Five years ago in 2018, BMW invited me to a whirlwind tour in South Africa. We drove various configurations of the X3 on that tour, covering plenty of distance in a short span of time. But beyond the jaw-dropping beauty of the country’s scenery, wildlife and driving roads, there’s one other thing I remember from that trip till this day: the event’s photographer, Rob Till, seemed to always be able to slingshot ahead of us in his base-model X1 to capture incredible images on our approach.
I never figured out how he managed to do that, since we were already driving for most of the journey like we’d stolen our X3s. The X1 has bulked up and matured since then. Its exterior has taken on a boxier appearance than its predecessor, the second-generation F48—the more angular aesthetic is apparent across the X1’s silhouette through to its wheel arches. The iconic kidney grilles, seemingly ever-growing in size like COE prices these days, stand more vertically now but thankfully retain their balanced proportions, unlike some other models in the current line-up. X-shaped linen extend outwards from the grilles to add visual presence, while the sloping roofline and sculpted door panels give the X1 an athletic image.
Climbing into the electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, the X1’s redesigned interior felt new but familiar at the same time. Now fitted with the BMW Curved Display running BMW Operating System 8 across a sleek 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and 10.7-inch control display (just like the 2 Series Active Tourer), as well as a vertical smartphone tray with wireless charging capability at the front of the centre console, it’s a car built for the smartphone native – and a magnet for fingerprints.
It’s not all touchscreens and high-resolution displays though, as there are still physical buttons on the control panel in the “floating” armrest between the front occupants, including ones to operate the engine’s Start/Stop feature, volume control, hazard light, parking brake, and drive modes. The compartment concealed by the leather armrest has just enough space to store keys, coins and receipts, while the exposed tray underneath had enough space for my wallet and a baseball cap (or a mirrorless camera with a kit lens attached).
As is the case with BMWs in Singapore, the X1 comes with a decent array of standard features. This includes the BMW Maps navigation system, Comfort Access, as well as four USB-C ports so nobody needs to worry about their gadgets running out of juice on long trips. There are also a bunch of driver assistance systems like lane departure warning, blind spot alert, and Park Assist – things you’d expect to find only in more expensive vehicle models.
The sports seats in front were comfortable, and there was ample legroom in the rear. With premium materials, modern electronics and thoughtful ergonomics, the X1’s cabin is a luxurious place to be in. Luggage capacity is a respectable 540 litres, rising to 1,600 litres when the rear seats are knocked forward. In desperate situations, the three full-sized seats in the back can be moved forward by an additional 130 mm to eke out every last cubic centimetre of storage space in the boot.
The creature comforts continue with the X1’s refined driving experience as the cabin is reasonably well insulated from road and wind noise. Visibility is good thanks to the large windows, and the light steering weight and reasonably small turning radius of the car make it easy to manoeuvre the X1 in tight spaces. The sporty characteristics of the X1’s setup achieves BMW’s confident handling with the minor concession of a busier ride quality over all but the smoothest of Singapore’s asphalt, however, and there’s still a slight harshness whenever the 1.5-litre engine restarts itself.
This front-drive sDrive16i X1 is powered by a TwinPower Turbo three-cylinder unit with a seven-speed Steptronic double-clutch transmission. Gear shifts under normal driving conditions were fairly audible but not disruptive as the car made use of its powertrain’s 122 hp and 230 Nm of torque. The X1 builds speed at a leisurely 10.5 seconds for its century sprint, but it’s plenty enough for Singapore’s roads and traffic, including an occasional jaunt down one of the country’s unofficial proving grounds for sportier cars. Although ‘basic’ in its performance, the BMW X1 sDrive16i xLine is competent, handsome (one person’s meat is another’s poison, I know) and acceptably well-rounded in its proposition as a compact SUV.
While Rob may have been able to squeeze every last drop of performance from his X1 during our event back then, I doubt any owner in Singapore will need to do from theirs.
Special thanks to Performance Motors and BMW Asia for this opportunity.
The original version of this article can be read at Eat.Fly.Drive.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
As a Category A car, will this BMW X1’s size matter to its driving dynamics?
Handling - 7/10
Performance - 7/10
Design - 8/10
Comfort - 7/10
Practicality - 8/10
Value - 6/10