BMW X1 sDrive20d 2013 Review

BMW X1 sDrive20d 2013 Review

Back in 2009 BMW launched the first ever luxury compact SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Today, that segment is a bit more competitive with the likes of the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3. Even second-tier compact SUVs such as Mazda’s top-of-the-line CX-5 AWD Diesel Ltd nip at the heels with comparable specification, if not brand cachet.

And that gives BMW good reason to perform a refresh on the BMW for 2013. They call it a

‘life-cycle impulse’ – it’s basically a facelift – and it sees some revised design elements and an improved engine and gearbox.

I took its slightly revised sculpted face to the Kaipara Sculpture Gardens along with four friends. This took in some motorway cruising plus some sinuous black top along SH16.

Rear seat passengers – all adults – found the seats comfortable, but a little lacking in width and leg room. The rear is more suitable for two passengers than three. It was also a hot day, and they would have liked air conditioning vents in the rear.

The fitted optional front seats (part of a $5000 M Sports package) are comfortable and supportive, but weren’t electrically adjustable. The M Sports package also includes 19-inch alloy wheels (wrapped in 225/40R19 tyres), roof rails, M leather steering wheel, M Sport suspension, M Aerodynamics package and door sill scuff plates, amongst other things.

Other options fitted included the rear view camera ($500 – essential because of the thick rear pillars and high boot line), front seat heaters ($800), xenon lights and headlight washer system ($1200), lights package ($500) and music interface for smartphone ($250). The total options came to $8250. Add that to this model’s drive away RRP of $71,000 and you sneak in just under eighty grand, which is comparable to the Audi Q3 S Line, but quite a bit cheaper than an equivalent spec Evoque.

The interior is well appointed with dual climate control, Bluetooth integration for phone calls and audio streaming, cruise control with braking function, automatic lights and wipers, and satellite navigation as standard. Functions are accessed through BMW’s iDrive interface (jog wheel and buttons). There is very little cabin storage. The glovebox is small and the central binnacle is compromised by an enormous European-style car-phone holder and a second cup holder. In the boot it’s a different story. There are flexible straps and cargo nets, plus a useful hidden compartmentalized storage area underneath the boot floor.

Arguably the best aspect of the X1 is its engine and gearbox package. It’s a 1995cc turbo diesel that liberates a healthy 135kW and 380Nm of torque, delivered through an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The engine pulls strongly (100kph comes up in around eight seconds) despite being quiet and, as they say in Spanish, un mechero (it means ‘cigarette lighter’ and is a term given to a car that uses fuel at about the same rate). In fact, BMW quotes 5 litres per 100km on the open road and when I picked the vehicle up from BMW HQ the trip computer informed me I had 1053km of diesel in the 61-litre tank.

The Eco Pro mode helps achieve this. It adjusts a number of parameters based on your driving style, including accelerator pedal response and gearbox shift points, and air conditioning settings. BMW’s internal tests resulted in a 15% increase in fuel efficiency using this system. You’ll know how well you’re doing based on a readout on the in-dash touch screen. Additional to Eco Pro there is an auto start/stop function that stops the engine when you stop the car (e.g. at traffic lights) and restarts it when you release the brake pedal.

The brakes on the X1 are very strong. Along with various electronics that give you maximum braking power when you need it, the X1 comes with run flat tyres that give you up to 250km of range after a puncture. Theses tyres will undoubtedly contribute to the firm ride. It’s sporty for the driver, but quite bumpy when the surfaces are less than perfect.

Even though you can drive the X1 in manual mode, you will never need to because the gearbox is always in the right gear, with lightning fast gear changes and plenty of torque for overtaking.

The X1 has a slight forward-leaning stance adding to the sporty profile. The rear pillars are fairly thick and the boot line is quite high therefore the Park Distance Control (PDC) which consists of rear proximity sensors, helps with maneouvring. But, as mentioned previously, the optional rear view camera with its guide lines makes reversing simple.

In summary, there’s not a huge amount of difference in the look between the previous X1 and this 2013 X1. All the good stuff is happening under the bonnet. The engine really is phenomenal. It’s one of the best, if not the best, diesel option out there in this price bracket. Smooth, powerful, frugal and all mated to that sweet eight-speed gearbox, it makes driving so effortless.

Price: $71,000 plus $8250 of installed options


  • Fantastic engine and gearbox
  • Excellent efficiency
  • Capable handling
  • Versatile boot storage


  • Ride is quite firm
  • Very poor cabin storage options – small glovebox, small central binnacle, no decent receptacles

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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