BMW has upped its game with its X1, the new model packing more stuff, much of it digital in nature. Is it the one?
BMW has a new X1 for those after a small yet premium SUV. Well it’s new-ish, being released late last year and arriving initially in sDrive18i guise, tested here, with an electric iX1 touching down imminently. The sDrive label means it’s again a front driver but then few owners care what end their BMW drives from these days.
And so this is less the ultimate driving machine, more the connected device, such is the level of tech present.
And that’s not a bad thing in the case of the X1, for it’s a compact commuter SUV. You’d rather they spent the R&D dollars on things you’ll use rather than have the engineers pounding around the Nurburgring honing its dynamics to the nth degree (or should that be Mth?).
So what’s new on the 2022 X1 then?
Well, pretty much everything and yet it’s quite a bit like the old one in essence. As is the norm, the new model is a smidge bigger in all dimensions than its forebear, and more rigid etc. It takes on the more upright stance of the new BMW design language, the enlarged grille very prominent on the front end.
Along the sides you’ll see the return of the scalloped door handles which are good for aeros but actually make opening the doors more of an effort.
The base price is now up to $71,300 but it is well kitted out with no real need for the extras offered. There are more features fitted as standard compared with the previous model, a lot more, most of it digital in nature with plenty of safety items and driver aids.
There are a couple of option packs, like the M Sport kit this tester wears, and the new subscription-based extras, in this case seat and wheel heaters. White paint is gratis but any other hue is a $1690 extra.
Urban utility vehicle
Being not much longer than a VW Golf, this is a city-friendly SUV. Easy steering, a good turn around and a clear surround-view camera ease the stresses of busy car parks. For those who find backing a chore, BMW’s most excellent reverse assistant can take care of this task; select Reverse, activate the genie and it retraces your inward path taking care of the steering.
There’s self parking too, so it’s a good option for those terrible driver types. The lone engine option is the 1.5-litre triple which, along with a turbo, puts out 115kW and 230Nm and is mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch box. The triple sounds great, is smooth and is into its torque band smartly.
The twin-clutch is both refined and quick with the changes. Well, most of the time; it can be indecisive at slower speeds, while the idle/stop system is too slow on the refires.
BMW lists consumption at 6.3L/100km, while the WLTP figures on Rightcar are 7.2L/100km (165g/km and fee neutral), much closer to reality, as we ended up at 7.5L/100km for a few hundred kays of city and motorway mooching.
All about the connection
The new interior takes on more ideas from the electric i-world with the likes of the floating center console, a two-tier affair with storage underneath and the drive controls (start button, toggle switch for the gears and mode buttons) clumped together for ease of use.
The useful cupholders are well positioned and behind is a novel upright charge pad that’s easy to access, large enough for the biggest devices and complete with a holder to secure said digital monstrosities. There are few buttons in here, most things controlled via the touchscreen, or better still by the voice control.
This is much improved, now the digital help is a proper assistant, able to perform things it previously could not. We were unable to find the distance control for the adaptive cruise but you just ask the car to set the gap for you. It can sort the drive mode and even turn off the lane keeping system, although it does ask “Are you sure you want to?”.
Yes, because it’s bloody annoying. That said, the assisted driving mode for the active cruise is well in control on the motorway, ably keeping its lane and distance from cars around you. It’s not so smart on a winding highway but is easily switched to regular adaptive cruise, neutering the steering function. It’s also handy in traffic with the stop-and-go function.
There is a deep mine of stuff in the infotainment system that you should spend the time to appreciate as you’ve spent the money for all the connected services that BMW offers. While some border on gimmicky, many are rather helpful.
There’s a different take on the drive modes these days, one called Expressive which takes over the twin 10-inch displays with ‘impressive visualisation and vibrant lighting events’, relegating all the important stuff to a basic speed readout while the rest of the screen is awash with groovy colours. An acid tripping hippy would dig it, man.
A driving machine?
Having shared architecture with Mini means there’s character to its drive. Highway progress at 80km/h you’d describe as lumpy, and yet we’ll be damned if the dampers don’t do a better job at 100km/h. Although called adaptive M suspension, they are better described as frequency-selective dampers.
This means you can’t switch up their softness/firmness but they do react to the task at hand, and work better as speeds and inputs rise. And so along with the 15mm ride height drop, this corners in a handy fashion, while the cultured electronic aids stave off understeer when pressed into the bends.
This has quick accurate steering too, turning sharply off centre and the chassis duly responds, so it is quite the nimble machine.
Get your assistant to summon Sport mode and there’s a lively uptick in the engine response while you can also flick the transmission into its Sport mode for snappier shifting. The triple beavers away studiously, stretching itself to 6000rpm when flogged but it’s better to use the midrange.
It’s a front driver but doesn’t struggle for traction, nor does it torque steer with BMW’s electronic aids helping there again. For giggles, you can pull and hold the left shift paddle to bring on the ‘boost function’, the trans quickly selecting the optimal gear and the engine giving full thrust for a 10-second burst.
Premium and practical?
The cabin has been given an injection of ‘premiumness’, being well trimmed and finished. Even the hard plastics are classy and reserved for the lower half of the cabin, the upper bits impressive with their mix of alloy, gloss plastics and double stitched trimmings. It’s not just for show either as there’s thoroughly practical cabin storage amongst it all.
We could do without the sporty seats of the M package, which wouldn’t be out of place in an M3 from a couple of generations ago. Not that they are overly firm but do you need such bolstering in an SUV like this? Ditto the super chunky M steering wheel. Those seats however do offer plenty of adjustment (the wheel too) so finding your ideal position is not that hard.
There’s ample space in the rear for a pair of grown ups, with quality knee and headroom, and an easy entry. The usual Isofix fittings for the kiddies are present but the centre seat belt hangs from the roof; putting it to use can be a bit tricky for the young ones.
Boot space is great for the class and there is a whole heap of extra storage under the floor. It would be good if you could remove, or lower the floor, to create a truly cavernous boot. For those larger hauls, the seats flop forward (once you discover where the pull tabs are hiding) for a flat (enough) hold.
What else to consider?
From the other Germans there is the more compact GLA from Benz which has a higher starting point at $77,800, but with more choices in the range and there’s also the larger GLB ($83,800 but with seven seats). Both have an electric option too.
Audi has its entry level Q2 starting at $60k, but again is more compact while the more comparably sized Q3 starts at $69K. There’s also the Lexus UX starting at $65k with excellent hybrid efficiency, but is again not as roomy as the X1.
Being the newest on the block, BMW trumps its competitors for connected features and driver assistance, while imparting a genuinely premium feel to its cabin.
We like its practicalities too, but would forgo the M sport bits in the hope of better everyday ride quality.
|Model||BMW X1 sDrive18i|
|Clean Car Discount||Neutral $0|
|Engine||1499cc, IL3, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||7-speed twin clutch / FWD|
|Stability systems||ABS, ESP, TV|
|Safety||AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,|
RCTA, ALK, AHB
|Luggage Capacity||540-1600 L|
|Tow rating||750kg (1700kg braked)|
|Scheduled servicing||3 years / Unlimited km|
|Warranty||5 years / 100,000km|
|ANCAP rating||5 stars (2022)|