Perfect throttle calibration, super smooth, and happy to chase the 6500rpm redline. Itís not overtly sporty sounding, but that was never an issue for me; I was happy to enjoy the near-lag-free delivery, plucking ratios via the paddles, and surfing along on that generous wedge of torque.

The thumpy ride is really the only dynamic demerit, and could be improved by ditching the run-flats. The steering is not perfect in terms of providing a completely natural connection, but itís still very good Ė well-weighted, quick-witted, and with a reassuring self-centring action. Likewise the fine body control on the adaptive dampers; chassis essentials which should be standard, but are at least priced right.

All this sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Apart from the small matter of its SUV-ness, that is. I never went near an unsealed road, and I suspect most buyers never will. Which leaves me still as a committed rear-drive wagon lover, and eyeing the $14,000 more expensive 330i Touring as the current BMW Iíd really love, but sadly donít need.

MEET YOUR DAD

Check the proportion changes between original E84 and current X1. New car 77mm taller, less snouty

iDrive, therefore it is

BMWís original iDrive controller was launched in 2001 on the E65 7 Series, and quickly became the most maligned bit of infotainment tech ever, hated for burying basic commands beneath seemingly endless sub-menus. Interestingly, in its current guise, it now works brilliantly ó I actually prefer it to a touch screen ó and its fundamental design has been copied by loads of other car makers. The hard keys are logical, and there are still buttons for the most-used functions like radio station presets.

BMW X1 xDrive25i

Date acquired: April 2017 Price as tested: $63,390 This month: 712km @ 10.1L/100km Overall: 1526km @ 11.0L/100km WEEK 12 34 0 0 1 8 1 6 44 3 3