BMW X1 xDrive25i – $60.700
(4 / 5)
One of the greatest transformations in nature is when a caterpillar disappears into its cocoon and turns into a butterfly.
It starts out as a slug-like, leaf muncher that gorges itself until it’s plump. Having a ridiculous amount of legs and trying to weave itself into its own shelter seems like a problem, but somehow it becomes a svelte flying machine.
It’s this complete change that makes it so appealing – before it’s a bit slow, a bit ugly, and afterward it becomes sleek, beautiful and efficient.
The same applies to the BMW X1.
The first generation was, let’s face it, a bit dowdy, and was the ugly duckling of the BMW range.
The second generation, though, was penned by Australian designer Calvin Luk, and, well, just look at it.
The proportions are excellent, and it fits right into BMW’s SUV range without standing out like a sore thumb.
But the one thing that everyone kicked up a stink about was the switch to front-wheel-drive. For BMW enthusiasts, this is a sin.
Does that really matter?
Let’s be honest – people who buy SUVs don’t care whether it’s rear- or front-wheel-drive, and only really care that it drives well.
Thankfully, it’s job done with the X1. But even better than that is the fact that our test car is all-wheel-drive.
It operates like most other AWD SUVs, with power mainly driving the front wheels and when it detects some slip, it sends power to the rear.
Off-roading is out of the question, but for slippery surfaces, like rain or snow-covered tarmac, then the X1’s power transfer, coupled with its stability control means it has plenty of grip.
But there’s a problem
The steering. When power is running through the rear wheels, it leaves the front wheels free to steer without constant velocity (CV) joints ruining the feel.
But front-wheel-drive (and by extension modern AWD) systems have to deal with corrupted steering feel.
BMW is renowned for its steering feedback, so how has it gone sorting out the new format in the X1? Surprisingly well.
Of course, it’s not quite as feelsome as its RWD cars, but the weighting is the best of the segment and it feels consistent throughout the lock.
Phew. What about the ride?
Running on larger 19-inch wheels, its handling is also quite good and though the ride can be a little brittle when the road surface isn’t great, its overall ride quality is excellent, soaking up major undulations and keeping things calm inside.
And the interior?
Well, the interior actually highlights the biggest difference between this and the previous X1.
The first gen had possibly the worst build quality of any BMW, with unsightly cutlines, hard plastics and a generally cheap feel.
This one, though, is full of high quality materials, excellent presentation and tonnes of space.
Again, it shades the original X1 by offering a heap of room. That’s probably because although it’s classed as a small SUV, it’s genuinely the size of a medium SUV.
At 505 litres, the boot is huge, and if you lower the back seats, there’s a massive 1550 litres available.
See? This thing is no small SUV at all.
Then, there’s the engine
Under the bonnet you’ll find a gem of a motor.
It’s a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol, four-cylinder which makes 170kW and 350Nm, and it’s as smooth and punch as you could hope for.
BMW always makes a cracking engine, and this one’s no exception.
It’s backed up by ZF’s wonderful eight-speed automatic, which just never, ever puts a foot wrong in terms of gear changes.
It’s smooth, but responds instantly, and it can shift quickly when required. It always keeps the engine in its sweet spot, and helps keep fuel use down as well.
The ADR-listed figure is a scarcely believable 6.6L/100km, and of course, it reality it’s a little more than that. But at 7.8L/100km, it’s still very good.
And the safety?
Both EuroNCAP and ANCAP awarded the X1 with a five star safety rating – as you’d expect from one of Germany’s biggest manufacturers.
Here’s the deal
When you first see the sticker price ($60,700) for a small SUV, you’d start to wonder who on earth would buy one. But after driving it for a week, it’s a very appealing package.
It’s huge, well-made, looks fantastic, drives well, has a pearler of an engine and has a great interior. Like a butterfly, the latest X1 has spread its wings and left is former life behind.
Can you take the BMW X1 off-road?
Not really. It will do find on gravel and dirt but anything a bit deeper and softer than that is really out of its comfort zone.