What is it?
Why I would buy it: Peppy diesel engine, unique appearance
Why I would avoid it: Uninspiring cabin
The entry-level luxury car market has been seeing a steady rise over the years. It’s a price point where buyers get their first taste of acquiring cars that carry the luxury badging and the BMW X1 has been a steady face in this race. This generation was launched in 2015 and the car that we have driven is a mid-life update for the F48 generation BMW X1.
As is the case with most mid-life updates, there are few subtle visual changes to bring the car up to date with the times but it still looks like the outgoing model. Bigger-the-better seems to be key for BMW with its signature elements and in this case, it is their legendary front grille which has become wider, longer and stands a bit more prominently.
The LED projector headlights are new too with the ring design of the previous model being replaced by a crescent shape. In profile, the rear overhang is shorter than the front while the strong shoulder line and rear sloping roofline lend themselves well to giving the car its BMW SUV appearance. The rear is typical BMW with the wrap-around tail lamps and layered boot with its clearly defined lines.
BMW is one of the pioneers when it comes to the family look and the purpose of such a look is best defined in a model like the X1 which is the entry-point for the brand. Put simply, you get all the looks of the big boys like the X5 and X7 but at a lower price point.
How is it on the inside?
The cabin of this updated BMW X1 remains unchanged in terms of layout but has got new elements and additional features as a part of the mid-life refresh. It is an all-black affair with silver and wood inserts on the dashboard.
Unlike most modern BMWs that are on offer in India, the X1 still gets manual clocks. With clear fonts, white backlighting and a little digital screen for the Eco meter, it’s not bad to look at but will begin to feel dated when Mercedes-Benz and Audi bring in the new GLA and Q3 with full digital displays later this year.
There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen with a floating display mounted on the dashboard and running an older version of BMW’s i-Drive system. It’s nice to use but lacks some of the intuitiveness of its other German counterparts. Also, there’s no Android Auto on this version of the interface.
You also get a new gear lever and black inserts on the centre console. In the case of the former, the update has been designed for the lever to fit easier in the palm for better access.
Where the X1 manages to score high is the amount of cabin space on offer both in the front and rear. The seats have been set low and so you have a large amount of headroom and this combined with the large glass area as well as dual sunroof makes for a roomy affair within. The X1 has been the segment leader when it comes to legroom and so even for a six-footer like me, sitting comfortably in both rows is not an issue at all.
The front seats are powered and have a two-set memory function while the rear seats have a recline function. The latter can also be folded nearly flat, expanding the boot space by a significant amount. It’s also an easy boot to access with a low loading lip height but lacks an auto close/open function across the range.
In terms of features, BMW has added ambient lighting, two USB Type-C ports in the rear, puddle lamps with the X1 logo as well as auto-dimming exterior mirrors for this version of the X1. You also get a comprehensive safety net that includes six airbags, traction control, TPMS as well as an attentiveness assistant which keeps in check things like your alertness levels by analysing your driving patterns.
However, the cabin feels dated and lacks the extra premium feel seen in some of the X1’s rivals. This is particularly evident in the analogue clocks and older i-Drive system.
How does it drive?
The version of the X1, 20d, is powered by a BS6 compliant 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 188bhp/400Nm. Transmission duties are taken care of by an eight-speed automatic sending power to the front wheels. At present, BMW is only offering this configuration for the Indian market both for petrol and diesel engines.
You get access to a large chunk of that 400Nm of torque at a shade just under 1800rpm with a nice linear build-up all the way close to the 3000rpm. The eight-speed Aisin gearbox does a good job of keeping you in the meat of the torque band allowing you to cruise at triple-digit speed without much effort.
You get three driving modes EcoPro, Comfort and Sport and as their names suggest you get a varied driving experience with all three. The former is well suited for city conditions and will quickly upshift to give you maximum efficiency. If you take your foot off the accelerator, the drive train goes into a coasting function needing you to be extra cautious on the brakes. The Sport mode is the more engaging of the two (sport-sporty…you get the drift) with sharper responses from the throttle and steering. It holds the revs for a longer period to allow a quicker build-up of speed. Finally, Comfort mode is a combination of both and is best suited when you have a mix of city and highway driving conditions. As part of the package, you also get paddle shifters which are engaging, quick to respond and very useful when you need to munch up the kilometres in a quick manner.
The ride is on the firmer side but is not uncomfortable in any manner and it would take quite a large pothole or obstacle to bounce you around in the car at low speeds. This firm quality is a boon out on the highway especially at triple digit speeds where the stability offered allows you to drive in an engaging manner. Aiding this cause is improved insulation in the cabin which has addressed previous complaints of the ride being noisy.
The X1 is reasonably engaging to drive despite losing out on the automaker’s legendary xDrive AWD system. The steering is quick to respond through the turns though because you only have two powered wheels and a lot of torque going through them, it is better to plan your moves and glide from point to point. This being an SUV, you get all the fun of a BMW but with the ability to take the path less taken and not worry about damaging the under body of your expensive German machinery.
Should I buy one?
If it’s brand name you are looking for when stepping into the big league, then this is a good place to start your innings. You get spacious interiors, segment-leading boot space, peppy diesel engine and that unique BMW SUV appearance. However, on the flip side, the spacious cabin feels dated both in terms of appearance and technology. What’s more, the lack of xDrive technology across the range robs away some of the boasting rights that one would want when looking at a car of this nature and price.
Where does it fit in?
At the time of writing this review, the BMW X1 range starts at Rs 35.9 lakhs (Average ex-showroom) and tops out at Rs 42.9 lakhs (Average ex-showroom). The car that we have driven is priced at Rs 39.9 lakhs (Average ex-showroom). This car is a rival for the Volvo XC40, Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Audi Q3. Of these, the XC40 is a new generation car while the Mercedes and Audi will both enter new generations later this year.
Photos: Kapil Angane & Kaustubh Gandhi