Since the time it was first showcased at the Paris Motor Show in 2008, the BMW X1 has attracted tremendous attention and the first generation went on to become the brands highest selling car. It is positioned as a premium city SUV and the outgoing X1 proved it could be that, and more. Strategically placed at the bottom of the luxury car pyramid, it aims to get early aspirational buyers into the BMW ecosystem. Times have changed and the X1 now has a tougher task of proving itself. On one side, it faces competition from the powerful, butch and humongous full-size SUVs like the Fortuner and the Endeavour, and on the other side there are similarly packaged luxury offerings like the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Having made its proposition clear, let’s start the ignition on the 2020 BMW X1.
The kidney grill gets the BMW treatment, and by that we mean it is now bigger and brawnier. It is a singular unit, and the X1 has absorbed the grille admirably. Added chrome looks good, especially on this contrasting shade of blue, however the rest of the car misses out on similar treatment and looks unornamented. The headlamps get LED DRL inserts inspired by the X3 and the foglamps are LED as well, placed in sleek rectangular housings that are integrated neatly into this new re-designed bumper. The sides remain unchanged except the fact that rear view mirrors now project the X1 name onto the ground and door handle recesses light up. The stock 17-inch double spoke alloys look too ordinary on what is a 40 lakh rupee SUV and I would have loved snazzier looking wheels. Updates to the rear end our minimal too and in fact design changes overall are so minimal that’s it’s hard to tell the updated version from the outgoing one.
Some scientific conclusions did help us distinguish the two apart from each other though –exhaust tips are larger by 20mm now and the tail lamp design gets mild tweaks that makes the lighting effect more detailed. The insides of the updated X1 recite a similar story as there’s no immediate changes that grab your attention, however, play around and you will notice a few – a new drive selector lever, a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen with an updated interface and leather on the dashboard. The X1 also gets four additional ambient lighting effects in addition to the two already and truth be told it is a nice cabin to be in, especially if you are in the driver’s seat. At the same time I must admit things have started to look outdated, especially when set side-by-side against what the X1’s competitors offer. Some of these shortcomings are made up by the large panoramic sunroof, which is now standard across the trim. Rear seats continue to offer decent space thanks to the long wheelbase-short overhang design and the seats themselves are well cushioned and offer ample comfort.
So the biggest change is the engine, then? If you are an environmentalist concerned about emissions, yes. The good news for enthusiasts though is that performance is similar to the outgoing model. We test drove the sDrive20d xLine variant which churns out 187bhp and 400Nm and the grunt offered by the oil burner is plenty for those quick overtakes. In fact, besides feeling torquey the diesel engine feels peppy and refined too, while allowing you to hold decent cruising speeds on the highway for those occasional inter-city trips. The 8-speed gearbox is responsive and responds well to throttle inputs. We drove extensively within city limits where most of the X1s will be confined to and found no areas of complain with the transmission’s manners. The AWD xDrive variant has been given a miss though and the X1 only comes as a front-wheel-drive offering.
The good news is, the X1 retains all the driving characteristics you expect from a BMW. The seat though claimed to be elevated, feels more car-like and so are the X1’s dynamics which inspire you to throw it around corners if in the mood. The relatively firm suspension setup keeps unwanted body roll in check and while the ride is pliant on most occasions, it isn’t the most plush or relaxed. It just feels like how a BMW would and no, we aren’t complaining!
Should this be your pick then if looking for a compact luxury SUV? Given its starting price of Rs 35.90 lakh ex-showroom for the petrol version, the X1 is a rather appealingly packaged gateway into the luxury car space. The diesel you see here retails Rs 39.90 lakh onwards and is currently the only BS6-compliant diesel being offered in this segment, and that’s like the X1 having the runway to itself. For Rs 42.90 lakh you could buy the range topping M Sport, though the extra money is going to get you the same 2.0-litre diesel with some M badges and a body kit slapped on. It’s a volume driver for BMW and would continue to get its numbers as it remains to be an appealing package for a class of buyers who are ready to go on a joy ride with the Bavarian motor company.
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel, turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Price: Rs 35.90 lakh onwards (ex-showroom)