“Have you driven Martha’s new car?” A family friend asked me at dinner one night. “The steering is way too heavy!”
“Yeah!” Her husband agreed. “There’s definitely something wrong with it.”
My godmother had gotten a slightly used (less than 5,000 miles) 2014 BMW X1.
“It’s a BMW, it’s not heavy, it’s just sportier and more direct than your Lexus.” As an owner of two older BMWs, myself, I was certain this was the case. It was also my biased opinion that our friends maybe weren’t the best judges of what German precision felt like after owning six or seven numbed Lexus models over the past decade.
Regardless, I now had to try the X1’s “heavy” steering for myself.
The next time we went out to dinner with my godmother, she agreed to let me try out the small crossover. As I suspected, the steering was sporty, and honestly not “heavy” at all. The steering wheel had a smaller diameter than those on most cars; thereby requiring marginally greater effort to turn. It was, however, certainly not difficult and only made the driving experience feel more involved.
I will say that the steering was a bit less involved than that of other BMWs. While I’m not an advocate of numb steering, I feel like BMW nailed the perfect balance between steering feel and dullness that you need for a city car such as this. I could still feel exactly where my tires were, not to mention every crack, bumb, and pothole on the mediocre streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The nice part, however, was that while you could feel the road, the suspension and chassis never translate its harshness to you. It’s as though someone gave the steering a shot of novocain but the dosage was only just enough to eliminate the pain.
BMW calls the X1 an SAV (sports activity vehicle), rather than an SUV, because the X1 is really a city car. The all wheel drive gives the car a more planted feel and no doubt helps in the rain, snow, and ice. It handles dirt roads just fine, but don’t for a moment think that you could take this car off-road. Body roll is virtually non-exitant and the seats hold you well (assuming you’re not very tall), lending to the sportiness of the experience.
The X1 I drove was the xDrive28i variant; BMW lingo for having all wheel drive and their 240hp turbo charged 2 litre inline 4 cylinder engine. It whips up to 60mph in just 6.2 seconds. Acceleration is so smoothly and effortless that you’ll be petitioning your city to double their speed limits. The turbo uses BMWs phenomenal twin scroll technology, virtually eliminating the turbo lag you would experience on turbo charged engines of the past.
The 8 speed Steptronic transmission from German manufacturer ZF is buttery smooth and the manual mode is fun, but not as involving or enjoyable as BMW’s magnificent manual boxes from manufacturer Getrag (which you can’t even get on the X1).
The X1 gets reasonably good fuel economy in the city (22mpg), which can be improved by pressing the EcoPro button on the centre console. A button that BMW first debuted on the X1 and which should have been labled “buzzkill”. EcoPro bogs down acceleration, seat heaters, and air conditioning, and shifts gears earlier so that the engine is always turning more slowly. If you can drop $35k+ on a new car for your high school student, I strongly suggest you buy an X1, press EcoPro, and then break the button off so your teen will think that even cars made by a performance brand aren’t meant to be fun.
The engine’s automatic start/stop feature can be enabled and disabled (it freaks some people out to have their car turn off at stop lights) from a separate button from EcoPro, so that you can save some gas while still enjoying the X1’s sportiness.
The panoramic sunroof helps the car feel spacious and open while the rear seats really do offer ample leg room. The seats can also be be angled backward for improved passenger comfort, or angled vertically or folded down entirely to offer greater cargo capacity.
All in all, I would call the BMW X1 a truly perfect urban car (though I could change my mind after I try the new Mercedes GLA).