It needs more than just gimmicks to take the BMW X1 to the next level of genius

BMW knows a thing or two about SUVs which has possibly the widest range within the car market. Its smallest offering in this popular segment is the X1, a compact model that has just been given a facelift. The first generation of the X1 was launched back in 2015, so it was probably time for an upgrade. Some brands announce a new version of a model, claiming it has been upgraded and facelifted but on closer inspection there are hardly any changes. Thankfully, the second generation BMW X1 is not one of them, and there are plenty of new features to write about.

Image is everything these days and that extends to cars. I get the feeling that BMW spent a lot of time tweaking the look of the X1 to give it a more sporty and powerful demeanour. The front of the car features a new, larger BMW grille and striking LED headlights. The front bumpers are sportier too with larger air intakes. Edges have been smoothed and this new model is now far more curvaceous. Step up to the car under dim light and you will notice light projectors on the driver’s side mirror which shine an X1 on the floor. Apart from the gimmickry, it also has functionality as it lights up the door handle recess and the floor in front of you. This function is part of the optional lighting package.

Take a walk around the back of this new X1 and you will see more stylistic changes to the rear. Along with the eye-catching LED rear lights, the twin tailpipes have also been widened. These seem to be small touches but when you add them all up, it makes for a more muscular look overall. The choice of colours has also been widened along with the wheel designs. There are three new exterior colours including Misano Blue metallic for the M Sport variant. This is a pretty striking hue that makes the car stand out from the crowd. But if you want something a little more subtle, opt for the ultra-exclusive BMW Individual Storm Bay metallic. The X1 comes with 17in wheels as standard, which are bumped up to 19in ones for the sDrive20i M Sport, the variant I test drove. If you want to go super sporty, you can add on some M Sport brakes.

One of the changes you cannot see is a new drive system as it is powered by a front-drive/4WD rather than the old rear-drive platform. My test-drive model was powered by a 2.0-litre engine which, combined with the eightspeed automatic transmissions and new drive system, offered an effortless ride from A to B every time. The engine is quiet and smooth, and responds quickly when you need it to. The ride itself was sturdy, even though it was never really tested as the car always stayed on smooth and bumpfree tarmac.

BMW says this new X1 is roomier in terms of boot and cabin space. It was great timing to test this out as I embarked on a long-overdue trip to IKEA after Phase Two of the “circuit breaker” kicked in. Back seats were easy to put down and I squeezed in two flat-packed desks, a desk chair, foot stool and two big bags of kitchenware with some room to spare, although not much. While the X1 is described as a compact SUV, the boot space is anything but compact. In fact, a lot will surprise you about this car. The ride is pretty punchy (without the IKEA furniture in the back) and it is very versatile. The cabin is spacious, functional and with the right balance of technology, without overdoing it. The parking sensors were ultra-sensitive so I simply just turned them off and trusted my instincts.

The first generation of the X1 was launched in late 2015 and grew to become the best-selling SUV within BMW’s range by 2018. That is pretty impressive given how popular the X5 has been over the years. The winning formula for this baby SUV could be down to a few factors. The car definitely appeals to its target customers given its young, sporty and active image. Plus, it is a great candidate for those looking to buy their first SUV as it is not too big and intimidating to look at. Next year, the BMW X1 line-up will include a plug-in hybrid which will appeal to the energy-conscious among us. With BMW’s SUV range stretching across seven models (from the X1 up to the tank-like X7) I’d put this second-generation X1 close to the top of my wish list, if not the very top.