Dynamic X1 is small but beautiful SUV

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 August, 2010, 12:00am

The new X1 is BMW's smallest SUV to date and the de facto replacement for the outgoing X3, which is to be scaled up with the new X5 to compete with Audi's Q5 and Q7.

First impressions of the X1 are promising, with the long overdue redesign lending the new X1 the dynamism which the old X3 lacked.

Rising lateral lines, short overhangs and a sloping rear windscreen help create a sleeker silhouette, while the sculpted bonnet, three-eyed headlights and an oversized BMW double-kidney grille add distinctive additions.

The X1's cabin matches BMW's traditionally well-executed levels of build quality, while the contemporary two-tone interior is complemented by smart hide-clad seats, wooden insets and aluminium embellishments.

There are lots of toys, from BMW's central iDrive console - which controls the entertainment, navigation and phone systems - down to the dual-zone air conditioning and panoramic sunroof. Adjustable front sports seats with a memory function come as standard, and the cabin exudes the modernist, businesslike ambience of modern Audis.

Despite its proportions, the X1 is a practical proposition that seats five adults in comfort, giving 360 to 480 litres of boot space, depending on how you tilt the rear seats. Useful secondary storage features include cup holders, door pockets and a compartment for sunglasses.

The car tested, the X1 xDrive25iA, is the top-spec straight-six model (HK$458,000), which develops 218 brake horsepower from the three-litre petrol engine first seen in the standard 1-series.

While it was used to great effect in propelling the astonishingly quick BMW 130iA, the engine unit has been tweaked to give improved low-down torque to pull the heavier SUV - without a supercharger in sight - and to minimise emissions in the five-door, all-wheel-drive X1 model.

Coupled to a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with manual function, the X1 engine produces 218hp at 6,100rpm, makes the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.9 seconds, with a top speed of 223km/h, and returns impressive fuel consumption of 12.9 litres per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle.

Around town, the X1 handles beautifully, combining a firm ride with surefooted traction via its intelligent, all-wheel-drive system, while offering reassuring directional stability thanks to its new suspension tuning, a low centre of gravity and near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution between the axles.

The new X1 shines in the safety stakes, with six air bags protecting occupants inside an enhanced safety cell, with crumple zones, awarding BMW's baby SUV the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings. Dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, hill descent and adaptive headlights all come as standard.

As a pocket-sized SUV, the BMW X1 is a great all-rounder offering more space and versatility than a standard mid-range 3-series model, for similar money. But, before parting with your cash, you could wait for the launch of the facelifted Freelander 2, which promises to do all this while giving genuine off-road ability.