xDrive 23d SE Auto
the current Siberian
climate gripping this country will
encourage motorists to come
in from the cold and go back to
buying 4x4s. In fact, owning a get-
you-most places 4x4 is really not
such a bad idea in the real-world...
THE COLDEST WINTER FOR 25 YEARS, the 2009/2010 Winter is forecast to get worse
yet. So with our ice- and snow-covered roads already crumbling from Jack Frost,
a 4x4 is not just for Winter it's for UK life.
And if you're looking at 4x4s, BMW have just launched a new 'one'. Based on
the current 1 Series platform, the new BMW X1 completes the X line-up of X3,
X5 and X6 models. However, the X1 is less obviously a brashly-styled 4x4, looking
more like a chunky five-door, five-seater estate with a bit more ground clearance
than a conventional BMW Touring model.
Unlike its larger X3/X5/X6 stablemates, the X1 range includes rear-wheel drive
versions (called sDrive) and permanent four-wheel drive models (called xDrive).
Because of the dominance of diesel engines in the SUV/SAV (Sports Utility and
Sports Activity Vehicles) sector, BMW is offering buyers the choice of three
power outputs all using a core 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel power
There's the 18d with 143bhp and 236lb ft of torque and the 20d with 177bhp and
258lb ft, both available with either rear-wheel drive (sDrive) or all-wheel
drive xDrive. The third, the 204bhp/295lb ft 23d, is xDrive only. Most X1s come
as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox but the xDrive 23d is fitted with
a six-speed Sport automatic gearbox with gear-change paddles as standard.
BMW's EfficientDynamics technology plays a part in the BMW X1 story, marking
the introduction of Auto Start-Stop on an X product for the first time. Available
on all manual transmission cars, the system improves fuel consumption figures.
The BMW X1 also has the full suite of EfficientDynamics technologies including
Brake Energy Regeneration, optimised aerodynamics, optimum shift indicator and
on-demand use of ancillary units.
Currently, the X1 is only available with one SE level of specification for all
models and, following the recent increase in VAT, prices range from £23,325
BMW claim that the X1 is the only 'premium' compact Sports Activity Vehicle
currently on sale in the UK although the Audi Q3 and the baby Land/Range Rover
will be competitors in the future. Competitors will be the Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen
Tiguan, Ford Kuga, Suzuki Grand Vitara and the new Peugeot 3008. Quattro versions
of the Audi A3/A4 and A4 Allroad plus the Subaru Legacy Outback will also be
There will, of course, be some down-sizing customers from the BMW X3 (especially
as the next generation X3s will be larger) but even so BMW predicts that 65%
of sales will come from 'conquest' customers. Many users are likely to be company
car drivers and business user-choosers attracted by the relatively low levels
of Benefit-in-Kind tax. Just over half of all customers are expected to opt
for sDrive two-wheel drive models a pattern already set by other brands
of medium-sized SUV-styled vehicles.
X1 clearly takes some of its styling from other X models in the BMW range but
it is less obviously a bulky 4x4 or SAV/SUV; it's more like a muscular estate
car, and that will be attractive to some buyers. It looks very much like what
a 1 Series Touring would be like if there was such a thing more of an
estate with large wheels and a bit more ground clearance than an SUV. The long
bonnet is classic BMW 1 Series as is the wedge-shaped side profile. xDrive all-wheel
drive versions can be recognised by their additional roof rails and satin-finish
side sill guards.
great thing about
all BMW X models
is just how well
they drive on the road
under most conditions...
Inside, the styling and functionality is yet more X family with semi-command
seating positions and 40:20:40 folding-split rear seats and a large tailgate
accessing the load area in a conventional SUV/hatchback/estate manner. The boot
offers a very good amount of space (420-1,350 litres) although it is awkwardly
shaped, and the rear seat backs lie at a slight angle when they are folded.
Even for tall passengers, space in the front is first class but rear passenger
room is a little cramped. Most of the interior is excellent and reasonably well
finished but you can see and feel that it is in places built to
a price; the centre part of the upper dashboard (and home to the optional navigation
system) looks a bit cheap but the optional wood finish trim does improve the
The SE equipment levels are good with all the usual must-have 'premium' brand
items including automatic air conditioning, ambient lighting, electrically-operated
windows and heated door mirrors, fast-thaw front windscreen, multi-function
buttons in the steering wheel, multi-speaker sound system and a stop/start ignition
test car had added extras to the tune of £5,175 which included wider Y-spoke
17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, navigation system, a Comfort Pack (which includes
rain sensors and parking distance control), a Design Pack (including excellent
quality Oyster Nevada leather trim), sports front seats and pleasing Fineline
Wave wood trim which certainly improved the appearance of the interior finish.
Heated front seats are also an option and were particularly welcoming.
The great thing about all BMW X models is just how well they drive on the road
under most conditions. The xDrive all-wheel drive grip in the dry or wet is
immense. That said, it is not so accomplished in the ice and snow as a conventional
4x4. None of BMW's sports driving heritage seems to have been lost for most
conditions but care is needed in really bad conditions. The xDrive system doesn't
give the driver a licence to be oblivious to treacherous roads. There is none
of the body roll associated with 'tall' vehicles so the ride is flat and level
during cornering. The suspension is firm, and the ride can be choppy on poorer
have now had two spells in the new BMW X1. The first was in the absolute top
of Scotland, lashed by gales and high winds. The on-road driving, with huge
amounts of standing water, was safe and sure even in rear-wheel drive guise.
Add the xDrive all-wheel drive function and the vehicle was even better, especially
when it came to long stretches of rough stone tracks and very wet gravel sections
such as you might find on a rally. More recently, I have had a longer spell
with the xDrive 23d in the appalling snow and ice.
provides a fantastic
amount of progressive
torque from very low
or instant response
me, a country dweller, this is the model I'd choose because the more powerful
204bhp/295lb ft 23d with its standard-fit auto transmission offers all-wheel
traction and real performance whether dry, wet or in the mud. However, in the
ice and snow it was less impressive mainly because of the wider 17-inch tyres
which just sat on top of the snow instead of cutting into it and providing more
Better use of the low speed torque could have been had if a manual gearbox was
an option because the xDrive system and auto 'box combination doesn't allow
for a second gear start-off for best traction and neither can
the driver select a 'snow' or 'sand' grip mode for the drivetrain differential.
This version of the award-winning BMW 2.0-litre diesel unit, with its twin turbochargers,
provides a fantastic amount of progressive torque from very low engine speed
or instant response for overtaking. At no point does it feel stressed
and it is quiet. With a top speed electronically-limited to 127mph, this
engine is only marginally faster than other versions. Zero to 62mph takes just
7.3 seconds. The official average fuel economy is 44.8mpg and in Scotland my
test car returned 35.7mpg but in the cold and snow of the Cotswolds this fell
Against? Well, ride quality and refinement can be a let down over poorer road
surfaces, some areas of poor quality interior trim in places and in snow and
icy conditions the wide section tyres struggle to turn all-wheel drive into
real grip. Working in its favour is the X1's size, choice of two- or four-wheel
drive models, softer exterior styling over a conventional SUV, sharp on-road
handling in normal driving conditions, low CO2 emissions, well equipped, relatively
well priced and competitive pricing for a BMW.
However, don't get carried away; the X1 is no off-roader and has its limitations
but with care it will handle tough on-road conditions. And it costs a great
deal less to buy and run than a conventional 4x4. David Miles
BMW X1 xDrive 23d SE Auto | £29,900
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds | Overall MPG:
Power: 204bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2 167g/km | Insurance group TBC