BMW X1 review: Urban Front Runner
Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team
Most potential buyers wouldn’t be bothered, and probably wouldn’t care much either, but the most significant change of the new BMW X1 is discarding its old rear-wheel drive platform for an all-new front-wheel drive one.
This is significant for BMW, but perhaps less so now that there is an assortment of FWD vehicles already in the line-up, like the 2-Series Active Tourer. However, the X1 would still be available with all-wheel drive, though as an option, so it’s not just all for show.
Being forward driven also now means it can fully maximise its interior packaging – it is now an inviting place to be, with ample legroom in the rear and an airier, more open environment that was absent previously.
Somehow, it also managed to look a lot angrier and menacing than the last model, with a buffed up front that resembles its larger sibling, the X5. The proportions are a lot better now, and the X1 is really an attractive looking SUV, with an almost coupe-like roofline.
All this bodes very well for the car, of course. In urban Singapore, the difference between FWD and RWD can hardly be felt, especially for an SUV, so the new car gives more benefits to the driver, than it takes away with its new platform.
A turn of the steering wheel already suggests this car is a lot sportier than what you’d expect of an SUV. It feels direct, meaty and full of feedback – not unlike what you will find in a Mini. It won’t come as a surprise if we found out that Mini has had some part to play in the handling of this car. It has been the only brand in the BMW Group with FWD vehicles, after all.
Show the car some corners and it will dance with them willingly. The suspension is also very well-judged. It’s firm, but also very pliant over humps and sooner than later you will be finding yourself going faster in urban roads than some supercars. The way it tackles the cityscape and suburban sprawl is commendable, it’s as if it’s built for it.
The drivetrain is also nothing to scoff at either. Even though it is essentially the base trim you can get in Singapore, it actually has an engine from the cooking Mini model, the Cooper S. So you get nearly 100bhp/litre, and plenty of low-end torque to dart in between traffic. The gearbox also suits the engine very well, shifting fast and responsively.
In all, it’s a huge step up from the last model, and a small SUV seriously worth considering. Even if it’s a FWD BMW, it’s just better than it ever was.
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