Driven: the BMW X1

Driven: the BMW X1

South Africans are absolutely besotted with sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and Sports Activity Vehicles (SAVs). And we’re treated to a gazillion different SUV and SAV options. Some are cheap and cheerful; others are premium. The BMW X1 sDrive18i definitely falls into the latter category – but is it any good?

The car in a nutshell

BMW is one of the most successful automotive companies on the planet. With a total of 2,253,835 vehicles delivered to customers worldwide last year, the BMW brand posted growth of 7.3% over the previous year, with sales reaching a new all-time high. And the BMW X1, a compact crossover SAV first launched back in 2009, is one of the reasons why. Our test car was the X1 sDrive18i, which means it had a petrol engine. The X1 is, however, also available with a diesel engine or in hybrid guise in South Africa.


The first thing that you notice (as per so many other BMW models) is the enormous, in-your-face grille. Then there are the almost square wheel arch contours, slim LED headlights, and eye-catching chrome strips in the lower air intake. Adaptive LED headlights with matrix high beam, pulsating turn indicators and variable light distribution are available as an option.


The interior is a great place to be. It shouts out “luxury”! A raised seating position and a progressive premium ambience styled on the BMW iX help to create a distinctive driving experience inside the vehicle. The key elements of the cabin’s redesign are the slender instrument panel, the BMW Curved Display, the “floating” armrest with integral control panel and the smartphone tray with indirect illumination at the front of the centre console.

The rear compartment of the new BMW X1 includes three full-sized seats offering a notable improvement in seating comfort. The 40:20:40 split rear seat backrests can be folded down or adjusted to a different angle to expand the boot capacity. The fore-and-aft adjustment of the rear seats available as an option for the purely combustion-engined models provides even greater versatility. Boot capacity can be increased from 540 to a maximum of 1,600 litres. The trailer tow hitch (available to order as an option for the latest BMW X1) is now operated electrically at the touch of a button. That’s a really great feature.


The BMW X1 sDrive18i (fuel consumption combined: 6.5 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 148g/km in WLTP cycle) is powered by a 115kW three-cylinder engine, which propels the SAV from zero to 100km/h in nine seconds and then on to a top speed of 215km/h. Maximum torque is 230Nm at 1,500 to 4,600r/min. The engine is linked to a seven-speed Steptronic transmission with double clutch as standard, with drive power channelled to the road via the front wheels.

The engine is smooth and refined, and the SAV is brilliant to drive. BMW has done a great job making their SAVs just as exciting to drive as their sporty cars – and the X1 is no exception. It stands out as a really good choice for drivers who love being behind the wheel, just like so many other BMW vehicles.


Standard features include Cruise Control with brake function and the front-collision warning system. The Parking Assistant including Reversing Assist Camera and Reversing Assistant also forms part of the standard equipment roster. (Parking and manoeuvring in confined spaces are almost child’s play with the Parking Assistant.)

Active Guard and the Attentiveness Assistant are also standard. The driver assistance systems of the Active Guard package increase safety while driving and help to avoid exceeding the speed limit. The Attentiveness Assistant checks your steering behaviour for signs of fatigue and recommends that you take a break if necessary.

The list of optional features, meanwhile, includes the Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go function, exit warning function and BMW Head-Up Display, as well as the Surround View, Remote 3D View, BMW Drive Recorder and Remote Theft Recorder functions.


This SAV isn’t cheap. In theory, pricing for the X1 starts at R780,000 but – in reality, once you’ve added a couple of extra bits and pieces – you will probably need to fork out R1 mill or so. But it’s a quality and class act. Well-heeled buyers won’t go wrong.

Published by

Charleen Clarke

CHARLEEN CLARKE is editorial director of FOCUS. While she is based in Johannesburg, she spends a considerable amount of time overseas, attending international transport events – largely in her capacity as associate member of the International Truck of the Year Jury.
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