Much before the compact-SUV fever gripped car buyers in India, BMW brought the X1 to India. Competitively priced, the X1 was the entry ticket into BMW’s world for a lot of car owners. A long–ish bonnet, decent ground clearance, the BMW badge and rear-wheel drive were more than enough then. Over the years, though, the X1 lost ground to its more modern and tech savvy German rivals, the Audi Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. But it’s back now and we think it’s well prepared.
The new X1 is one of the first models to be built on BMW’s UKL platform, which is a front-wheel drive platform; yup, no more rear-wheel drive. With that bummer out of the way, let me tell you that the engine being positioned transversely has had a positive impact on how the X1 looks. Yeah, the long bonnet was nice, but it did make the old X1 look like a slightly bloated hatch instead of an SUV. The new one doesn’t convey anything like that; it looks more SUV-ish and well proportioned.
We got the M Sport package X1 in a lovely Estoril Blue color, exclusive to the M package on the X1, with a front apron, side skirts, wheel arch trim and cladding in body colour, the familiar kidney grille with black gloss vertical slats, M badges on the sides, gorgeous 18-inch alloys and a rear apron with diffuser insert in Dark Shadow metallic. Even without the M Sport package, the X1 has become better looking compared to the previous generation.
BMW is toeing the ‘what the customers want’ line under the hood also, with only diesel engines on offer. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor dishes out an impressive 187.40 bhp and 40.7 kgm which is available from 1750 rpm, making the new X1 quite easy to live with in city traffic. On those rare empty stretches, the engine is happy to rev and offers a pretty strong mid-range. Owing to its proportions, the seating position is higher compared to the older car and gives the driver more of an SUV feel. Over the old car, the steering gets a special mention; it is the right weight at low speeds and high, adding to the driving experience. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is standard and is again a delight to use.
BMW offers front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive on the new X1 and if the price difference doesn’t bother you, we would recommend the all-wheel drive. The reliable xDrive system is set up to send power to the front wheels during normal driving or 100 per cent to the rear set if needed. BMW claims 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, though we didn’t exactly have the time or the corners to see how well the new X1 handles.
The interiors are the usual no-nonsense BMW fare — good-quality materials and well laid out, with the twin gauges housing the easy-to-read dials. The M Sport package comes with the head-up display, three-spoke steering wheel with paddles, sports seats, 8.8-inch screen for the i-Drive and a panoramic sunroof. The absence of a reversing camera is a let down. The new X1 gets 56 cm of rear leg-room which is quite impressive and a boot which is 85 litres more than the old X1. The cherry on the top, or in the boot, is a space saver. Guess all the whining about run-flat tyres reached the right people at BMW.
The new X1 comes in at a time when the compact-SUV fever is showing no signs of coming down. In almost every aspect, the new X1 is noticeably better than the previous one and is now a worthy competitor to the existing compact luxury SUVs in the market. BMW has been sensible, or cautious, and priced the X1 well, too, with the lower-spec variant starting at Rs 29.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). It has everything going for it to be the winner in the sales numbers game. Will it? We sure feel so.