YOU can’t see it in the pictures, but this is a car that wears an Akubra and stinks of Vegemite.
It’s the second-generation BMW X1, and it was penned BMW X1, and it was penned by a bloke who, as well as being one of BMW’s hottest up-andcoming exterior designers, is an Aussie.
Calvin Luk hails from Sydney and this is the 29-year-old’s first clean-sheet design to make production since he joined BMW seven years ago. He’s done a good job, too, ditching the original X1’s snouty, oversize bonnet and ungainly stance for a well proportioned and handsome look.
The second-gen X1 is new from the ground up and an altogether different beast to the original, thanks to a switch to BMW’s flexible UKL architecture. Where the old car was based on the 3 Series Touring and offered in rear- or all-wheel drive, the X1 now has the choice of all-paw grip or (gasp) front-wheel-drive sDrive variants.
The new platform, shared by the 2 Series Active Tourer, has allowed BMW’s boffins to address an X1 flaw: packaging.
Now 53mm taller, 21mm wider and standing on a 90mm-longer wheelbase, interior room front and rear has improved, as has boot space (up by 85 litres to 505L), meaning the X1 now trumps the Audi Q3 and Benz GLA for load lugging.
A comfortable rear bench that slides up to 130mm brings further flexibility, as does the inclusion of an optional automatic tailgate, head-up display and BMW’s Driver Assist Plus, which adds active cruise control, lane departure alert, collision warning and auto emergency braking.
Power comes from a suite of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines from BMW’s new modular B48 engine family, with two available from launch in October: the 170kW/350Nm xDrive 25i and 140kW/400Nm xDrive 20d. Two front-drive models will arrive in early 2016; the 110kW/330Nm sDrive 18d and 141kW/280Nm 20i.
A higher-output (170kW/450Nm) 25d could also come here, but don’t hold your breath for the more efficient, and potentially more affordable, three-cylinder petrol and diesel units that will launch in Europe from November – the sDrive 18i and 16d – because BMW Oz says we’re not getting them, at least for now.
Only the top-spec xDrive 25i was available to test at the international launch in Austria and dynamically there’s no escaping the X1 is now more SUV-like than ever.
You sit higher than before on front seats raised by 36mm and there’s body roll on curvaceous mountain roads, even in variants fitted with the optional Adaptive chassis which adds active dampers to the X1 for the first time. Those chasing sharper dynamics can opt for a stiffer M suspension tune that lowers the ride height 10mm.
Yet the chassis is nicely balanced, the steering fluid and sharp, and the new 2.0-litre petrol not only uses 0.1L/100km
ALEX INWOOD Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale BMW X1 25i 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 170kW @ 5000-6000rpm 350Nm @ 1250-4500rpm 8-speed automatic 1540kg 6.5sec (claimed) 6.4L/100km (EU) $60,000 (estimated) October 01
Sound; new tech will most likely be optional; no 3cyl donks for Oz Improved looks; gutsy, more efficient engines; interior space and quality
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The X1 might be small, but an overhauled AWD system that is lighter, more efficient and reduces drivetrain losses means it can tow 2000kg, the same as much larger SUVs such as Kluger and Sorento.
New four-cylinder engines aid efficiency by offering a coasting function in EcoPro mode. At speeds of 50-160km/h, the driveline disengages when the driver lifts off the throttle.
Roomy and flexible interior offers an optional folding front seat that when flat enables the X1 to swallow objects 2.5 metres long like an Ikea flat pack. Or a Bavarian beer bench, apparently.
BMW vehemently denies speculation that a hotter, harder and more powerful version of the X1, dubbed the X1M, is on the way to fight the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 and Audi RS Q3.
But while a bonkers 230kW-plus X1 is unlikely for now, that doesn’t mean BMW’s M Division has nothing to do.
Company insiders hinted that BMW’s performance arm will tweak the yet-to-beconfirmed X2 SUV, not as a full-blown M model, but as an M Performance variant, similar to how the M235i sits in the current 2 Series range.
INGOLSTADT’s smallest SUV oozes class but lacks the X1’s straight line punch and efficiency, despite identical kerb weights.
MERC’S A-Class with altitude is superb in GLA250 trim and is ample compensation if you can’t stump up for the 45 AMG.