X-tending a winning formula: BMW X1 crossover

X1 adds space, pace to BMW’s entry-level SUV


Double-headlamps under clear covers are now bright LED units.

BMW may not have been the first to enter the premium SUV market, but with its debut, the X5 easily became the benchmark for a whole generation of crossovers that carried a premium badge.

BMW managed to take its ethos of building some of the world’s best-driving sedans and translating it for its SUV formula.

Fast forward 18 years, and today, BMW has a whole stable of SUVs to suit every budget and category—from SUV-coupe hybrids to track-munching M-badged monsters.

While the previous, first-generation X1 was based on the platform of the 3 Series wagon, the new one ride on an all-new platform called UKL, or Untere Klasse, which translates to “lower class,” or the better-sounding “entry-level class.”

Indeed, the BMW X1 has slotted in as the smallest and most affordable (relatively speaking) of the range.

We don’t take the UKL designation as a denigration of the X1’s current configuration.

The first X1 may have had a sharp edge to its steering, courtesy of the 3 Series platform, but it was cramped, both inside the cabin and within the boot.

Better-suited platform

The new platform is much better suited to an SUV. We get the tall roofline, high seating position, and a roomier cabin.

It’s apparent that the X1 has a hint of MPV in its hind quarters, the more bulbous rear contributing to a larger cargo area.

The nose is defined by the trademark menacing double-headlamps under clear covers. Incidentally, these are now bright LED units.

The cabin is a pleasing place to be

SUV styling touches include a skid plate-like silver garnish under the bumper. The side includes neat metallic side skirts, and striking snowflake-design 18-inch alloys.

Inside, the cabin is anything but entry-level. There’s a steering wheel with multifunction buttons, rolltop style covers for the storage areas, dual-zone climate control, paddle shifters and automatic lights and wipers.

Interaction is via the BMW i-Drive control wheel and surrounding buttons.

The main display is a smallish 6.5-inch LCD panel mounted on top of the dash.

Audio and air-conditioning controls retain their own set of buttons, making them easy to adjust.

With the keyless Comfort Access system as standard, you just pull on the door handle, slide into the seat, and push the starter button.

Sport and Eco Pro switches

This small car has a long name: BMW X1 xDrive 20d xLine. The numbers mean that it’s powered by a 2.0-liter diesel.

The four-cylinder fires up quietly, and remains silent and rattle free from inside the cabin. It produces 190 ps and a robust 400 Nm of torque.

The latter figure is the key to the X1’s character. It sprints off the line quickly, a healthy reserve of torque always available, ready to be dished out by the 8-speed automatic gearbox.

There are paddle shifters ready to flick down several gears if needed, but the computer manages to find the appropriate ratio in almost all situations.

Discreet switch

There are a discreet switches beside the gear lever marked Sport and Eco Pro.

Going down to the Eco Pro setting favors early gearshifts and what seems like a cut in engine power to save fuel.

If you’re in a hurry, you can choose Sport to call for early downshifts, and later upshifts.

You can explore the engine’s upper powerband, but as the torque arrives early, it only helps a little to rev the engine to its limit.

The X1 feels quick in a straight line, reaching 100 kph in 7.6 seconds.

More legroom

The engine automatically shuts off during standstill, helping to conserve fuel. We got 9.5 to nearly 10 km/L in city driving.

We were a bit concerned, admittedly, that the new platform is biased toward front-wheel drive. After a few corners, we found out there was no need to worry, as the X1 retains the marque’s trademark proper steering feel.

Handling results in some body roll. Still, the X1 acquits itself well, retaining a sense of playfulness when cornering.

Solid chassis

The new platform pays off in bump absorption and comfort. The solid chassis is able to tame the horrid roads of Metro Manila, filtering out all but the harshest surfaces.

For the X1’s offroad credentials, it’s limited to rough roads and light muddy trails. The xDrive designation means it’s equipped with an automatic all-wheel drive system.

The X1 runs in front-wheel drive mode by default. A computer-controlled multiplate clutch system quickly sends torque rearward if it detects wheelspin, and also helps quell understeer.

The system runs with no additional input needed from the driver. It’s an important safety feature, and all but quells the torque steer that 400 Nm would necessarily induce in a pure front-wheel drive setup.

There is a hill-descent feature on the X1, handy when you want to exit that steep mall parking ramp with ease.

The cabin is a pleasing place to be. Our only gripe is the seats, which are short on thigh support.

The driver’s seat provides noticeably less support that what we’d expect from a BMW. Positioning is helped by the power seat actuation, including three memory settings for the driver.

Metallic side skirts and striking snowflake-design 18-inch alloys

Getting into parking spaces is a cinch, thanks to proximity sensors front and rear, and the reverse camera. The car can even steer itself into a parallel parking spot.

The BMW X1 is a logical progression as the brand’s entry-level SUV.

It adds quite a bit of legroom and luggage space, and more importantly, feels much more spacious than its predecessor.

Driving is as good as you’d expect from a car wearing the BMW badge, thanks mainly to the potent engine transmission combination, and the rigid chassis.

Now, for the disclaimer when it comes to the entry-level bit: the BMW X1 is priced at P3.38 million.

It’s a whole lot of cash for a small vehicle, but then the X1 is loaded up with nearly all options, including the must-have all-wheel drive.

This makes it competitive with its rivals, such as its platform-mate, the MINI Countryman, and the Lexus NX 200t F Sport.

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