The adage that variety is the spice of life certainly seems to be a philosophy at BMW. This old saying rang true while attending the International media launch of the second generation X1 in Achenkirch, Austria.
The first generation, which was launched back in 2010 and sold upwards of 720,000 units, brought yet another X model to the market alongside the X3, X5 and X6. Since then the X4, loosely based on the X3 platform, has also joined the fray. While the X1 is essentially the entry point to the X family of cars, it never quite offered the universal appeal of its siblings as it featured proportions and a silhouette not far removed from the previous generation 3 Series station wagon, which is a genre that generally lacks appeal among the South African buying public.
While it was fairly practical and drove reasonably well it lacked the X factor of its larger siblings. Even so, according to Ralf Graser, project head of the X1, every tenth BMW registered is an X1, thus ranking the model among the top three sellers in the BMW stable. Enter the second generation of the model, and it is clear that the designers went back to the drawing board to emerge with a model that is more substantial in both its footprint and appeal. For starters, the vehicle is 53mm higher and 23mm wider than its predecessor, but some 15mm shorter in overall length. Boot space has swelled by 85l to 505l, which can extend to 1,550l with the rear seats folded. There definitely seems to be more interior space than the previous X1, particularly in headroom. It has also assumed a more assertive look, making it a bit sharper to appease those looking for a compact crossover to match their active lifestyle.
The model is built on the company’s UKL1 modular platform, which currently underpins the 2 Series Active Tourer. Even the interior has more than a whiff of the Active Tourer about it. Versatility has also been a strong design point and in addition to the rear seatbacks that can be folded at the pull of a button located in the boot, the front passenger seat can be folded forward to accommodate longer or cumbersome items. The model also comes with comfort access for the boot, so you need only swipe your foot under the rear bumper (with the key fob in your pocket) to open the boot.
Scheduled to be launched in SA in October, the X1 will come in three engine variants, all 2.0l in capacity and with all-wheel drive. This will include the xDrive20i (141kW and 280Nm); xDrive20d (140kW and 400Nm); and xDrive25i (170kW and 350Nm). All these are allied to an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to BMW SA’s spokesperson, Edward Makwana, the range will in early 2016 be expanded with front-wheel drive only variants in the form of the sDrive18i (100kW and 230Nm), sDrive20i and sDrive20d, the former powered by the 1.5l three-cylinder turbocharged engine from the Mini Cooper.
Three trim levels are offered in the form of the X-Line, Sport Line, and M-Sport. In addition the model can be specified with LED headlights, while the ConnectedDrive system brings the internet into the cabin, ensuring that you remain connected even while on the road. As mentioned, the new X1 is loosely based on the Active Tourer platform and as such is equipped with a transverse engine setup, essentially making it a front-wheel drive with partial four-wheel drive in the instance of the xDrive variants.
At launch we managed to get behind the wheel of the xDrive25i and thanks to the vehicle’s drag coefficient of 0.28, interior noise intrusions are far more contained than the outgoing model, while the engine offers up punchy performance when you need it, but its forte remains open road cruising. The transmission does a great job of swapping cogs while handling, even with the front-wheel drive architecture, is certainly more dynamic than its Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA counterparts. The new X1 will be a better proposition than its predecessor as it looks the part in its new threads. Overall, it offers a more versatile interior than its rivals and that could be its selling point against competitors.
*This article first appeared in Business Day Motor News.