Let’s be honest, owning a BMW is an aspiration for most South Africans, and if you eventually do own one, amongst your peers, you’ve probably ‘made it’. However, when driving a car from one of the more premium manufacturers like BMW you can, without intention, be blown away by the product simply because of the history attached to the company, and because of your own aspirations and perceptions.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard not too and after spending a few days in the BMW X1, “Sheer Driving Pleasure” is about the best way to describe the experience.
I have written about the X1 before and I’m sticking to my guns when I described it as somewhat “awkward looking”. However after spending a few days in the baby X’s company, or perhaps in the X1’s interior, it grew on me, immensely. Even the unique Marrakesh brown livery – which some remarked was more akin to ‘baby poo’ brown – grew on me.
You see press cars are more often then not maxed out with almost every possible optional extra available to that specific model. ‘My’ X1 xDrive 23d was no exception; it starts at RRP of R464 000. While I do not wish to bore you with the details, I will attempt to list a few of them. Starting with that ‘unique’ metallic brown colour which is an extra cost, so too the 18” Anthracite wheels, Adaptive Bi-Xenon headlamps, Aluminium roof rails, PDC front and rear with integrated reverse camera, Panoramic sun-roof, leather sports steering wheel with gear shift paddles, Harmon Kardon sound system, Professional Navigation system, USB Audio Interface, Bluetooth and the list goes on and on, which pushes the cost up to a whopping R570 000.
I’ll admit they are lovely ‘nice-to-have’ features, particularly the Harmon Kardon sound system, which was theatre-like in its sound delivery and the reverse camera, which automatically activates and displays the view behind you on the front screen, when you select reverse. The danger is though that these nice-to-have features can leave you in a sense of awe and with that in mind, or out of mind, what was the X1 xDrive 23d like day to day?
I’ll start off by stating that the X1 is not a big car, and when you factor in the price, including all the optional extras, you begin to wonder where all that money goes. Front passengers won’t want for anything and are treated to every possible luxury appointment available, from the sumptuous leather seats, which are infinitely adjustable to the independent climate control functions. On closer inspection, you can begin to see where some of that half-a-bar has been spent – the interior fit and finish is first class and attention to detail mind boggling. Cream leather is however one option I would not tick, as it fouls so easy and ultimately spoils what is a beautifully appointed cabin.
Rear passengers, might have a gripe or two, one being rear legroom is not plentiful and headroom is also compromised due to the X1’s slanting roofline. Average to smaller sized folk will happy, as will children, but for larger persons like myself, rear accommodation is ‘tight’. Boot space is adequate, but would take some Tetris-like packing skills when you’re heading away on a long weekend.
The diesel engine, in 23d is a gem and pulls with locomotive-like urgency. Although I found it a little intrusive a cruising speeds. The steering too felt like it was intentionally under assisted or ‘heavy’ and whilst is spot on when hustling a set of corners; it grew tiresome from day to day. The X1’s road manners are actually car like in feel and dynamism, definitely belying its SUV pretentions. Attained by the that you aren’t actually that high off the ground. As such, the X1, even though it has permanent four-wheel-drive is not made for the rough and tumble of the outdoors and with its bling wheels and paintwork, the furthest I’d push it off-road would be a game reserve dirt road or farm track. To be honest it’s just too pretty, with its exterior brightwork to be taken seriously off-road.
On road though, the X1 xDrive 23d is sublime, the diesel motor pulling effortlessly up hills and is reassuringly planted down dale. At R570 000 you’re paying one heck of lot of money for a fairly small SUV, and one with very limited off-road ability and bearing in mind a base spec new X3 xDrive20d will cost you R463 000. Ok yes, it will be lower spec but what you lose in fancy extras you’ll make up in load space, and off-road ability.
It does beg the question, does the buying public actually need the X1? Having only sampled the top of the range unit, I don’t think I can answer that one. Personally I’d recommend the middle of the road sDrive 20d but for people who have the money though, I can see why their answer is easily justified.
X1 sDrive 18i Manual – R335 500
X1 sDrive 18i Auto – R351 500
X1 sDrive 20d Manual – R376 000
X1 sDrive 20d Aut – R392 000
X1 xDrive 20d Manual – R418 500
X1 xDrive 20d Auto – R434 500
X1 xDrive 23d Auto – R464 500 (Tested)
Prices quoted here include 5 year/100 000km con-contributing service and maintenance plan
Thank you to Johan from Total Product Management Services and BMW SA for the use of their test unit.