The new BMW X1.
The new BMW X1.

Refreshed BMW X1 under road test review microscope

THIS is BMW's "conquest" car…and that has nothing to do with the fact it was launched at the Gold Coast amidst Schoolies celebrations.

Since its foray into the Australian market more than two years ago, the BMW X1 has lured more buyers from other brands than any other Beemer.

Combining dynamic driving, SUV styling (although BMW calls it a sports activity vehicle - SAV) and most importantly the propeller badge on the front, the X1 has been inspiring drivers to lose their premium motoring chastity belts.

BMW this week revealed updates to its X1 range where prices have risen $400 across the range. That can be attributed to the now standard floor mats, although some buyers may have already snaffled new models at the cheaper price without the tailored carpet feature.

Three of the four engines are new, but the headline act is a segment-leading eight-speed automatic transmission.

Comfort

Tweaks have been made to improve the cabin quality with more contoured lines in the centre console and more high gloss finishes.

There are two trim options available, xLine and Sport Line, which present compelling value-adds and improve the overall ambience.

You can also choose from a vast options list, but many entering the brand for the first time will stick with the basics that includes man-made leather and bypass a flash colour display or sat nav system.

Going without the sat nav system can make things look basic and if the X1 you order isn't optioned with one you just get a storage bin central in the dash.

The seats could do with some more bolstering at the base and sides, but there are no complaints about the head and leg room. Those in the back will find knee and leg room is dependent on how much real estate the front passengers require.

On the road

Three of the four engines are new, all are four-cylinder units, including two diesels and two petrols. Gone is the six-cylinder powerplant which never sold well. All four are 2.0-litre units in two levels of tune - the all-wheel drive offerings have higher outputs with the hero xDrive28i twin turbo petrol the fastest from 0-100kmh in a swift 6.1 seconds while the base sDrive18d takes 9.6.

Buyers who have no intention of stepping off the bitumen can opt for the sDrive variants which are rear-wheel drive, while those who want all-wheel drive can go for the xDrive derivatives.

We sampled the range during this week's launch and found those going with the base models won't be disappointed.

The entry level sDrive18d turbo-diesel would be our pick over the slightly more expensive petrol sDrive20i due to its stronger torque. Despite being the slowest of the bunch in a sprint, it felt more lively that the statistics indicate.

Both rear-wheel drive models maintain great driving dynamics and while you do feel some bumps, the tradeoff is brilliant steering feel and surefooted cornering.

But most impressive is the buttery eight-speed automatic. It's well worth the $2693 asking price with timely changes, intuitively always managing to find the right cog.

What do you get?

The stock-standard X1s come with man-made leather trim, cruise control, rear parking sensors, climate controlled air con, leather lined steering wheel, stop/start button, auto headlights and wipers, Bluetooth phone connectivity, CD stereo with AUX-IN and alloys.

It's well worth considering the two line packages as they bundle together some nice gear.

Not unlike the key competitors, there is a massive options list, and for those who want audio streaming from their phone or iPod/MP3 player they will have to shell out at least $2200 for the business sat nav package. Four new colours are available, including blue, grey, silver and orange (the same hue made famous on the M cars).

Other options

The X1 used to have this territory to itself, but the other key players now include Audi's Q3 (from $44,800) and the all conquering Range Rover Evoque (from $49,995).

Running costs

During October and November BMW ran a promotion for free servicing over three years with every new car, but that is about to end.

The required regular maintenance can be expensive, so those entering the premium segment for the first time should investigate the ongoing out of pockets.

Fuel consumption across the range is impressive, aided by the standard auto stop/start system which switches the car off when stationary. Resale should be solid.

Practicality

The X1s have a reasonable boot, and are also aided by the 40:20:40 split of the back seats. Those rear pews can also recline from an upright one degree back to 31.

Funky factor

No changes have been made to the metal work, but additional painted surfaces on the front and rear aprons as well as LED rear lights are nice new touches. Indicator lights are now also embedded in the side mirrors.

The X1 retains an attractive silhouette, but it doesn't quite have the pizzazz of the class-leading Range Rover Evoque.

The lowdown

After sales of the X1 have softened in recent months, BMW has positioned itself to fight back against the newcomers.

This new engine line-up provides greater performance and efficiency when compared to the equivalent offerings from

Audi and Range Rover in various engine genres.

Those watching the pennies might baulk at the options list, but even sticking with the entry-level X1 buyers won't be disappointed with the driving dynamics. 

The writer was BMW's guest at the Gold Coast.



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