BMW X1 sDrive20d Exclusive
PRICE AS TESTED: Rs 29.9 lakh, ex-showroom all India
Fuel economy : 15.24 kmpl (claimed, ARAI approved)
WHAT YOU WILL LIKE
* Coupe-ish like looks
* Powerful 2.0-diesel
* Nice on-road dynamics
* More settled ride than the regular 3 Series
* Decent economics
WHAT YOU WON'T LIKE
* Space is just about enough for four, five is a squeeze
* Legroom at the rear is about adequate
* Some compromises have been made in terms of plastic quality
* Lack of all-wheel drive telling
* Waiting period already stretching to six months
A hopped-up BMW 3 Series. That's the one statement to define the BMW X1. If you thought it's a proper SUV, you might be slightly disappointed. But like most modern BMWs, you have to go beyond the looks and get behind the wheel to truly experience what BMW have tried to do with their new offering. So is it worth giving a second look, or should you ignore it and go for a proper, full-sized SUV instead? Let's get cracking with it, shall we!
BMW's smallest SUV... er, SAV does stand out. In the larger scheme of things, it doesn't have bulk to flaunt, but has enough muscle and chiseled lines that can make heads turn. For the past few days, we have been driving this white example in Mumbai, and the response from the man on the street is synonymous with two-thumbs up.
To put things into perspective, BMW's X1 borrows little from its bigger brothers and is a break from the tradition found on the X5 and X6. The kidney-grille is much bolder than before - something we've seen on the new 5 and 7 Series. The inverted air-dam with the splitter looks really cool and the fact that it isn't body coloured makes it stand apart from its larger brethren.
Move to the flanks and the first thing that will catch you is the relative lack of height this vehicle has. Standing next to a new-gen Honda CR-V, the X1 is a tad shorter and a tad longer too, thanks to the coupe-ish like stance. Like the X3, the Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar and the curving roof help it break from the traditional SUV mould. Don't even go comparing it with the Toyota Fortuner for size - it is completely dwarfed by the big T!
From the rear three-quarters, the wildly styled tail lamps, compact hatch design and high loading lip let you know that BMW has given up on some practicalities, letting function folllow form. The return of the eagle-eyed headlamps (ala, last-gen E60 BMW M5) tells you that BMW is learning what works and what doesn't. The Exclusive edition that we drove had beautiful 17-inch Star-spoke wheels on 225/50 R17 runflat tyres and a panoramic sunroof as standard as well as xenon lamps.
For those looking for a full-sized SUV, the X1 isn't your cup of char or glass of wine or whatever your drink might be. Like the Yeti, it is designed to seat four comfortably and five at a pinch. Compared to the E90-3 Series, on whose platform the X1 sits on, it is more comfortable with more leg and knee room on offer. But the space is limited for a vehicle its size. Squeeze three at the back and the high central tunnel reduces the amount of legroom available. It's best accepted as a four-seater and that's what it is.
Compared to other offerings in the Rs 20-30 lakh segment, the BMW X1 has the best build quality. Our test car, which had the Leather Nevada Red Brown/Black upholstery option, the interiors looked sporty and the quality of seat trim was excellent. The rest of the dashboard is proper 3 Series stuff, and so it is pretty good stuff. Overall feel of the dash and the material on it is quite good. On this, the Exclusive edition, i-Drive is standard while a regular eight-speaker system is standard across the range as is USB connectivity. Six airbags, traction and stability control, ABS and brake assist are the safety equipment you will get. Some bits, such as the central tunnel are of a harder wearing plastic, while a slightly slipshod job has been done around the rear hatch to suppress wind noise.
The front seats are quite supportive and very comfortable. Memory seats with four-way lumbar support are part of the package, making it pretty well loaded in comparison to the competition. The dials are typical 3 Series and are easy to read even in broad day light. The air-con is powerful and chills quickly, while the iDrive is easy to use, thanks to the important functions now available on a set of switches surrounding the main dial.
Since this is a first impression of the BMW X1, we weren't able to strap on our timing gear on the X1, but sure enough we can tell you one thing for sure – it feels nearly as quick, if not quicker thank the quickest one in the segment.
Powering the BMW X1 are a pair of engine options; a 2.0-litre petrol mill producing 149 bhp@6000 rpm and a 2.0-litre diesel as tested here. The latter is what we drove and here are the need-to-know numbers. This 1995cc diesel engine produces 177 bhp@4000 rpm and a very impressive 35.5 kgm of peak torque available from 1750-3000 rpm. That puts its power output somewhere in between the Toyota Fortuner and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Since the BMW X1 weighs just 1575 kg and that gives it an excellent power-to-weight ratio of nearly 112 bhp/tonne. According to BMW's own published figures, the sDrive20d can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 8.3 seconds, which makes it quicker than the Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan X-Trail, which claim are in the double digit figures.
Driving the X1 around town, some thing became amply clear. Unlike the lighter 3 Series, there is a slight lag from the gearbox if you decide to step on it. But once it awakens, with the turbo spooling up from 1600-1700 rpm, the X1 has some snappy acceleration. It gets to three-digit speeds rather quickly and all along, the NVH is quite well suppressed. We wish it had a paddle-shift gearbox though to enjoy what is BMW's best four-cylinder motor in India. In-city, we achieved about 9.5 kpl - a mix of some spirited driving and cruising along with the traffic.
BMW India's biggest bugbear has been the ride quality on offer by its products. Constantly facing the stick for its stiff ride, BMW has made some concessions here, since it believes that 80 per cent X1 buyers will be first time BMW owners. Sure enough, if you want them to stay in the fold, you have to make their first experience a pleasant one. The firm has made some changes to the suspension to make it less stiffer and more pliant on Indian roads. While the dampers have been softened up, the new-gen runflat tyres too contribute to the improved ride quality.
Reasonably good when the surface is perfect, the X1 does feel more mature than its larger cousin, the X6 in comparison. But traces of stiffness remain. Hit a change in road-level or a bump and the X1's suspension will transfer the impact to its occupants. Over bad roads, the X1 rides decently enough and while it doesn't have the kind of ride quality that say the Santa Fe has on offer, it is good enough for what is a more driver-oriented chassis setup.
For India, BMW has opted for the rear-wheel driven sDrive format instead of the all-wheel drive xDrive format to keep costs in check. This makes the BMW X1 more fun to drive than practically anything else on stilts in that segment. The steering is nicely servoed and has good feel, though it's a bit short of what the regular 3 Series has on offer, for reasons of increased weight. Given its compact dimensions of just 4.45 metres, the X1 is quite chuckable and more than willing to slip into gaps. The chink in the X1's armour is its lack of all-wheel drive. Despite their best attempts, the softened suspension along with the taller dimensions and higher kerb-weight don't help the X1 with adequate front-end grip. As speeds start to rise and surface gets a bit bumpier, the front-end seems to go a bit wayward and constant minor corrections are required to keep the car on track. It is not alarming, but for someone who enjoys driving fast, it can be a bit annoying.
So has BMW India struck gold with the X1? Considering all factors, including initial response from the general car-buying public, BMW certainly seem to have hit the collective imagination for a six. With its tempting prices, they have managed to open up BMW ownership to a whole new segment and generation of buyers, who so far kept themselves away from the propellor badge.
The X1 is a nicely put-together automobile with great styling, good interiors, grunty motors and impressive driving dynamics. It, however is no replacement for a full-sized SUV. The X1 doesn't have as much passenger space, is a comfortable four-seat tall 3 Series at best. It also can't really be taken off-road and is best suited to the urban jungle or expressways of India. It's more of a style statement than anything else. But a very good one at that.