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BMW’s X1: ugly ducklng no more


THE first-generation BMW X1 has been with us since 2009 and in that time some 7000 or so units have been sold locally. The outgoing X1 was never a looker; it didn’t really capture the essence of what it should have been, a smaller version of the X5 and X3. Much like with the X3, BMW seem to get it right with the second generation model which I discovered when I drove the all-new X1 recently.

SUV outside

The first thing that I noticed, which was reaffirmed on my social media feedback is that the new car looks far better than the model that it replaces. It gets those massive kidney grilles up front with sportier headlamps and deep air intakes while in side profile it now looks more athletic than awkward. At the rear it inherits the X-model off-road chunkiness and L-shaped tail lamps which round off a handsome compact SUV.

MPV inside

The interior of the X1 shares many characteristics with the 2 Series Active Tourer with which is shares a platform. It gets the same switchgear as its MPV cousin, the new-look BMW climate control system, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen controlled by the iDrive toggle in the centre console and an electronic handbrake. 

In terms of space inside the new X1 improves occupant comfort with more room for rear passengers as well as a larger boot with 505-litre capacity with the option of folding the rear seats down and even specifying a passenger seat with a foldable headrest so that long items can be loaded in without protruding.

Model range

The X1 is based on the front-wheel drive BMW architecture, a big departure for the X-models. At launch we only had the opportunity to sample the xDrive all-wheel drive models as the front wheel drive models are only due to arrive in January 2016. The engine line-up includes three xDrive models in the form of the 141kW/280Nm 20i turbo petrol model, the 25i turbo petrol model with 170kW/350Nm and the lone oil burner in the form of the 20d turbodiesel with 140kW/400Nm. All xDrive models come with the superb ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.

The front-wheel drive sDrive models come with the same 141kW/280Nm 20i powertrain and 140kW/400Nm 20d motor however instead of a high-power petrol there’s a smaller 18i three-cylinder turbo petrol model with 100kW/220Nm at the entry level point. The diesel and three cylinder petrol models come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox while the 18i is also available with a six-speed automatic transmission and the 20d and 20i  also available with the 8-speed automatic transmission.

Driving impression

I drove the 25i petrol and 20d diesel xDrive models at launch over a variety of surfaces and situations which included, rough tar roads, smooth tar roads, dusty dirt roads and muddy passes. I must admit that although the all-wheel drive models are capable of tackling mild off-road scenarios these models are more at home on the open road. In dynamic situations the X1 feels good, it is by no means a sports car but acquits itself well-enough. I would go for the diesel as it always seems to have torque when you need it while also proving more frugal.



The X1 is much improved product that is now more adept at not only competing with its rivals but also at satisfying the ever-increasing demand for SUVs that offer a premium driving experience, raised ride height and most importantly for buyers in this segment, the image that they desire.

Here is a short video showing the interior and exterior of the X1 during the launch: 


A quick video showing the interior and exterior of the new BMW X1 after a 178km gravel and tar road route.

Posted by on Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Warranty and service

All BMW X1 models come with a 5 year/100 000km Motorplan maintenance contract as well as a two-year/unlimited mileage warranty.

Pricing (standard model):

sDrive 18i (manual) R 435 000
sDrive 20i R492 000
sDrive 20d (manual) R479 500
xDrive 20i R539 500
xDrive 25i R602 500
xDrive 20d  R557 500


Article written by Sean Nurse
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