The new vehicle market in South Africa is quite complex. We tend to buy the cars we want rather than the cars we need. One instance is the bakkie segment, which has evolved to pander to leisure-orientated and image-driven shoppers. More than half the consumers that buy into this segment hardly ever use these vehicles to haul an honest blue-collar load. It is the same case with the SUV ambit. Despite their rugged personas, these models are destined to spend all their days in the suburbs and cities.
It is an extremely popular end of the market, as models like the BMW X1 have proven. Having grown somewhat stale in recent years with newer offerings joining the fray, the second generation X1 hopes to claw back relevance in the segment. Even though the sentiments of many were divided – especially when it came to the way the outgoing X1 looked – the car has done rather well for BMW’s bottom line. More than 730 000 units were sold.
The baby X-model faces stiff competition against its fellow Germans, the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Plus there are alternatives like the Jeep Renegade and a little bit of familial rivalry in the form of the Mini Countryman, which is due for a significant revision. On the outside the new BMW X1 can still be recognised as the baby in the BMW X-series portfolio despite receiving a bolder styling approach. The new model had a growth spurt of 53 millimetres in height, translating to a slightly elevated front seating position of 36 millimetres and 64 millimetres at the rear.
The large “kidney-shaped” grille, sportily styled air-intakes and the combination of the signature BMW headlight clusters and fog lamps, largely contribute to the new visual changes made on the latest X1 model. All X1 models will include daytime-running LEDs as standard specification while full LED headlights are available as an option. On the inside, it’s all typically BMW – with the focus towards the woman or man at the helm. The centre console and instrument panel are angled towards the driver for a more a snug, engaging experience. Features like a Head-Up Display, which projects important information onto the windscreen, make concentrating on the road ahead easier.
The iDrive operating system can be controlled via a 6.5-inch or an optional 8.8-inch “freestanding” display unit. As per BMW tradition the X1 offers customers a wide range of options for interior trim and upholstery. The X1 is expected to reach the South African market by October this year. It will be available in both petrol and diesel derivatives. One engine will serve the range, albeit in various states of tune. This is the familiar four-cylinder, two-litre mill with BMW’s TwinPower turbocharged technology. Power outputs will range between 110kW to 170kW. Two transmission choices are available; a new six-speed manual or BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic gearbox.
And if you thought that BMW’s experiment with front-wheel drive was only limited to the 2-Series Active Tourer, think again – the X1 is front-wheel drive in standard guise. Although all-wheel drive versions will be available. Pricing and exact specifications will be announced closer to launch. Based on looks however, it does seem that the runt of the X-Series litter has grown up.