BEHIND THE WHEEL X1 LOVERS… LOOK AWAY NOW / re-evaluate the X1 xDrive20d M Sport / #2017
The editor was rather taken with the X1 when he tested it but contributor Andy Everett takes another look at the junior SAV and his glass is decidedly half empty…
BMW’s X vehicles and myself have never had an easy relationship. When the original X5 arrived, I treated it with a similar (but far weaker) form of derision that I reserve entirely for the Active Tourer – at least the X5 had a purpose and did something the Range Rover P38 didn’t – i.e. start in the morning and complete a journey without AA assistance. So in that respect, the well-built, reliable X5 that also drove much like an E39 5 Series did a job, and very well. The X3? It was okay I guess, and I was far less scathing about it than many others were. The X1? Well, when I did my stint in BMW sales in 2009 and 2010, neither I nor my colleagues were remotely convinced. We saw the styling, looked at the price list, shook our collective heads and thought ‘good luck with that!’.
But BMW really does know what it’s doing and rarely drop the ball – look at the original 1 Series whose price list was regarded as German humour. It sold by the bucket-load and easily outstripped the E46 Compact. And so it was with the X1 that despite all odds, went on to sell an unfeasible amount – over 800,000 worldwide and 41,000 of those sales were in the UK.
The new F48 model, launched in the UK in October 2015, is going the same way with overflowing order books and the Leipzig factory churning them out as fast as they can. BMW doesn’t need another glowing review for the X1 with these kind of sales figures which is just as well, because it’s not getting one from me. It’s an okay car, but not a brilliant one. It looks better than the old one, but that’s like saying Maroon 5 are slightly better than Travis. It’s decently built, but no better than an Opel Astra. It’s also noisy, and to my eyes it’s bloody expensive.
First things first though – you probably know already that it’s based on the same platform as the 2 Series Active Tourer and the huge MINI Countryman. That means the B47 diesel sits transversely with a driveshaft going to a rear diff on xDrive versions. We’re also offered a front-wheel drive only version – buy a Nissan Juke for half the price (really) if that’s what you want. 2.0-litres, both petrol or diesel are standard, and the entry-level front-wheel drive model, the sDrive18d SE, starts at £27,440 with the entry-level xDrive model (again a 18d SE) costs £28,940. If you want a more powerful version you’ll have to opt for xDrive as all the 20i/d-badged models are four-wheel drive and the entry-level 20d Sport sans options costs £31,290. For that you get 190hp which is enough to propel the X1 along at a decent rate – to my mind the more powerful versions aren’t worth the extra. Standard kit includes navigation, climate and a single slot CD player but when the spec list mentions extended storage, Halogen headlights (wow!), front and rear underbody protection and front foglights, you know that you can get a lot more elsewhere.
I borrowed this one, an xDrive20d M Sport with the eight-speed auto from Sytner BMW in Sheffield, my local dealer and who is always keen to help out. But get this: this car, that includes sports seats (heated), 18-inch wheels, leather, the usual M Sport bits – but not cruise control – is a shade over £37,000 on the road. That’s right – thirty seven thousand pounds.
Let’s put that into perspective. A 520d – still the doyen of executive cars even as Dingolfing winds down production after six tremendous years, is a shade over 30 grand once you’ve got the standard discount (good luck with that on an X1). A four-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai Dci 130 with all the toys is £27,000… again, before your standard ten percent off list. Christ, even the seven-seater #4x4
X-Trail starts at under £22,000 and that’s before you consider the Hyundai Tucson with torque on demand 4x4 and a five-year warranty – from £18,995. Is BMW having a laugh?
Still, being a BMW it’s going to be a great drive, right? The old X1 wasn’t bad despite having a poor ride, and the current 1 and 2 Series (the proper rearwheel drive one) are pretty good. The F30 3 Series has had a bit of a mauling due to the inert electric power steering and some interior plastics that must have been supplied by Lego. The X1 sadly falls into the same traps. Whilst the X1 corners well (as all BMWs do) with decent turn in, your main gripe will be about the electric power steering that requires constant correction to keep it in a straight line – drive as I did through a contraflow at some roadworks, and it is hard work. As dead as a dodo in the straight ahead position, there is no communication or feel – it’s like a driving instructor who teaches you how to merely operate a car rather than actually drive it. Because it’s an M Sport, the ride is okay but you can feel the stiff springs arguing with the 50 pence a corner dampers when what it really wants is some softer springs and dampers that are valved properly – remember how a Peugeot 405 used to ride and handle? Like a dream.
But the main problem is the road noise, which is frankly unacceptable. Big tyres might look good but on any surface, the tyre roar is just tiresome and whilst the #B47
is quiet enough at idle, give it some work and it’s still a hoary old thing as all modern diesels are. I don’t know – I wanted to like the X1 but I just couldn’t and knowing how good a #BMW
can be, I would feel short-changed at those prices. The last car I borrowed from Sytners was a 218d Sport Coupé with the manual ‘box and that was as close to my perfect car as you can get, whilst the 118d I rented in France was a real honey. Both of those cars are in the mid-20s price bracket and because you’ll never tire of driving one, they represent great value. To my mind the X1 is not a particularly great car that doesn’t do anything especially well. We of all people understand the lure of the BMW badge, but do yourself a favour, find the extra money and buy an X3 instead.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-X1
ENGINE: Four-cylinder, 16-valve, diesel
MAX POWER: 190hp @ 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
0-62MPH: 7.6 seconds (7.6)
TOP SPEED: 137mph (136)
ECONOMY: 58.8mpg (57.6)
EMISSIONS: 127g/km (129)
WEIGHT: 1615kg (1625)
PRICE UK / USA / AU (OTR): £32,790 (£34,390)
Figures in brackets refer to eight-speed auto as tested