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Luxury begins with the BMW X1

Friday, September 18, 2020

When BMW stepped into the sport utility vehicle (SUV) market in 1999 with the X5 — labelled a sports activity vehicle (SAV) — one could never have guessed that one model would spawn an entire range that now accounts for over 60 per cent of the brand's global vehicle sales.

The X5 may have been the first, but it's the X1 that starts the X line-up of BMW SAVs.

The first-generation X1 joined the family in 2009 as BMW's smallest SAV, bringing luxury to the sub-compact crossover segment. The 2020 BMW X1 sDrive18i, still in its second-generation, now shares its visual style with its originator, looking very much like a scaled down X5 with its distinctive kidney grille.

Inside, the formula is the same, giving owners a small taste of what's further up the model range. The layout will be familiar to stalwarts of the brand and welcoming to new owners. Everything is within reach from the comfortable driver's seat and the switchgear operates with that classic Germanic feel. Instrumentation is clear and the BMW iDrive infotainment system continues to be among the class due to its speed and intuitive use. As an SUV, there's ample space for passengers and their cargo. Opt for the sunroof and it adds further to the interior's sense of expanse.

On the road, the X1 feels a bit sprightlier than the figures on paper suggest. The moniker sDrive18i explains that this trim level is front-wheel drive with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged motor. The engine outputs a strong 140bhp from its peak of 4600 rpm to 6500 rpm. Even stronger is the torque figure of 162lb/ft available from a low of 1480 rpm to 4200 rpm. These numbers give the X1 flexibility even beyond its three drive modes, ECO PRO, Comfort and Sport. Having more torque than horsepower at the low end of the scale makes the BMW a breeze around town. Acceleration is smooth and effortless in the everyday flow of daily traffic. On the highway and B roads, the horsepower at the higher end of the power band encourages the driver to occasionally wind the engine out. This bodes well for efficiency as BMW claims a combined fuel economy of 52mpg when operated with restraint.

The suspension is set up on the softer side, keeping occupants comfortable over varied terrain. There's enough ground clearance to calm the nerves of those who have to clear the random sidewalk, or rutted road.