BMW X1: buyers be prepared, competitors beware | autos | Hindustan Times
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BMW X1: buyers be prepared, competitors beware

BMW’s entry into the luxury car market in India in 2007 revolutionised the market in such a way that it is now the fastest growing segment in terms of sales as also the segment that witnessed the most number of launches in 2010.

autos Updated: Jan 09, 2011 22:07 IST
Sumant Banerji

BMW’s entry into the luxury car market in India in 2007 revolutionised the market in such a way that it is now the fastest growing segment in terms of sales as also the segment that witnessed the most number of launches in 2010.

Its compact sport utility vehicle X1’s launch in the fag end of last year promises a repeat of that revolution. A sticker price of Rs 22 lakh, which makes the X1 the cheapest Beemer in the country, is reason enough for optimism. But the car is much more than just an attractive price tag.

Exterior
The X1 looks a quintessential BMW, which is important because in an aspirational country like India many cars are sold on the brand alone. It shares its platform of the 3- series and the features of the X-series of SUVs. The same dynamic dual kidney grilles with a low sporty stance that is the feature of all BMW SUVs is visible. Being the youngest of the lot, the X1 is smaller in size and the compactness shows.

Interior
One big cause for concern when the company had first said it would make the X1 its entry level car in India, was if it would indulge in serious cost cutting and strip the car down from the inside. One look at the features though, and you would know there has been no stinginess.

Even for the corporate edition 18i (petrol) that retails for Rs 22 lakh in Delhi (ex-showroom), all safety features like airbags, ABS, EBD and traction control have been retained. The only difference is the idrive infotainment system and sun roof, features that are some sort of extravagance. Space at the rear is a little compromised by BMW standards, but as the car is shorter in length and wheelbase, that was only to be expected.

Ride and handling
BMW has always been a driver’s car and though it is mostly driven by chauffeurs in India, the firm never quite changed its stance. Hence the best place to sit in a X1 remains the one right behind the wheel.

Between the diesel and petrol variants, it is interestingly the former which is infinitely more fun to drive. The car accelerates like an aircraft and handles the smooth and rough terrain with elan.

With its prime competitor Toyota Fortuner not offering an automatic transmission, the X1 has a massive edge there as well. Besides it also makes driving lot more tension free. The vehicle’s low ground clearance though compromises on its off-roading abilities in India. Also, the steering feels lot heavier in the X1 than the other X- series SUVs.
Another word of caution should be for the lack of a spare wheel despite the run flat tyres (it allows the car to run for 250 kms even in case of a puncture). Indian roads are still not quite suited for such sophistication.

Fuel economy
With the X1, BMW proves without doubt how misplaced environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s unsavoury comments about the gas-guzzling nature of SUVs were. For a 1.5-tonne vehicle meant to give out high performance, the X1 is very frugal. It gave us a good 10 kmpl in the city and around 14 kmpl during the short highway drive. We believe however, that it can do even better.

Verdict
BMW has got most of its moves right in India, exemplified by the fact that in just 3 years they are now the leading luxury carmaker in the country. With the X1, it seems on its way to strengthen its position further like it has globally.
The car is compact, frugal, drives and handles well but what works most for it is the fact that it is an out-and-out Beemer.