BMW X1 23D 2010 Review

BMW X1 23D 2010 Review

Born into a rapidly expanding range, BMW’s new X1 is the final card to complete a full house in the X line-up consisting of the X3, X5 and X6 models. The X1 enters the market with crossovers well established in car buyers’ consciousness and no longer niche vehicles. BMW has hedged its bets nicely by representing itself in the small crossover segment to appeal to new customers and catch badge fans who may follow the current downsizing trend and leave behind larger X-series siblings. So with BMW’s now 10-year-long four-wheel-drive experience, modern powertrains and bullet-proof luxury quality it should be money in the bank, right? Perhaps, but with the tricky broad focus of crossover vehicles it’s not always that easy. Car and SUV spent some time with the new BMW X1 to see if it comes up trumps.

In styling terms the X1 is more closely related to a tall wagon than a boxy off-roader and is designed to appear bulky but is quite compact in the flesh. By comparison, it’s slightly shorter in length than both the Mazda3 hatch and the 3-Series wagon with which it shares many mechanical underpinnings. It’s exterior aesthetic is familiar yet shows a brazen streak with a raked back windscreen and deeply scalloped flanks. Out front, a XL-size BMW kidney grill sits between squinting headlights and fog lamps that are set deeply into a chunky bumper. A strip of tough silver and black plastic trim runs around the X1’s bottom edge to protect the panels and visually boast of rough roading cred. The rear is sharply cut off and houses a taillight cluster similar in design to the new 5-Series. Completing the hardy, low-slung look on our test vehicle were silver roof rails and optional 18-inch wheels (17-inch as standard).

Inside, you’re greeted with an elegantly finished dashboard that subtly cossets the driver. All instrumentation is clear, functional and well placed for easy operation on the fly. Numerous interior trim options are available but our test vehicle looked very sharp with a simple mix of black plastics and brushed metal/silver inserts. As you’d expect the fit and quality of materials is excellent and all touch surfaces feel top-notch. The optional ($3,300) leather seats were soft, supportive and offered a commanding driving position that made the most of the X1’s raised height. Standard kit on the 23d includes cruise control with braking function, CD stereo with auxiliary input and USB interface, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone climate air conditioning and daytime running lights. There is also a wide range of optional equipment available like front parking sensors ($750) and an impressively huge panoramic glass roof ($3,350) that really lights up the cabin.

Although the X1 interior has a natural feeling of spaciousness on entry it is tight in a couple of areas. Headroom is sufficient all around but legroom is slightly compromised at the front by the bulky dashboard narrowing the foot well. The rear seat is nicely curved and comfortable for two but a third occupant may find the middle position, narrow, firm and will have to get their legs either side of the wide transmission tunnel.

The hatch area offers decent storage with a 420-litre boot capacity, fold down the handy 40-20-40-split rear seat back and 1350-litres of space becomes available. The boot access is wide and the loading lip is relatively low.

Sitting under the X1 23d’s long bonnet is a front-mid mounted 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. It’s an advanced unit that uses twin-turbocharging to produce 150kW of power and a brawny 400Nm of torque. It’s a very useful motor that can be punchy and aggressive under heavy throttle and quietly frugal while cruising. The maximum torque arrives in a fairly narrow band around 2000 — 2250 rpm and the auto transmission’s gearing concentrates on exploiting this which gives the engine a peaky character for a diesel. Off the line and through the mid-range the X1’s performance can feel more like a hot hatch than a crossover vehicle. The power doesn’t come at the cost of refinement and the engine idles with less clatter than most diesels on the market.

Mated to a smooth-changing six-speed automatic transmission the diesel engine returns an impressive 6.3l/100km combined fuel economy. If manual changes are preferred the X1 23d has steering-wheel paddles and sequential shifting through the gearstick. Both of these function rapidly and add to the vehicle’s genuine driver appeal.

Dynamically there is a lot to like about the X1, with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system the level of grip on offer is excellent. The raised suspension hardly affects the handling at all, and when negotiating twisty roads it handles neutrally and feels every bit a BMW. There is a small amount of body roll but it’s minimal when compared to lesser crossover vehicles. The pay off for the handling ability is a suspension setting that is fairly firm, particularly on the run-flat tyres.

For those who enjoy their driving the steering will appeal, it’s intensely reactive and razor sharp. It may prove a little heavy for some though, especially during low speed manoeuvring where it can take a bit of strength to turn lock-to-lock. But if you like to have plenty of feedback at your fingertips, you’re in for a treat here.

The X1 isn’t a serious off-roader; the ride height hasn’t been raised that much and there are no differential locks, for instance. That said, with the xDrive system the X1 can travel over gravel, icy or broken roads with more speed and confidence than a standard rear driving 3-Series.

For active safety systems the X1 is equipped with the usual functions found on most BMWs. Dynamic Stability Control is working behind the scenes and traction control is ready to step in if the driver lays all the torque down too quickly. There is also hill descent control, a cornering brake control system and six airbags laying in wait.

Has BMW hit the jackpot with its X1 23d? Most likely, but time will tell. What BMW has done is build what’s probably the most dynamically competent and engaging crossover vehicle yet from any manufacturer. Its exterior styling is boldly unique and the cabin is finished to a luxury standard. It does, however, come with a heavy price tag at $75,900 and the many options are as expensive as they’re desirable with an extra $10k easily spent. There are cheaper variants in the X1 range but the 23d represents the most attractive mix of a powerhouse diesel engine, crossover practicalities and driver enjoyment within the current marketplace.

Price: $75,900

What we like:

  • Turbocharged diesel engine is strong and refined
  • Fuel economy
  • High handling ability with minimal body roll
  • Distinctive styling

What we don’t like:

  • Rides firm on run-flat tyres
  • Expensive optional equipment
  • Heavy steering at low speed

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

To find out more about the BMW X1 see below for specifications or click here to visit the BMW NZ website.

Other reviews of interest:

Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium (2010) — Road Test

Audi Q5 3.0 S Line (2009) — Road Test

BMW X1 23D (2010) – Specifications

Engine
Cylinders In-line / 4
Valves161
Capacity (cc)1,995
Maximum Power (kW/hp/rpm) 150 kW / 204 hp / 4,400 rpm
Maximum Torque (Nm/rpm) 400 Nm / 2,000 — 2,250 rpm

Exterior Dimensions
Length (mm)  4,454 mm
Width (mm)    1,798 mm
Height (mm)    1,545 mm
Wheelbase (mm)    2,760 mm
Front Track (mm)    1,500 mm
Rear Track (mm)    1,529 mm
Boot Capacity (L)    420 L — 1,350 L
Fuel Tank Capacity (L)    61 L
Turning Circle (m)    11.8 m

Weights
Kerb Weight (kg)    1,595 kg
Payload (kg)    550 kg
Roof Load Limit (kg)    75 kg
Towing Cap Brakes (kg)    1,400 kg
Towing Cap No Brakes (kg)    750 kg

Performance
Drag Coefficient (Cd)    0.33 Cd
Acceleration 0-100 (s)   7.3 sec
Maximum Speed (km/h)  205 km/h

Fuel Consumption
Fuel City (L/100 km)   7.8 L/100km
Fuel Highway (L/100 km)   5.5 L/100km
Fuel Combined (L/100 km)   6.3 L/100km

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