This is BMW’s compact premium Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) which made its debut in 2009 and was launched in Malaysia during the 1st quarter of this year. I would consider the X1 as the entry level SAV under the BMW stable which was previously occupied by the X3. There are two variants of the X1 available in Malaysia, the diesel powered xDrive 20d and the petrol variant sDrive18i.
The overall dimensions of the X1 is not imposing and will appeal to those who are uncomfortable with the size and bulk of its larger siblings namely the X3, X5 and X6. Its length (4,454mm), width (2,044mm) and height (1,525mm) are manageable and would suit target markets where there are tight parking spaces and narrow roads.
The vehicle is best viewed from the rear where the L shaped tail lights merged perfectly with overall design lines to form probably the best looking rear of the current BMW SAV crop. The front is typical BMW with twin large kidney grills and sharp lines on headlamps. Its side profile is probably its weakest, as the SAV could be mistaken for a sportswagon.
The X1 comes equipped with a generous list of safety features ie driver, front passenger, head and side airbags, Anti Lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and child seat fastening ISOFIX at the rear. The test model includes the xDrive which is BMW’s automated all wheel drive system but lacks other features such as the iDrive controls and navigation system.
Without the iDrive and the LCD display at the centre console, the overall interior design appears spartan. However, the materials used are of good quality and the overall finishing is well within BMW’s high standards. Seats are Nevada leathers with electronic adjustments available for driver and front seat passenger. Unlike the initial batch of X1 which were imported fully assembled, this sampled model is now assembled in Malaysia using semi knock down parts. (see update below)
The vehicle’s ride height is not much higher than a conventional sedan, hence entry is easy and fuss free. As the driver, your sitting position is high but not as high as conventional SUVs. The interior of the X1 is roomy and legroom is adequate for front and rear. In fact, I think the occupants will feel a bit more comfortable and less cramped as compared to being seated in a 3 Series.
The side wing mirrors are tad larger than preferred but gives wider coverage. The driver has good views of the front with a bit compressed views of the rear through the rear view mirror. Parking and reverse is aided by the Park Distance Control feature (front and rear) with audible warning tones. In place of the missing LCD display at the centre console is an additional storage compartment which can be rolled shut.
The vehicle’s in-line 4 cylinder turbodiesel power plant (N47D20) has plenty of low end torque which suits the numerous stop and go nature of city driving. Highway runs on the X1 are effortless and there are plenty of reserves available to enable nippy overtaking maneuvers. As expected the N47D20 is not as refined as its petrol siblings and diesel clatter is prominent upon ignition. Cabin insulation is not the best from BMW as the diesel clatter is audible even during idling.
Smooth and steady appears to be the goal for this vehicle. Even when I pushed the car hard during acceleration, the automatic gear changes occurred in a very controlled and dignified manner (audio file below). Compared to other BMW models, the lack of urgency in response might put a damper to those seeking a sporty drive. Nevertheless, it is still has sufficient power and torque to achieve respectable acceleration times.
Average fuel consumption is slightly higher than the 320d which was expected. Throughout the entire test drive, we averaged about 8.0 litres per 100 km which is not bad for a relatively new car. Mileage is still very low (below 1,000km) and we expect fuel consumption to improve with further running in.
In the meantime, only the Euro 2M diesel is available at the pumps in Malaysian petrol stations. Pending the introduction of the Euro IV diesel into the Malaysian market, the full potential of this vehicle could not be realized. Hopefully, the introduction of Euro IV diesel will not take too long for the betterment of the environment as well as to encourage more advanced diesel variants from various car manufacturers into the market.
The leather clad steering wheel is well weighted and provides plenty of feedback. It gives good directionality and accuracy. I felt the X1’s lower centre of gravity and better overall balance than the X3 and X5 gives it an edge in coping with higher speed turns, thus is closer to achieving ‘sedan like’ handling qualities. The X1 felt agile and coupled with its compact dimensions as compared to its other X siblings makes it an easier vehicle to maneuver in tight places.
Unlike the earlier batch of X1’s which were fitted with 18 inch run flat tyres, the test model came with slightly thicker 17 inch Pirelli Cinturato P7 run flat tyres (225/50 R17) for both the front and rear. I did not have the opportunity to test drive the earlier models so there is no a proper A and B comparison.
Riding on run flat tyres would normally incur some penalty in ride quality. However, the test model provided a comfortable ride quality so much so that it is closer to driving on conventional tyres. The suspension set up and dampening stuck a good balance between comfort and sporty. It was able to absorb all the rough edges on the road without transferring much of the discomfort into the cabin.
On the road the tyres performed well with good grip and roadholding. The less than stellar insulation (by BMW standards) resulted in the occasional engine and road noise in the cabin during higher speed cruises. Brakes are discs for both front and rear. The brakes gave good stopping power and were very responsive to pedal inputs with just the right amount of free play on the pedal.
The all wheel drive xDrive system continuously transferred torque to both front and back wheels. This enabled the vehicle to have excellent grip on the road throughout the entire test drive at a cost of some fuel penalty. The X1 coped effortlessly in flat plane off road conditions. However, the vehicle is not considered as a serious off roader due to its design and there is no provision to manually lock the differentials.
There is however a provision to activate the Hill Descent Control if so required to enable the vehicle to gradually descent over a steep hill without wearing out the brake pads rapidly by riding the brakes. Cruise control is activated via a lever on the left of the steering wheel by pushing it inwards. The small LCD panel in between the two main gauges will indicate the current speed that you have locked in. To disengage you can step on the brakes or push the lever downwards.
Part of the X1 benefits includes the flexibility to have larger cargo space as compared to a conventional car. The rear seats can be all folded downwards in a 40:20:40 individual configurations to create more cargo space. Depending on how you adjust the rear seats, cargo space can vary from 420 litres to 1,350 litres. Tension straps are provided at various places in the car to hold your cargo steady. However, the silver coloured roof rails only serve for aesthetic purposes as it can’t be used to lock external cargo.
The in-car 8 loudspeaker entertainment system gave a satisfactory account of itself. Radio reception was first rate as it was able to lock into local radio stations easily and provide a short descriptive RDS information on the small LCD panel. Sound quality from the radio was a bit more dynamic and fuller compared to the CD. The CD player occasionally had error correction problems which I think is sample specific since I have not had this problem before in the other BMW models.
Based on our driving experience, the X1 xDrive 20d evoked an almost similar satisfactory and enjoyable ride as compared to the E83 X3 xDrive 20d which we had tried almost a year ago. With the same feature set and if we are deciding between the two, we would probably lean more towards X1 for now due to the manageable dimensions and better driving dynamics.
However, we have yet to try out the new F25 X3 which is slated to be launched sometime next year which might change the equation altogether. In the meantime the X1 xDrive 20d impressed us with its frugal consumption, plentiful low end torque, excellent driving dynamics for an SAV and good ride quality. A more refined diesel powerplant, better insulation and the inclusion of the iDrive system would be the icing on the cake.
|Engine:||4-cylinder in-line diesel engine with four-valve technology|
|Max Output:||130 kW (177hp) @ 4,000 rpm|
|Max Torque:||350 Nm @ 1,750-3,000 rpm|
|Top Speed:||205 km/h|
|Acceleration 0-100km:||8.6 sec|
|Fuel Consumption:||6.5 litres per 100 km|
Source: BMW Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!
We initially thought that this X1 is a SKD model but after some checks it was brought to our attention recently that the above test model is in fact a fully imported and assembled unit (known as a complete built up unit – CBU). Although semi knocked down assembly of the X1 in Malaysia commenced in 2010, this test model is not part of the batch. Many thanks to the people at BMW Malaysia who pointed this out to us.