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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: 2013 BMW X1 sDrive118d xLine

Photos by Ulysses Ang
As the first premium compact crossover, the BMW X1 was the trailblazer of the segment. After some three and a half years, sales have already exceeded 300,000 units worldwide. Of course, competitors have arrived and now, the X1 responds with a well-timed nip-tuck to meet a raft of new challengers. With its specially modified body design, upgraded interior, new range of BMW Lines, and new equipment, the BMW X1 delivers a more intense experience.

From the outside, the X1 carries the typical BMW proportions: a sweeping hood, long wheelbase, and setback passenger compartment. It emphasizes this car’s dynamism while subtle creases, curves, and lines all lend a hint of agility. There is more painted surfaces now with a wide-array of exterior paintwork colors including the eye-catching Valencia Orange hue; however, there’s still some unpainted black trim, particularly on the lower edge of the body and the wheel arches emphasizing the X1’s multi-faceted character. At the same time, there’s more shiny stuff to spruce up the X1’s exterior such as the front and rear aprons which have been made to look like sump guards.

BMW has also taken this opportunity to align the X1 to the likes of the 1 Series and the 3 Series and offer BMW Lines. Available on a BMW X model for the first time, the X1 is available in Sport Line which swaps the color-keyed mirrors for high-gloss black ones and adds the same finish on the grille while sporting a different set of 18-inch alloys. On the other hand, the tested xLine accentuate robustness and, dare I say it, luxury by adding satin silver accents to the grille, bumpers, and doors together with its own unique set of 18-inch alloys.

Underneath the hood, the X1 features a new engine: BMW’s TwinPower Turbo diesel. The all-aluminum engine has a variable geometry intake and common-rail direct injection to push out 143 horsepower and 320 Nm of torque from two liters of displacement. On paper, the sDrive118d accelerates in a modest 9.6 seconds but it feels faster in real life. There’s a lot of torque from down low in the rpm range, digging and pushing you into your seat whenever the accelerator’s floored. Treat it gently though and it rewards with an equally smooth driving experience. With a flat torque band and an eight-speed automatic (a segment first), the X1 feels confident on expressways. Though the engine is generally smooth and quiet in the cabin (where it matters), crack the windows open and it’s surprisingly loud.

In line with the enhanced engine and transmission, the X1 now comes equipped with BMW’s EfficientDynamics and ECO PRO technology which further improves fuel efficiency. By means of a switch on the center console panel below the audio system, ECO PRO mode can now be activated. This supports an economy-optimized driving style through adjustments to the accelerator mapping and the shifting behavior of the automatic transmission. Moreover, systems such as the climate control are regulated to ensure highly-efficient energy management (i.e. it turns the compressor off and switches to fan mode as soon as it hits a somewhat comfortable ambient cabin temperature). ECO PRO also makes the automated start/stop function much more aggressive which can get irritating in Manila’s snarling traffic. The automated start/stop also locks up the steering wheel meaning emergency maneuvers aren’t possible unless you release the accelerator to bring the engine back to life. The trade-off though is stellar fuel economy: 14.92 km/L in mixed driving conditions with 10.41 km/L in the city and 20.41 km/L on the highway.

On the road, the X1 behaves like a BMW should: precise and highly controllable. The suspension tuning strikes the ideal balance between driving dynamics and riding comfort despite riding on run-flat 225/45R18 tires. Despite being purely rear-wheel drive (there’s no X1 model with all-wheel drive for the Philippine market), it feels safe to push around through corners. It’s also inherently neutral with a nice, tossable feel akin to a 1 or 3 Series. The precise handling is complimented by equally responsive steering. Like the new 3 Series, the X1 uses a new electromechanical power steering system called Servotronic. By switching to an electric power assisted set-up, the X1 uses less fuel since steering support is only activated when needed. The motor doesn’t consume power during straight-line or steady-state cornering. As good as Servotronic is for an electric power steering set-up, it doesn’t have the same level of feedback as its traditional hydraulically assisted fore-bearer.

Inside, the X1 is once again typical BMW with all the right adjectives attached to it: upscale, luxurious, sporty, and ergonomic. For a crossover, the sitting position on the X1 is rather low, so getting in or out isn’t done by simply sliding out. There’s a part of the door frame to lift over and when done incorrectly, can result in soiled pant legs. Once settled in the driver’s seat though, everything else becomes second nature. The front seats are low and sporty (for a crossover) with ample space and clearance in every dimension. It’s supportive too with excellent bolstering and generous seat length. The rear seats though equally supportive, are best left for two adults. Even then, they’ll have to content with “barely there” knee room.

Though the rear seating of the X1 is less than stellar, it more than makes up for it when it comes to versatility. The rear seatbacks can be folded in a 40/20/40 split with the three sections folding down individually or jointly according to requirements. It can also be adjusted in ten stages. Folding all three seat elements creates a virtually flat cargo floor with a loading capacity of 1,350 liters—enough to fit two 46-inch golf bags sideways, or after folding own the central section of the seatback, lengthwise.

The rest of the cabin is traditional BMW. It’s black, serious, and straight to the point. The gauges though lacking in fanfare are easily legible and contain all the necessary information housed in two large circular rings with the speedometer and fuel gauge on the left and the tachometer and instantaneous fuel gauge on the right. In the middle is a two-line LCD screen that spits out information such as the odo, trip, and various fuel economy measurements all in orange lettering. It also tells you the added range achieved when activating ECO PRO mode. The steering wheel is a nice thick three-spoke number that’s a joy to hold and contains the trademark multi-function buttons. The center console is arranged in a horizontal manner and compartmentalized for easy operation. The electronically actuated shifter, though a BMW design cue for quite some time, still takes getting used to.

The BMW X1’s range of standard equipment has been raised, guaranteeing improved levels of comfort. The scope includes automatic HID headlights with ‘halo’ LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps and rear parking sensors on the outside and dual-zone climate control, powered front seats, leather seating, a premium sound system with a built-in hard drive and a nice set of inputs (though the Apple iPod connectivity isn’t that great), and Bluetooth hands-free on the inside. Oddly enough though, cruise control has been left out.

With the new BMW X1, a new chapter in the highly successful BMW X family has just begun. The tremendous popularity enjoyed by the X1 across the world is fresh proof of the sheer appeal of the “baby” X model. Though still not perfect, the new and enhanced features of the new BMW X1 will surely advance it from a trailblazer to a true best-seller. At P 3,290,000, it’s still not destined to be a mainstream car. However, it bridges the gap between the 1 Series and 3 Series quite nicely (the top-of-the line 118d Sport is P 2,690,000 while the entry-level 320d is P 3,490,000) and that makes it a worthy consideration especially if you’re in the market for a premium vehicle. Moreover, it’s a BMW through and through, and any which way you look at it, makes it a winner.


  1. I love the color! Passion orange. looks like a bigger fiesta for me but yea, you're right a BMW is a BMW whether it's a 1 series or a 3 series. I agree too that that close of a price range wouldn't actually matter to those decided BMW buyer!

    Kudos to BMW!

    1. The color is technically "Valencia Orange" :-)

    2. HAHA.. At least, it's still orange hehe.

      Thanks for the correction!


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