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        BMW X1 First Drive Review

        Santosh Nair

        Santosh Nair

        Why would I buy it?

        • Lively diesel engine
        • Unique appearance

        Why would I avoid it?

        • Boring cabin

        Engine and Performance

        BMW X1 Left Front Three Quarter

        Under that conspicuously long hood of this 20d X1 is a 188bhp/400Nm 2.0-litre diesel engine that uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox to power the front wheels. Plus, it is also available in petrol guise for those who love raving about their machine’s refinement. I can tell you straight-off that 400Nm is curiously a whole lot of torque for a mill that puts out only so many horses. But what if I was to add that most of its torque is served even before you reach 1,800rpm? Yes, I had a similar look on my face too. Moreover, the grunt from this motor is remarkably linear till it lands up at the rev limits. Besides that, the eight-speed Aisin transmission marvellously siphons off the meatiest portion of this motor’s power band to allow for intuitive responses both in the city and on the highway. 

        BMW X1 Right Rear Three Quarter

        Additionally, aiding the driver with pre-set drive modes to vary the engine/gearbox responses are the EcoPro, Comfort, and Sport modes. EcoPro mode makes the X1 the laxest of the lot; hurried upshifts for frugality and free-wheels when you take your foot off the throttle. Sport mode, on the other hand, schizophrenically turns this X1 into a precarious flier since the gearbox clings on to gears for longer and ultimately results in sharper responses from any throttle input. Lastly, and you’ve guessed by now, Comfort mode strikes a reassuring balance of the two, and is what we preferred to stay slotted in all day long. And when the going gets swift, you have paddle shifters to gain total control!

        Ride Quality and Handling

        BMW X1 Right Front Three Quarter

        In sheer BMW tradition, the X1’s ride quality, too, has a firm edge to it, which is obviously more so at slower speeds. You couldn’t however state that it’s uncomfortable by any standard. And owing to this firmness, high-speed stability and overall dynamics take a pat on the back to make the X1 an engaging drive. Interestingly, this is despite it not benefiting from all-wheel drive. We admit that it has the glowing chassis balance and teaser steering feedback to thank for. Lastly, this SUV has the clearance to take the beaten path without scathing its underbelly. A relief when trudging our roads with such expensive German artillery.

        Comfort, Convenience, and Features

        BMW X1 Dashboard

        The BMW X1’s cabin is an all-black affair with wood/silver inserts that quite discerningly reeks of the car maker’s yesteryear design inputs. Having passed one’s prime, it looks blatantly unexciting. For one, you constantly glare into the bare-bones dials, while the rest of the siblings and rivals have moved on to digital instrumentations. Plus, it rocks BMW’s older i-Drive system and the cabin, as such, does not feel as premium as the competition anymore. Makes you wonder sometimes what all this step-brotherly treatment is about. 

        BMW X1 Second Row Seats

        Again, the older i-Drive is hooked up to the eight-inch touchscreen, which although borderline fine to use, lacks the intuitiveness of its rivals and to top it, there is no Android Auto functionality. On the bright side though, cabin space is unmistakably this X1’s forte; both front and rear. While at it, the low-set seats liberate plenty of headroom, which combined with the large glass area and dual sunroof make the cabin distinctly airy.

        BMW X1 Bootspace

        Even legroom for tall occupants is second to none (rivals). On that note, the reclining function on the rear bench eases comfort substantially, and the near flat-folding functionality boosts boot space significantly. As for creature comfort, the X1 comes with ambient lighting, two USB Type-C ports at the rear, puddle lamps with the X1 logo, powered front seats with a two-set memory function, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors. Nevertheless, we’d love to see the latest instrumentation and iDrive, some spiced up interiors and a boot lid with auto close/open function.

        Safety Features

        BMW X1 Drive Mode Buttons/Terrain Selector

        With the X1, one gets a comprehensive set of safety equipment such as six airbags, traction control, tyre pressure monitoring (TPMS), and a smart attentiveness assistant that keeps track of the driver’s attentiveness whilst driving by analysing his/her driving patterns.


        BMW X1 Right Front Three Quarter

        If you look at the past few iterations of the X1, one thing is clear; bigger-the-better seems to work. And that’s the case across the industry for that matter. I wonder where this approach is going to lead us since there’s only so much footprint available on any road. That aside, the signature BMW elements such as their legendary grille has now become prominently larger. What I indeed appreciate though, is that the X1, on the whole, isn’t as distastefully bulbous as the X3. It still has some proportionate styling that aptly tilts to a sportier form despite the spacious interiors. 


        BMW X1 Right Rear Three Quarter

        The X1 has some catching up to do through aligning itself alongside its siblings, and rivals at that. This BMW needs enlightening. For instance, a more premium feel, better design detailing along with the addition of some extras like all-digital instrumentation and the latest iDrive, all of which, are deal-breakers. On the positive side though, the X1 is a good step into the premium SUV side of things since it has a peppy motor with sorted dynamics, is exceptionally spacious, and has generous boot space, to begin with. This is even more pronounced if you are the kind that can’t stop dreaming of BMWs. I’m not one of those. 

        Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

        BMW X1
        BMW X1 ₹ 41.45 Lakh Onwards
        BMW | BMW X1 | X1