Saturday, October 2, 2010

Roads less travelled, the BMW X1

The baby of the BMW X-Series has had a pretty tough time ever since it was launched. With many crying foul over the aesthetics. I can't really agree with them though. I like the look of it. I like the look of most of the latest BMWs in fact. Many like to point to cars from the past and bemoan how the older generations look more "elegant" or more "BMW-ish". The truth is, i suspect, most people are just opposed to the ideas of change. A small change in mindset is somehow, what this little X1 brings to the table. When most soft-roaders still try to emphasize their off road capabilities with all sorts of tech to tackle the muddy roads, the X1 comes with rear wheel drive and performs best on tarmac.

With a raised shell and black plastics guarding the wheel arches, it looks chunky like an off-roader, but parked next to an average MPV, isn't that much taller. It's part of the X-series which might make you belive it like to do some "X-treme" stuff. Not quite, with a rear-wheel-drive chassis, this baby X'er much prefers to stay on the road. (To be honest, i'd bet 95% of the X5/X6 drivers won't be pottering into any muddy tracks at all)

As far as appearances are concerned, i'd leave it to you to give a final judgement. If you asked me, all the X1 needs is a slight drop in ride height(Yes yes... i know it's silly), and some larger wheels to fill in the wheel wells. Otherwise, the X1 looks pretty good and especially well sized for our local roads and even on smaller rural roads too!

Getting into the X1, all the controls fall into place and the dash is somewhat a mashup between the current 1 series and the newer F-series cars, bringing back the much welcomed driver-angled center consoles from Bimmers of the past. On the X1, you get climate control and electric seats, features absent from the majority of the 1-series fleet on sale. As with all BMWs, all controls fall into place and with those massive side mirrors, little adjustments are needed. With a big glass roof giving the interior a nice airy feel, i kept it open and basked under the warm Singapore sun. I wish there was an i-drive screen instead of a storage box.

Moving off, the steering does feel quite weighty and at carpark speeds, needs a bit more effort to shuffle about. Getting onto the roads though, the slightly heavy steering has a nice positive feel to it and gives good feedback from the road, giving you more confidence as you push into the bends. After the tech-laden F-series of cars, getting back into a more conventional steering setup is a welcomed change indeed.

With the X1 built on the platform of the 3 series Touring, the little SAV handles fantastically, you'll know where the limits are and the car allows for almost brisk progress through small twisty roads. The word "almost" chosen because with a 150bhp 2litre engine under the long snout, you won't be lighting up any tyres soon. But drive this car with vigour while keeping the well-matched 6 speed automatic permanently engaged in "sport" mode, what you will get is a little smile on your face. The smaller compact dimensions of the X1 allows for more leeway in tighter roads and corners while the sporting nature of the suspension setup gives you the confidence to enter corners with increasing pace. The handling of the X1 is spot-on for a car in this segment.

Some have said the engine could do with more power and is a little harsh when pushed and this is true, the engine does get vocal higher up in the rev range. Intrusive? Not to me. Keep the stereo at an average level and you'll drown out most engine noises.

So what does the X1 have going for it? It drives well, it handles really well, the interior is a pleasant place to be in and for me, the most important factor here is the price. With a list price of 158k, the only other alternative in our local market is a VW Tiguan Sport for pretty much the same amount of money.

So what does the X1 have going against it? Well, for starters the Tiguan has more power with a charged powerplant, but, in reality, the X1 isn't lacking. It could do with more oomph, but on our local roads it isn't exactly lacking. A 3-litre 6 cylinder powerplant might be the sweet spot but that will be raising costs above what i believe to be the target market. (Young-ish people like me)

Built onto the same platform, what you are getting is in my opinion, a "lite" soft roader version of the 3-series touring, just ignore the "1" denomination of the badge. Considering it comes with climate control, HID lights and that propeller badge, it actually does seem to be pretty good value for a BMW. Would i plonk my own money down for one? If i was in the market for a car in this class, i will seriously consider it. Make mine red though.

Want to discuss the X1? Head over to BMW-SG's forums »


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