The X1 began its life in India as the lowest-priced BMW on sale, and as expected, made heads turn. Following the hype were impressive sales figures, which put the company well ahead of its two primary competitors in India, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Eventually though, competition caught up and the Audi Q3 found more popularity owing to its more SUV-like design and feel, something Indians love. When launched, the X1 facelift got a host of improvements in various departments. However, is it enough to keep competition at bay till the next-generation X1 arrives? We find out.
The things that didn't go down well with most X1 customers were the vehicle's lack of premium-ness and feature-richness, as in other BMWs. Add to that the non-conventional styling and the launch of direct competitors, and sales started heading south. With the facelift version, BMW India tried addressing some of these concerns.
Changes at the front and rear don't transform the quirky look of the X1, but do spray a bit of premium flair and dynamism. Changes at the front include a restyled bumper and fog lamp inserts along with the headlamp. The headlamp has now been given the signature Corona ring LED day-time running lights (DRL), which adds an elegant touch.
The side mirrors now sport integrated turn lamps along with more flared-up wheel arches. At the rear, the bumper and apron feature slightly different placement, reducing the black plastic surface area and increasing that of the silver underbelly guard. All these changes don't bring about a radical change to the way the X1 looks, but certainly improves its appearance. The facelift has helped the X1 look more expensive than its predecessor and that should find favour among potential buyers.
The X1 after its facelift no longer features a petrol engine, which anyways found few takers earlier. The diesel engine is a 2 l four-cylinder unit with TwinPower Turbo technology. The engine also has an aluminium crankcase to lower weight, while variable intake geometry and common-rail injection using solenoid injectors enhance power output along with fuel-efficiency. The increased output is quite healthy at 184 hp, and torque is rated at 380 Nm.
As a result of these technologies, the X1 is a treat to drive as one would expect from BMW. Talking of things the engine lacks, the foremost is turbo lag. Right from rolling off to driving in traffic or on the highways, there is nothing that could bring about considerable lag. Acceleration from about 1,800 rpm is strong and progresses impressively till about 3,800 rpm. This strong mid-range is what makes the X1 a pleasure to drive at high speeds and through twisty roads. During our test, a 0-100 km/h dash was recorded in 8.1 s.
The most crucial change in the powertrain is the inclusion of the ZF-sourced Steptronic eight-speed automatic transmission. We've said it earlier and reiterate that this is one of the best transmissions in its segment. The unit shifts between the ratios with a sense of urgency and there is little hesitance to shift down. What the X1 misses out on is the drive modes found on BMW vehicles, including Sport+, Sport and Comfort. The EcoPro mode though is available in the X1 and can be engaged using a small button on the centre console. The average fuel-efficiency we achieved over the highway run was 15.4 km/l using the EcoPro mode for about 20 % of the distance.
The cabin of the refreshed X1 features a few changes aimed at uplifting the quality perception without any radical design change. This includes a mildly redesigned centre console and improved plastics overall. The fit and finish wasn't too impressive on the older model but has improved significantly on the facelift variant. That said there are still a few bits, which do not exude a premium feel, including the hard plastic used in the dashboard.
Seats at the front and rear offer good lateral support and are suitable for long trips. Legroom at the rear though isn't great and can be an issue with tall people. The tall transmission tunnel also means that the X1 isn't comfortable for five people on-board for long durations.
Adding to the beauty of the cabin is the panoramic sunroof, which adds to the space perception of the cabin, making it appear airier than it actually is.
Ride & Handling
The company hasn't made any major changes to the chassis or suspension, as a result of which the dynamics are pretty much unchanged. The X1 feels to have been set up on the softer side, which improves ride quality over patchy surfaces but increases body movement at high speeds. At slower speeds the X1 handles potholes in an accomplished manner, keeping the cabin free from most of the jerks. Although soft, the vehicle handles speeds till about 140 km/h without any issues. It's only beyond this point that the softer set-up becomes more evident but doesn't impede stability directly.
The steering is an electromechanical unit, which is a hybrid of the world of steering. Theoretically, by employing both form of assistance, the system lowers fuel consumption and ensures the feel associated with a hydraulic set-up isn't lost. In the real world, the results are pretty much as the theory suggests. The steering is acceptably light to use in traffic and offers enough feedback to help a driver make confident decisions. Overall, despite being on the softer side, the X1 offers the driving experience one would associate with a BMW. It is light on its feet, remains composed over tight turns, and is adequately powered.
Being a facelift, the present X1, quite literally, focuses on improving the shortcomings of the old model and manages to achieve that pretty well. Improved material and fitment quality in the cabin along with some new convenience features bring it closer to the competition on the spec sheet. An improved engine and a brilliant transmission mean that the car is a treat to drive.
The X1, although styled like a crossover, is dynamically closer to a sedan. The only off-roading capability it has is due to its 179 mm ground clearance, which should make tackling the worst of roads, an easy task.
Priced between Rs 28.9 lakh and Rs 33.9 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the X1 might not be the most feature-loaded vehicle or even the best-looking one. What it offers though is an impressive driving experience and if that's the prerogative, the X1 doesn't disappoint.
Text & Photos: Arpit Mahendra