BMW X cars are peculiar things, and not in a bad way. Actually, it's the exact opposite.
Purists have cried foul when BMW first came out with the X5 back in 2000. It's understandable. Up until that time, BMW had been known for saloons, coupes, convertibles and sports cars, not four wheel drive sport utility vehicles or in BMW-speak, sports activity vehicles.
Gradually the X5 gained traction, disproving purists and showing that it was more than just a cute little niche. BMW followed it up with the X3 and that became a hit. BMW continued on with the X6 and, well, reception was mixed.
And now BMW has the X1. What's it really like then?
Strictly speaking, the X1 isn't a new car anymore. The baby of the BMW X series of SAVs has been around since 2009, and has just undergone a facelift and overall update. The design has been revised, all the more to look fresher for the new year model. This being the xLine variant, the X1 gets the larger, sportier rims, gray fender flares and moldings with matte silver 'skid plates', as well as a matte silver and chrome lipped interpretation of the kidney grille. The mini SAV looks particularly good in orange, contrasting well against the gray and silver panels.
Inside, the cabin is all business as BMW should be. Black leather matches the predominantly black interior, accented by silver trim and piano black panels. The buttons are all conventionally laid out and give off a great air of quality; a BMW hallmark. At the center of the dashboard is the LCD screen, controlled via BMW's iDrive system; it's become quite familiar and intuitive to use, and is shared by the entire BMW line, including MINI and even Rolls-Royce.
The thickly rimmed, leather wrapped steering wheel is great to the touch, along with the signature BMW automatic shifter. One thing about the cabin is that it's quite snug; this is a small crossover after all. The rear seats are surprisingly spacious given the dimensions, and has the anchors for baby seats; being a crossover makes the X1 ideal for small and starting families. Boot space is pretty good at 420 liters with the rear seat up at 1350 with it folded down, and has various cargo retention or tie down options.
And then there's the drive. This one is the 18d version, so it comes fitted with a 2.0 liter turbodiesel engine. It's no slouch, as it makes a very healthy 143 PS at 4000 rpm and 320 Newton meters from 1750 to 2500 rpm, all course to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. One thing I've always found strange is that BMWs still require you to insert the keyfob into the dashboard slot to start the engine instead of being a smart key that you can just keep in your pocket while you drive.
In the city, the X1 performs flawlessly, efficiently and comfortably, given that it has runflats. The update has seen the X1 18d get the automatic start stop system, and it works in town to cut down your fuel consumption. You can feel the engine come on and off with the expected judder as it's a diesel after all, but since it serves to cut consumption to zero liters at a set of lights for a few seconds while retaining the blower and the radio, it's worth it. City consumption is inconsistent due to that, but it's inconsistent in a good way. Depending on your driving style and traffic conditions, 12 kilometers to a liter of diesel is easy while 17 kilometers to a liter is attainable. On the highway, that figure goes up even further to well over 20 km/l.
For performance, the X1 18d can reach 100 km/h from a standstill in under 10 seconds, and can push the pace up to 200 as per BMW's figures. Where the X1 makes its presence felt is on an open piece of winding road. Handling for a slightly taller and larger than usual vehicle is quite good, particularly in terms of body control. Two aspects of note are the X1's braking into a turn and acceleration out of a corner. It's no performance car, but BMW's innate driving engineering really comes through.
Again, the X series is still a peculiar concept, and it shows in the X1. It's no sports sedan, but it has some of the performance and handling. It's not an eco car, but it certainly gives the figures. It's not really an SUV, but it has the versatility and usability of one.
Pundits call it compromised, but in a way, those 'compromises' make the X1 18d xLine a great choice when moving up to the premium segment... and one that you can justify to the wife.