Skid Marks

BMW X1: a proper FWD BMW sports active vehicle

The X1 is touted to attract the young, stylish and well-heeled female crowd.

The X1 is touted to attract the young, stylish and well-heeled female crowd.

Let me get this out of the way first: I absolutely hated the first generation BMW X1. It was just so cramped inside, and its powertrain option was very poorly matched to the driving conditions here in the Philippines.

But BMW has been on a roll lately, and when the second generation X1 finally broke cover, I was excited to say the least.

Crucially, the biggest difference is that the all-new second-generation X1 (internally codenamed F48) is now a front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicle, underpinned by BMW’s modular platform architecture, this one being based on the UKL2 platform.

MINI shares this platform as well with the Countryman which I sampled in the UK, and it felt great, FWD or not.

I also had high praise for the 2-Series Active Tourer which clearly miffed many of BMW’s traditional core clientele.

Elsewhere though, it has enjoyed great success, enticing previously non-traditional BMW clients to the blue and white fold.

Clearly, despite the switch to wrong wheel drive (as BMW purists would say) and a transverse engine, this didn’t hobble BMW’s ultimate driving machine ethos in the X1.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter CRDi diesel engine, delivering an impressive 190 hp and a wall-climbing 400 Newton-meters of torque driving the front wheels via a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.

Eight forward speeds in an engine this torquey is overkill, but provides impressive high-speed cruising ability, thanks to the overdrive allowing very low revs at highway speeds.

The engine is also significantly quieter from the inside, as previous BMW diesel engines, though smooth and silky, always felt noisier compared to their Volkswagen-Audi rivals.

The interior is equally pleasant: A low dashboard helps you to see further ahead, mimicking a commanding view of the road while keeping dimensions manageable as per a proper cross-over.

Dash architecture is more in line with the simple but beautiful BMWs of yore, but the large 6-inch LCD screen for BMW’s iDrive is permanently fixed, though thankfully doesn’t block your view.

As with all proper BMWs, the dash itself is canted toward the driver, so you know it’s going to be a sharp drive.

The seats and steering wheel perfectly adjust as well to the driver.

Reach and rake adjustment for the steering column, plus 12-way adjustment for the driver’s seat mean you will find a comfortable yet sporty driving position that will allow you to remain focused on the task ahead.

17-inch wheels

17-inch wheels

Despite the relatively narrow width, there’s good interior space.

The absence of a transmission tunnel in the back crucially frees up foot space, a huge complaint I had with the previous X1, which severely limited rear seat comfort.

The second-gen X1 now has an additional 37 mm of knee room, and since the rear seats slide fore and aft, this can grow to 67 mm with the rear seats moved all the way back.

Adjust the rear seats forward, and the rear cargo shelf grows by 85 liters, bringing total cargo capacity to 505 liters with the rear seats up, and an enormous 1550 liters should you drop the 40/20/40 split folding seats flat to the floor.

Truly, the loss of that pesky transmission tunnel opened up huge possibilities for the X1.

I don’t know if it’s me getting used to iDrive, or it has really become easier to use over the years, but thankfully, I had no trouble this time connecting my mobile media device to it.

Choose the in-car trip and fuel computer, select the EcoPro driving mode, and the fuel efficiency displays a very impressive 11.75 km/liter in city driving, and an even more impressive 19 km/liter on the highway without even trying to be fuel efficient.

Of course, with a chassis, engine, transmission, brakes and steering as good as the X1’s, you certainly won’t be driving Miss Daisy around.

Euro NCAP crash-tested the latest BMW X1 model and it received a maximum five stars safety rating, providing 90 percent adult protection and 81 percent child protection.

Eight airbags come as standard, plus traction and stability control and ABS brakes, things one would expect from a premium product such as this.

There’s interestingly also a hill-descent control feature should you decide to take your X1 off-roading on preferably light trails, especially when you get an impressive 183 mm of ground clearance, more than an inch higher than most sedans.

That’s more than enough to conquer dirt roads and the occasional light flooding we experience in Metro Manila.

And of course, to make things easier, hill-start assist is standard. The X1 clamping on the brakes for 4 seconds allows you to move off safely and securely when starting from an incline.

In the city, the X1 drives smoothly and serenely. The suspension soaks in all bumps with much aplomb. There’s oodles of comfort and compliance on Metro Manila’s poorly surfaced roads, and the steering feels light and easy.

The missus had a stab at driving the X1 for a bit, and she enjoyed it because the ride height, seating position, lightness of controls and overall exterior dimensions were perfectly judged.

Parking is a doodle, even on tight car parks in shopping malls. Weaving through traffic is a breeze, thanks to the punchy engine and strong brakes.

Surely, the X1 will be popular with the young, stylish and well-heeled female crowd, and has that all-important blue and white roundel that makes for impressive pose value on the high street.

Traditional kidney grille

Traditional kidney grille

On the highway, the X1 comes alive. It’s equally serene and confident at highway speeds: wind-noise is non-existent, tire noise is nil, and the diesel engine thrums with turbine-like smoothness and efficiency.

It seems most efficient at 130 km/h, with the fuel consumption indicator showing 4 liters per 100 kilometers. Of course, I noticed too late that I had accidentally failed to regulate my speed. Uh huh.

The X1 also resists cross-winds on the elevated Skyway. I’ve driven many tall-riding SUVs, vans and crossovers here on my regular weekend sojourn to the south, and many have been violently rocked by strong winds blowing from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay, and vice-versa.

Thankfully, the X1 felt composed and stable even at highway speeds. Straight-line stability is good, while remaining alert and responsive to steering inputs.

On winding mountain roads, the BMW corners with gusto, diving into curves with great agility, the steering almost intuitively telepathic—a BMW hallmark.

The brakes have lightened in effort, and at times can feel a tad over-assisted, but they still deliver impressive, fade-free and well-modulated action at all times.

BMW’s X1 is perhaps an amazing only-car proposition if you can afford it. It’s fast, fun, efficient, has that all-important blue and white roundel on the hood, is spacious and roomy inside, and can hack it on most driving surfaces and conditions as well.

Rivals from Audi (Q3), Mercedes-Benz (GLA) and Lexus (NX) surely need to be wary of the X1. It’s a fantastic all-arounder that’s even more comfortable and efficient than its predecessor.

And despite the switch to FWD and a transverse engine, most people will never be able to tell the difference especially on normal driving conditions, which is high-praise indeed for BMW’s amazing engineering prowess.

If you’re in the market for a compact crossover in the luxury segment, check out BMW’s X1. You surely won’t be disappointed.

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