Text and photos Chris Van Hoven
In the immortal words of Bob Dylan: “the times they are a-changin’.” It’s a notion BMW is only too aware of. Once the champion and last bastion of manufacturing purely rear-wheel drive vehicles, BMW is slowly starting to dip their feet into front (and optionally all-wheel drive) vehicles, beginning with the introduction of the 2 Series Active Tourer several years ago.
It was a controversial decision to be sure, but a decision that BMW needed to make to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. The all-new 2017 BMW X1 is the German marque’s next step into the transverse-engine world, marking its second generation with some major changes.
The switch to a transversely mounted engine (as opposed to the BMW-traditional longitudinal orientation) provides several benefits to the consumer, the most apparent being more cabin room all around. Legroom has been greatly increased from its predecessor, with a 37 millimeter increase in knee space at the rear seats. Sliding the independent rear seats back increases this up to 66 millimeters, providing enough room for three full-sized adults to sit comfortably at the rear. The luggage space has also been increased by an astounding 85 liters, increasing its maximum capacity to 505 liters of space. Folding down the 40/20/40 rear seats opens up the available space to a cavernous 1,550 liters. Going the front-wheel drive route makes a whole lot of sense for the company’s smallest crossover, with BMW converting the transmission tunnel into usable space.
POWER TO SPARE
We were given a chance to test drive the X1 xDrive20d variant from Manila to Subic, and we were plenty pleased with its performance. The X1’s tiny dimensions were easily propelled by the four-cylinder inline twin-turbo diesel engine’s 190 hp and 400 Nm of torque. We’re talking horsepower and torque figures close to what you’d find on much larger pickup-based seven-seater SUVs, pulling a chassis that weighs significantly less. The results are, as expected, completely thrilling. BMW claims the X1 accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 7.6 seconds, and it’s a claim that is completely believable.
Prodding the accelerator results in impressive overtaking prowess, and succumbing to the temptation to floor it rewards you with an exhilarating back-to-the-seat experience. Power delivery is linear and responsive, and the mated eight-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of providing smooth shifts for every occasion.
The X1 offers nimble handling characteristics as well, with a nicely-weighted steering wheel able to provide almost pin-perfect steering responsiveness. When it’s time to have fun on the twisties, the X1 shows its propensity to handle corners quite well, with almost no hint of understeer despite being primarily driven by the two front wheels. While the X1’s suspension setup is keenly biased to prioritize handling and drivability, ride comfort is not entirely absent, even though it rides on low-profile run-flat tires. It’s safe to say that BMW has retained the level of driving dynamics they’ve always been known for, easily surpassing the X1’s predecessor in terms of drivability and ride comfort.
Fuel economy is excellent as well, thanks to its thrifty diesel engine. We were able to achieve highway figures or around 15 km/L, averaging to around 10-11 km/L on combined city and highway driving.
A SMALL PACKAGE WITH PLENTY TO OFFER
What the X1 loses in technical charm with the move to a front-wheel drive system, it gains in actual day-to-day usefulness; and that’s something we’ll always prefer in our vehicles. With an improvement in ride comfort and cabin space compared to its predecessor, the second generation X1 proves to be a huge contender in its segment, with plenty to offer for its P3,340,000 price tag.