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A few months ago we had the opportunity to drive BMW's X1 xDrive25i in Austria and now the Munich-based marque's premium compact crossover has arrived in South Africa. X models constitute 28% of BMW's global sales and one in every 10 of those is an X1. The new F48-generation X1 offers more engine and drivetrain options – so that it can appeal an even larger market than its predecessor.

When we tested the first generation X1 in 2010 we felt that it showed some of the best that BMW had to offer despite being such a controversial product. We did criticise it for having a lazy and off-beat design but the overall dynamics of it was an impressive take on the compact SUV.

Outside

The X1 now familiarises itself with the rest of the crossover family with its bold kidney grills, smoother headlamps and spotlights and air intakes. The rear taillamps and diffuser also shows some signs of familiarity to is bigger brothers. The new model being taller and wider than its predecessor also works in its favour in order to certify itself as a capable sports utility while still retaining its compact image. It's also been given the sporty exhaust system similar to what we see on higher line models of the brand like the 340i and the M235i.

Inside

There are no surprises within the new X1 as it adopts the same interior found throughout BMW's lineup. It's not as luxurious as the X5's cabin and not as well equipped but it still offers a premium experience with a soft touch multifunction steering, leather seats (manually adjustable) and centre console.

The driver's seat positioning doesn't exactly give you the feel of driving a fully fledged SUV and fits the X1's light crossover. There is a visibility issue due to the thick A-pillar that comes in the way when you're on the lookout for oncoming cars.

The glass panoramic roof is admittedly seen on many cars and is an a nifty feature especially for the outdoors in clear conditions as it gives the passengers a different perspective on what nature has to provide should you venture out onto a mountain pass.

The Drive

The 2,0-litre turbodiesel is probably the most ideal selection for the X1. It delivers 140 kW and 400 N.m of torque making it a fully capable crossover. There's a very minimal amount of turbo lag and the eight-speed Steptronic transmission tends to react quickly to changes in throttle levels making for easy acceleration and overtaking without it being too unassumingly fast.  The throttle pedal itself, however has a very stiff overboost button that tends to work against the pressure you apply and causes irritation when you wish to apply the feature.

The xDrive system of the X1 is very active and adapts well to varying surfaces and conditions. On tarmac it was well planted and had no issues with understeer through vigorous cornering while on the gravel it maintained composure and didn't break traction once despite having a more sportier than usual set of 225/45 R19 wheels. Additionally the ride and steering is smoother and softer than what you would experience in the Active Tourer despite being developed on the same platform. The X1 felt better on the gravel and offered a lot more entertainment but on the road it felt as if a lot of its character was being restrained.

The level of silence you receive from within the cabin is also very refreshing which is not something that would have been said about a turbodiesel SUV several years ago. Everything from engine to wind noise is very minimal, however on rough tarmac the tyres can bring forth a very audible amount of road noise. It is very easy to drive just so long as you don't take it on a very extreme off-roading route where I highly doubt it would perform.

Summary

What I find ironic about the X1 however is that it is aimed at the same target market that the Active Tourer is; the adventurous and youthful population. Despite being built on the same platform they don't necessarily come across as identical cars. The Active Tourer is almost R200 000 less than the equivalent X1 and doesn't come equipped with xDrive but when you start to understand that both of these cars will most likely be urban bound it doesn't make that much of a difference which means that the ideal selection for this car would be the three-cylinder sDrive18i (starting at R435 000).

The X1 xDrive20d has a great adventurous personality in the wild just so long as you don't try to tackle any vigorous off-roading surfaces. Although it is smooth and refined on tarmac surfaces it feels as if once the X1 places itself in an urban environment it becomes somewhat uninteresting and caged which is a shame because this is where future X1s will most likely spend their lives.

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