Cars - BMW

Road tests and reviews of the latest BMW models available in South Africa

We take a look at the ins and outs of the new 2016 BMW X1

2016 BMW X1

By Franky Johnson

When BMW X1 was first launched, being an outsider in the then booming luxury small crossover segment allowed it to offer carlike handling in a package that had more in common with a station wagon than the modern CUV. However it also sometimes pays to get with the program in this segment and that’s what BMW has done with the 2016 X1, which switches to a new front-drive-based platform and adopts a shape more in line with the rest of the segment.

The new X1 adopts BMW Group’s UKL modular architecture, a transverse-engine layout designed for front- or all-wheel-drive applications. The platform is shared with some Minis and the Euro-market BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The switch dramatically changes the X1’s proportions, shortening overall length by 1.1 inches, increasing height by 1.7 inches, and shrinking the wheelbase by 3.6 inches. The result is a vehicle that looks the part of a crossover with a shorter hood and front overhangs than the old rear-drive-based X1.

The 2016 X1 also has a seating position more akin to a utility vehicle. The driver and front passenger sit more than an inch higher than in the outgoing model, which felt very much like a car from the driver’s seat. The rear seats have been raised more than 2.5 inches. This new seat height gives a more commanding view of the road, one of the things buyers love about crossovers. The more space-efficient transverse-engine packaging also grants more room in the back, 1.5 inches more legroom in standard spec. An available sliding rear seat provides up to 2.6 inches of legroom. The cabin is nicely appointed with high-quality materials.

In typical BMW fashion, the steering wheel is thick and meaty, which might not fit as well in the hands of some drivers. Unlike the electronic gear selectors of other BMWs, the X1's shifter is actually connected to something mechanical on the other side of the lever. The shifter is long to compensate for the low-mounted center console and is connected to an Aisin-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission that's new to BMW Group.

Powering the X1 is a new turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4 that makes 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine is similar to the one found in the Mini Cooper JCW, and if you listen closely, you can hear some similarities to its more raucous family member. The boost bypass valve, which recirculates excess charge air when you lift off the throttle, sounded marvelous echoing off early morning city buildings. Although the unit doesn't vent to the atmosphere like a blow-off valve, it brought to mind off road road-trips I made with enthusiast friends in my youth. I never would've thought a crossover could in any way remind me of a modified WRX or Nissan 240SX, but the X1 somehow brought me back to my boy racer days. Granted, not every X1 customer will want that same experience, and they won't get it if they drive normally on the street. But they will get to enjoy the X1's smooth, practically lag-free powerband and ample passing power thanks to peak torque available between 1,250 and 4,500 rpm.

With the new X1 BMW could’ve just churned out a CUV tuned for the lowest common denominator, but instead it delivered something that drives decently, gets reasonably good fuel economy, and most importantly fits the crossover mold. A big thumbs up from me.

Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Keep up with us on Pinterest Join our Google Plus circle Join us on Tumblr