Launchpad XI, the latest SUV from BMW, looks compact and is available with two engine options

The recently launched X1 is the junior-most BMW SUV. With prices starting from Rs. 22 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the basic petrol version, BMW is going for the big punch with the X1.

To call the X1 a beefed-up 3 series wouldn't be fair. It shares the floor with the 3 series, whose front it resembles. But on the whole, it looks like a shrunken X3.

Inside story

Inside, the cabin reminds one of the 3 series. The gauges, centre console, dashboard, and steering wheel all look very much similar to the saloon and convey the same sense of class. However, step back a bit, particularly down on the centre console, and you'll find the plastics to be a bit brittle. Although overall quality is pretty good, it's just a bit shy of the usually high standards of BMW.

The chunky steering is good to hold and the orange-lit gauges look nice. The beige seats look fine and the multi-tone dashboard is easy to understand and operate. Like most BMWs, the X1 gets an excellent driving position and supportive seats. The steering wheel offers rake and reach adjustment, few will struggle to find a comfortable driving position.

You don't sit as high as in a 4x4 in the X1; you tend to sit somewhere between the height of a normal saloon and a conventional SUV but the result is good all-round visibility. BMW makes much of the X1's versatility and suitability for sporty, active types and it offers decent practicality too.

Though externally the X1 looks very compact, headroom is generous across both the rows. Space at the rear is good and legroom seems to mirror the 3-series. Rear accommodation is adequate as long as you're under six feet tall; any taller than that and you'll find your knees rubbing against the front seats. But there's lots of headroom and the flat rear seat could just about cope with three people for short journeys.

The boot is smaller than those in most rivals, but it's easy to fold the rear seats totally flat for more space. The boot offers 420 litres of space, which can be increased to 1350 litres with the seats flipped down.

You get two engine options to choose from — a 2-litre petrol engine with 150bhp and a 2-litre diesel engine with 177bhp. The diesel is from the 320d and 520d saloons. All models of X1 come with two-wheel drive only.

The drive

We've rarely found fault with the BMW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel's performance in the past, and we're not about to now. After the initial hesitation at low rpm, there's ample power right across the entire rev range for overtaking. This torquey engine has enough shove to make the X1 feel very sprightly. Acceleration is strong in any gear and you rarely feel the need for more power. Zero to 100kph comes up in a brisk 9.41sec. Though the diesel engine is noisy from the outside, it's quiet inside. But overall, insulation isn't as good as in the 3-series and the typical diesel engine noise, though not obtrusive, is quite obvious.

The petrol engine with only 150bhp, however, feels a bit underpowered, especially at low engine speeds. It feels weak and to get the best out of the motor, you need to keep the engine spinning over 4000rpm after which point, the petrol engine feels more at home.

The steering is quite heavy at slow speeds and doesn't have the crispness of other BMW siblings. There is some slack too at the dead centre position. But you will notice all this only if you've driven another BMW before. It's still much more communicative than any other rival at this price. It turns in keenly and dives into corners with ease, making it easy to enjoy on twisty road sections.

The X1's ride quality is unlike other BMW's. The well-tuned suspension is soft by BMW standards and keeps most undulations out of the cabin. It is only sharp edges that thump into the cabin, and that's largely due to the run-flat tyres. BMW claims that the diesel has a combined fuel efficiency figure of 15.24kpl, while the petrol will give you around 11.24kpl with a mix of city and highway driving.

Priced at Rs 22 lakh (ex-shoowroom, Delhi), the petrol version might seem very attractive. But for someone who wants to buy this car just for the gleaming badge and the brand associate with it, this makes perfect sense. However, the petrol engine feels a bit lazy and doesn't quite offer the performance we've come to expect of a BMW. The one to order then, even if it means busting your bank account, is the 2-litre diesel in the Exclusive trim. This top-end model gets a plethora of equipments and has a very punchy diesel motor to make it practically irresistible.

Keywords: SUVBMW

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