BMW X1 review: Small updates to BMW’s bestselling SUV keeps it going strong

The changes and upgrades to BMW’s hottest selling SUV are minor, but it should keep on selling like so many hotcakes

What isn’t broken doesn’t require fixing, goes the old saying… or something like that.

Especially so when the said object in question was the number one-selling BMW SUV worldwide (with the X3 following a close second) last year and the third best-selling BMW overall, accounting for some 13.5 per cent of the 2.1 million cars it sold. Top spot went to the 5 Series, accounting for nearly a fifth of all new BMWs delivered last year.

So, given those very unbroken sales numbers – going strong in spite of how the car was first launched some three years ago – the midlife update to the X1 is minor, to say the least.

A new, rather fetching semi-matte grey exterior colour, new headlight and taillight cluster, a new (read: bigger) kidney grille, puddle lamps that project the X1 logotype, larger tailpipes and a standard powered tailgate are some of the highlights on the outside.

The interior’s changes are even more subtle than that. The central infotainment display gets a new (optional) 10.25-inch touchscreen, new interior ambient lighting strips and while it doesn’t get the digital instrument cluster that all the cool kids have these days. 

On the bright side (the pun will become apparent in a moment), the X1 does at least get a ‘Black Panel’ treatment of the instrument cluster to mimic it to a certain extent.

Even the engine options are carried over from previously. The 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 140hp in the sDrive18i still forms the entry point into the X1 lineup and is priced at $171,888. 

$10,000 more gets you the same variant, but in xLine trim, which means more butch, off-roady bodystyling, along with a smattering of equipment upgrades, along with a smattering of other goodies including 18-inch wheels, piano-black interior trim, sat-nav and lane departure warning systems.

For $182,888, that gets you the top-of-the-line (for Singapore, anyway) sDrive20i. Its two-litre engine produces 192hp, and along with that more powerful motor, you also get the M Sport styling package with its racy bodykit and wheels, plus an interior trimmed with M bits. 

To us, that represents the sweet spot of the refreshed X1 range from a purchase price / equipment perspective, though you’ll have to live with the bigger annual road tax bill the larger engine attracts. 

Bizarrely enough, the three-cylinder X1s attract a $10,000 VES surcharge, versus the VES-neutral and more powerful four-cylinder sDrive20i. Go figure. 

Anyway, out on a very pretty autumn day in the Bavarian countryside with the refreshed X1, it’s easy to see why it’s such a hot seller for BMW. Of course, the aforementioned nice price plays a big part, as does the fact that, seen in isolation and particularly with that enlarged grille, the X1 looks like a car a size class bigger than it actually is. That is to say, the X1 looks like an X3 at a glance.

Ditto for the inside. The tall glasshouse, roomy rear bench and cavernous boot with a capacity of 505 litres with the rear seats up and up to 1,550 litres with that down is more than enough for most needs. 

Yes, there are a few minor quibbles in how the centre console with its rocker switches to select the drive modes, tall gear lever and iDrive infotainment system controller are last-generation items, but still. 

The X1 even drives with the demeanour of a bigger car, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails. Benefits in that it’ll ride around with the high-speed composure and quietness that once could only be found in a car a class or two up. 

And drawbacks in that it doesn’t handle with the incisiveness that a car of its size should have. There’s a good deal of pitch, even in our xDrive25i test car equipped with the uprated M Sport suspension setup (unfortunately, that variant is not available in Singapore). Clearly, the X1 is a car built for cruising, not bruising.

But while it might not do the bruising that well, it’s does cruising with gusto. The X1 has no trouble at all eating up continent-sized distances at speeds of over 150km/hr. Since Singapore is in short supply of the former and the latter too, the X1 will perform more than adequately on local roads, as no doubt many buyers of the pre-facelift model will attest to. 

The X1 checks all the boxes buyers in the market for a compact SUV could want, and that is all the reasons it needs to be a success. And you know what? It has been a success, a roaring one at that. 

Car Specifications

Engine: 1,499cc, 12-valves, inline-three, turbocharged
Power:  140hp at 4,600-6,500rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1,480-4,200rpm
0-100km/hr: 9.7 seconds
Top Speed: 203km/hr
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel Consumption: 6.3L/100km
VES Band: C1 ($10,000 surcharge)
Price: $171,888 (including COE, excluding options)