Updated: January 26, 2024
Do you feel like there's been a shortage of small SUV reviews on Dedoimedo? Worry not, I've got you covered. I had a chance to drive yet another funky crossover, this one with the BMW badge. X1 sDrive 18d, to be more precise, powered by a 2.0 turbodiesel, which gives you 150 horses, 320 Newtons, front-wheel drive, and 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. Sounds interesting, so we need to test.
Now, now, don't get confused we're talking about the previous model. The outgoing one. A car that can now only be bought from the second-hand market. But that does not make it any less relevant or intriguing. Quite the opposite. So, this review will be, sort of, a snapshot of the past, but a worthy exercise nonetheless. Continue, we shall.
I like BMWs, but I am not too keen on the SUV range. I mean some look okay, but the real beauty is in the low-profile hatchbacks and sedans, not the elevated cruisers. Somehow, they tend to look too tame, even when specced out, and mine wasn't. This is a mild-looking, family-friendly troops carrier. Even post-facelift, there's too much softness. The front grill does have a dose of menace, despite the overlarge kidneys - well, we can't really call them that anymore, now can we.
The X1 is the tamest of the X range, and it's not bad looking, but it's a bit too rounded. It needs to be more pointy. The gray color (with hints of champagne gold in there somewhere) doesn't lend to the feel of power and speed, either, but the wheel alloys are quite pretty, and the roof racks add a dose of zing. In the back, you get a nice spoiler and twin exhaust pipes. There's your nod to the deities of speed, right there.
I have always liked BMW interiors, even with the more spartan trim levels. Of course, you want the M Sport edition, but even with the basic stuff, the interior is reasonable. I mean, to make the small SUV appealing, there has to be a "basic" level of goodies. This translates into 17-inch alloys, roof rack, electrically operated tailgate, and dual-zone climate system, operated by NORMAL buttons and no touch nonsense. Alas, I hear that the new 2023 (and onwards) model has the climate control functionality moved into the touch screen, which is a big no-no. Nope, never gonna buy. But let's stay positive with this model.
Le car at my disposal had front seats partially operated by buttons, i.e., some stuff is manual some not, the trim is weird cloth in a "sporty" stripe color scheme, which feels odd and strangely cheap for a BMW, and unfortunately, an electric parking brake (no proper lever). Furthermore, the infotainment system came in the somewhat larger 8-inch variant (than the basic 6.5-inch unit), and there was a navigation package, too. All in all, pretty decent, but it doesn't feel as glamorous as one would expect or want from a BMW.
That said, the overall experience was decent. The seats do their job, cheap cloth notwithstanding. There's ample room in the back, too. The tailgate is annoying, and I was never quite sure whether it would close correctly or not. The motor operation is also slower than what you get with ordinary, hydraulic mechanisms.
The driving position is good, the steering wheel just right; well, it's typical BMW. You can't fault the little gear level, and there's also a button to change between driving modes, very nice, I like. But we will talk about the driving experience in just a moment.
Indeed, if there's ONE aspect of the whole car package that's uniquely BMW, that's the driving feel. You start driving, you start exerting g force, and the X1 obeys, oh so much better than most cars its size and class. It's not that my recent fun with the T-Roc or the Skoda Karoq was bad, but the X1 was simply fantastic. It's light, precise, it never sways, dips or bobs. The steering is sharp, the nose goes where you point, without delay. The car is always steady, and you can feel it wants to go way beyond the allowed speed limit. It does not feel diesel in any way. Reminds me of the BMW X3 experience in France and Germany, where I could actually enjoy that car's performance on the unrestricted sections of the autobahn network.
I was deeply impressed by the driving element. Seamless. Great position, great feel, solid suspension, pinpoint sharp response, throttle and steering and all. The safety systems, whatever they may be, never bothered me. The car pulled, cleanly, smoothly, quickly. You don't hear or feel the automatic gearbox doing its work.
Things get even better if you turn the Sport mode on. Oh my. It's where the real fun begins. Everything tightens up, and the car truly wants to go. Earlier, it felt like warming up. I had to check the car's registration papers to make sure it only had 150 HP. Indeed, a lot of small SUVs have this magic number quoted, but it's the X1 that stands out by a huge margin. Now, practically, I know it's not amazingly fast. The 0-100 km/h figure is a rather average 9.2 seconds. But I swear it feels twice as rapid. And, then, you remember this is a FWD vehicle, and not RWD, like the olden X1s. Good engineering, FTW.
I tried the X1 mostly in the urban and highway settings, aircon on, with a mildly aggressive driving style, and some 30-40% of the route driven in the Sport mode. Overall, the car drank 6.5 liters of fuel every 100 km, which is a very respectable figure.
Nothing really, except I didn't like the electric-powered rear door. Feels unnecessary. And slow. The parking brake didn't annoy me much, though, but I would definitely prefer a real handle.
BMW X1 sDrive18d (F48) is an interesting specimen. It seems to be mild and reserved on purpose, and you know that the chassis can handle a lot more, well, you get the 20d and 25d models, too. Plenty of torque and sports-car performance. I really liked the X1, but I cannot share the sense of foreboding disappointment that has nothing to do with the vehicle I tested, and everything with the new version.
The previous gen X1 is a solid car. That could be interpreted as a recommendation to get one. Well, alas, with the new model featuring essential controls bundled into the touch console, I take the stance the way I have for all and any and every car out there that does this. I'm not interested in any vehicle, no matter how beautiful it is or how well it drives, which has radio or climate control governed by touch. Pointless, stupid, unsafe, irritating. Pure and simple.
Anyway, with that in mind, the X1 sDrive18d (outgoing) is a fairly elegant SUV, aesthetics wise, decently equipped and designed on the side, and it drives majestically. Definitely one of the more fun crossovers I've tried in a long while, and well ahead of the competition when it comes to the tarmac experience. All in all, 9/10. What it needs is the M Sport line, which greatly enhances the looks, better seat trim, and a manual tailgate. And manual climate controls to stay around ... Well, that ship has sailed, but perhaps the next-next-gen will go back to sanity. Interestingly, some car manufacturers are reversing their all-touch nonsense decisions after a massive backlash from customers, while others have kept to the beautiful physical buttons, as it should be. But enough of that. Given that this particular model is now second-hand territory, if you want a solid, dependable and utterly fun SUV, the X1 seems like a great choice, even with a relatively tame diesel engine.