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The second-generation BMW X1 gets a mid-life facelift. We get behind the wheel to see what is new
The second generation of the BMW X1 has received a mid-life refresh, and though it isn’t too comprehensive, it is enough to keep the X1 fresh and ready for the onslaught coming from the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3. The updates include tweaked exterior styling, a mildly updated interior and engines that meet the new BS6 norms. BMW will be launching the facelifted X1 with two engines — its 2-litre petrol and diesel motors, but unlike the pre-facelift car, there will be no all-wheel drive variant on offer at least at the time of launch.
On the Outside
They went and made the grille bigger. Of course they went and made the grille bigger. Of late, BMW designers have honed their grille-magnifying skills more than anyone in the business, and the X1 is the latest car to get a sprinkling of big-grill-dust. And while bigger is not necessarily better, I must say that the X1 carries the grille well. Okay, the chrome isn’t really to my taste but I hear the people who have the money to buy this car like it. The keen-eyed will also notice that this grille is now a single piece and not split down the middle. This facelift to the X1 is a little more comprehensive than just the grille though. The LED headlamps are refreshed and the DRLs have swapped out for the new BMW signature as seen on the new X5. The bumper has been refreshed and though this xLine variant lacks the aggressiveness that the MSport variant with its aerodynamic kit would have, it still looks quite cool. In profile, the X1 hasn’t changed too much. It has an upright SUV-like stance (something that the first generation lacked slightly) and runs 17-inch wheels as standard.
From the rear, the taillamps have received an update and the L-shaped signature is in line with what has been slapped on to recent launches like the 3 Series and the X7. Not too much else has changed, but I must point out that the twin exhaust pipes have increased in diameter from 70mm to 90mm. A useless fact yes, but the only reason it caught my attention is because these aren’t fake exhaust tips that are becoming infuriatingly common, but actual exhaust pipes! Good job, BMW!
On the inside, it carries over the same architecture and layout of the pre-facelift car. That means, the buttons, screens and even the wheel is pretty much the same as what was on the pre-facelift car. It is hard to criticise in isolation, as the interior is well laid out and intuitive. The centre console is canted slightly towards the driver and the infotainment screen is now touch sensitive but can be controlled via a dial. However, when you look at what the latest generation of BMW interiors offers — say in the new 3 Series — the X1 does fall a bit short.
Coming to the back-seat, the X1 makes for a comfortable car. Knee room is adequate and the front seats are mounted such that you have enough space for your feet. The back-seat can be manually reclined, and I found it most comfortable in the position furthest back. Thigh-support is adequate as well. There’s a massive panoramic sunroof on offer to keep the cabin airy too. The rear seat has a 40:20:40 split to it and this makes it rather versatile. Boot space is impressive — a total of 550 litres (expandable to 1550 litres), with some underfloor storage as well.
Behind the Wheel
The changes under the hood are just as subtle as they are to the exteriors. The engines are now BS6 compliant, though their outputs remain the same. The X1 can be had with a 2-litre petrol that puts out 189bhp and 280Nm, while the car on test here is the diesel which puts out 187bhp and makes a whole 400Nm of torque. The diesel also has an AdBlue tank to that end.
The first generation of the X1 was a BMW in the purest sense — it was rear-wheel drive, it was sporty and the ride was firm. That changed when the second generation came around a few years ago. BMW shifted the X1 to the UKL2 platform, a front-wheel-drive/ all-wheel drive platform that also underpins the likes of the Mini Clubman and Countryman. To some extent, this softened up the X1 slightly but also made it more liveable in the process. It was still an impressive car though, and that continues with the facelift.
The engine is punchy, there’s no doubt about that. The 400Nm of peak torque is available from as low as 1750rpm and it picks up speed really well. BMW claims a 0-100kmph time of 7.9 seconds. It feels like a typical turbo engine, with a surge of torque when the turbo comes on song. Being a FWD car, there is very apparent torque steer when you floor the throttle and this can be a little unnerving if you aren’t expecting it, but you soon get used to it and it adds to the nuttiness quotient of the X1. The gearbox is a peach too — it shifts quickly and seamlessly, keeping you in the meat of the powerband. There are paddles if you want to take over, though the gearbox is pretty good when left to its own devices. You aren’t left wanting for a DCT. Another highlight of the engine is how refined it is. At low revs, it is barely audible in the cabin and even when you turn the wick up, it isn’t too intrusive inside the car. In fact, sound insulation for the X1 overall is rather good because in addition to cutting out the engine, it does a good job of keeping road noise and traffic noise out as well.
The balance of ride quality and handling is great too. The X1 is most composed on a smooth road, but it will take on a bad road well as well. It isn’t fazed by smaller bumps and you can just hammer through them, though you will find yourself slowing down for larger potholes. It has a very slight firm edge to the ride, and that is possibly because of the run-flat tyres it runs. Stability on the highway is top notch and the X1 makes for a great long distance mile-muncher. Being a BMW, it shines on the handling front as well. The SUV is dynamically sound — there’s plenty of grip, a little roll that is very predictable and steering that feels direct. It is actually a lot of fun though a set of corners and urges you to push it hard. The punchy drivetrain compliments this nature as well, and you’re left with an SUV that delivers on The Thrill of Driving.
What is the BMW X1, then? It is a versatile car that promises practicality, refinement and will indulge you with a bit of enthusiastic driving as well.It is sorted when it comes to the driving dynamics and scores well when it comes to space and comfort too. If there is anything to criticise, it would be that the interiors like the modern-ness of the latest BMW cars. As things stand right now, the X1’s only rivals include the Volvo XC40 (which can only be had as a petrol now) and an SUV that shares its underpinnings — the Mini Countryman. Prices for the X1 start at Rs 35.9 lakh for the base petrol variant, while the xLine diesel we are driving here costs Rs 39.9 lakh (ex-showroom) and this makes it a great proposition.
But the question that needs to be asked here is, is this enough? This facelift comes at a time when Mercedes-Benz is readying the all-new GLA and Audi is bringing in a new Q3. The X1’s sorted underpinnings should allow it to hold its own, but only time will tell.