Driven - January 2017

BMW X1: Breaking New Ground

It may seem like a strong headline, but it’s true. The current BMW X1 is the first X model to send its power to the front wheels. Shock and horror right? Wrong. It would be shock and horror if this was 2001 but it’s 2016 and things have changed. For one, BMW has come to the realisation that many people who buy modern day SUV’s aren’t going to be sliding around corners anytime soon. As a result, the most logical option when it comes to configuring these cars is to provide a setup that will give optimum space. That is why you’ll notice a vast difference in rear legroom when sitting in a new BMW X1 compared to the previous model. So BMW have decided to listen to its target market, a market that is moving from sedans into larger cars such as the X1. So more space is essential.

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City slick:

Who is this car most suited for? The BMW X1 is a car that works well for young families. It completes everyday tasks with ease, allowing for ample space to fit kids, bags and groceries. The specific model we tested was the S Drive 20i Sport Line, the most balanced of the petrol engines in our opinions. Besides the frugal diesel option, there is the choice of a more powerful 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, an option we feel is unnecessary for this type of vehicle. The 141kW power plant has more than enough grunt to get you going in the city or on a long road trip. As previously mentioned, the X1 feels much more roomier inside as the older model felt more like a station wagon than an SUV. From an outward aesthetic point of view, the X1 shares similar lines to the X5, which is a great compliment considering the handsomeness of its older sibling.

As with most modern cars, the X1 is not lacking when it comes to technology. The standard BMW infotainment system is available, which equips with Bluetooth connectivity, USB functionality and auxiliary input as well. Connected Drive is another feature that may come in handy but will probably not be used as much as expected. Yes itis good to know that you can call into Germany and get directions to your destination, but we have smartphones for that don’t we? Besides with the exorbitant price of navigation systems on cars, the old iPhone or Galaxy is the more cost effective option.

Compromised handling?

The biggest fear for many BMW traditionalists is the fact that the dynamic attributes of the car change when you make it pull instead of push. Again, for the application of this car, having a FWD setup certainly does not make you feel like you’re not in a BMW. As a brand known for its dynamic handling and nimbleness, the X1 is still confidence inspiring at higher speeds. What may be most noticeable are the firm seats on the car, especially on a long distance excursion. Besides that, it ‘s hard to find anything terribly out of place in the car.

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Should you buy one though?

Overall the X1 is a great offering in this segment. Unlike the previous version which wasn’t so pleasing to the eye, this current version offers charm and sophistication. The biggest problem that is faced by the X1 is the competition. This is a segment that has many players looking to convince buyers to sign up. One of the biggest talking points is price, and the X1 may fare badly in this category. With a starting price of R476 400, it’s not cheap considering that you’ll be driving a “bare bones” car if you don’t add all the right things. Our advice would be to keep it simple if you’re going to go the X1 route. Pick the right options that you will need but don’t go overboard because depending on the model you buy, you may be looking in the R700 000’s if you’re not careful.

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