On the surface, BMW is a popular premium brand, known for vehicles that deliver driving pleasure. In reality, it is actually two brands: the hardcore BMW and the consumer BMW.
Branding issues have arisen when the clients from the hardcore side see what the consumer side is doing, and vice versa. The former are the fans, the guys who know Bimmers by their chassis code, and can tell what variant a BMW is simply by looking at the stock wheel design—from a mile away. The other group are the consumers, the guys who see BMW as interchangeable between Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Lexus; they just pick what design they want from what they fancy in the showrooms.
The hardcore buyers will not buy anything without an M badge, and prefer BMWs with two doors. They look at anything with a ‘Tourer’ and ‘Gran’ badge with disdain, but they also appreciate the daily driving pleasure a typical BMW delivers. The consumers want a roomy, quiet European vehicle that looks good in their garage. They see an i8 or an M2 and wonder what’s the point of something so expensive yet so limited in function.
The needs of these two demographics don’t always intersect, but if they did, I would put the new X1 at the intersection. Facelifted recently, it’s the latest version of BMW’s ‘smallest’ X-Series model. I put quotation marks because it has grown significantly from the previous generation, and that’s a good thing.
I was able to drive the updated X1 not too long ago, and it thoroughly felt and looked like a modern premium crossover. Turn away if you don’t like the large grille trend, but if you’re not averse to BMW’s current design direction, the X1 will strike you as bold and handsome. The twin kidneys have a lovely silver accent, framed by the striking headlight design. At least the grille is not as big as the ones on the X7 and the 7-Series (although personally, I have no problem with the way those two look). The X1 manages to be attractive yet still relatively unassuming, and that’s a win because many customers in this price bracket prefer not to draw attention to themselves. Also, those 18-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels are just beautiful.
The cabin is bright and airy, giving the driver excellent visibility. The seat material isn’t leather; it’s something BMW calls Sensatec, and it’s a smooth material that you want to run your hands over. I particularly like the bolstering, which manages to hold my considerable frame in place. You might wonder what the point of deep seats in a crossover is for, but this is where the X1 surprises the most.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that generates 150hp and 350Nm. That’s a lot of torque for a compact crossover. But what’s amazing is that the X1 sDrive18d xLine gives you all the grunt at 1,750-2,500rpm. That’s like constantly being in the engine’s powerband. This gives you immediate power any time you want. And while the eight-speed automatic transmission’s delivery may be smooth, the relentless surge can be a little scary—or thrilling, depending on your idea of excitement.
I want to talk about the little elephant in the cabin, something you might have guessed based on the ‘sDrive’ mention in the name—this X1 is front-wheel-drive. Just a few years ago, this was brand blasphemy, as all proper Bimmers were expected to be either propelled from the rear wheels, or from all wheels. Has the change affected performance and driving enjoyment? The X1 doesn’t give an easy answer. If I really concentrate while driving, and with the knowledge that this is FWD, I get the vague sensation that the vehicle is being pulled in front rather than pushed from behind. But in reality, it’s hard to tell. And for everyday driving, it really won’t matter. There’s still a lot of fun to be had.
If you’re the type who usually sits in the back with a driver in front, you will like the spacious rear seats and the rear A/C vents. And if your driver is of average Filipino height or below, then you will really enjoy the second row. In a very forward-thinking gesture, BMW has outfitted the back with smartphone charging ports, but your phone better be a new model because the ports are USB-C.
Creature comforts all occupants will enjoy are automatic climate control and a sublime audio system controlled by BMW’s refined iDrive interface, displayed on a 6.5-inch infotainment screen. You also get a power tailgate. Sadly, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet, a surprising omission in an otherwise well-spec’d car.
The BMW X1 sDrive18d xLine costs P3,090,000—it’s the only variant—and you can have it in any color you want as long as it’s Alpine White or Black. That seems like a lot of money for something the size of a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda CR-V. But those two Japanese crossovers aren’t exactly affordable (in top trim), either. And with the X1, you get power, comfort, athleticism, and cachet.
The 2020 X1 is good enough to please the hardcore customers who want a bit of fun going to the supermarket. It will also satisfy the genteel buyers who want a plush ride to Tagaytay. Now that’s what you call a crossover success.