x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

2011 BMW X1

The little glitches with the X1 makes Georgia Lewis question the value of money in buying the crossover

The white slashes along the top of the headlights of the BMW X1  are reminiscent of David Bowie's eye make-up circa 1972.
The white slashes along the top of the headlights of the BMW X1 are reminiscent of David Bowie's eye make-up circa 1972.

OK, it's a BMW, so you know will get the following things from the new X1: mechanical precision and reliability, excellent build quality, good handling, an interior that doesn't rattle, pretty much no chance of any levers, buttons or bits coming off in your hand, a slick and effective gearbox and a satisfying pip-pop-pip-pop sound when you use the indicators. These are fair assumptions to make when you purchase one of these quality controlled Bavarian machines. And these are all boxes the X1 ticks admirably.

There are other reasons why you might consider the X1 if you are in the market for a crossover. It gets bonus points for excellent fuel economy, it is dead easy to park and the reversing camera is tremendous. Thankfully, this one hasn't succumbed to the forthcoming onslaught of front-wheel drive Beamers so there's rear-wheel drive for a bit more fun, something sadly lacking in most crossovers. BMW has been kind to potential buyers of this machine in other little ways too. Posher models have a gear shifter that is fiddly and resembles a steamrolled black labrador paw, but the X1 has a much simpler shifter that doesn't require a magnifying glass to decipher whether you're in drive or reverse.

Cargo space isn't too bad and the little mouse in the centre console has also been much improved. To operate entertainment and navigational functions, the nice, chunky dial, easy to use without taking your eyes of the road, remains along with shortcut buttons to make it easy to switch from setting the route to changing the radio station. The 3D map view on the sat nav screen is a nice touch too, complete with lovely little illustrations of landmarks such as Marina Mall and the Eid Musalla mosque, as spotted by my eagle-eyed maid as we drove to the supermarket.

I'm also pleased to report that BMW has eschewed the cumbersome paddle shifters that hinder other models and kept the sequential manual option on the floor instead. It was the best way to enjoy the fine six-speed gearbox. These are all good, well-made features, all excellent selling points for the X1 and, frankly, all things you would expect on a vehicle with a base price of Dh145,000. But there were a few niggles with the car that I really hope BMW sorts out for the next model because right now, I'd be considering the Mercedes GLK instead. It is far more ergonomically pleasing and it has off-road abilities, whereas the traction control on the X1 had a hissy fit on a Jumeirah Beach Road speedhump.

Sticking right out next to the CD player is a chunky cup holder that would be suitable for a veritable flagon of coffee. Sure, you wouldn't spill a drop but sadly it gets in the way of the passenger's knee and it's not removable. Then there's the handbrake that is too close to the seatbelt buckle, the map lights that wouldn't illuminate a doll's house, the unimaginative slabs of black plastic on the dash and doors and a backseat that would be fine if the passengers could remove their knees.

The X1 was designed when the controversial Chris Bangle was still at the helm of BMW's design team. As with pretty much anything Bangle oversaw, the X1 polarises opinion. I didn't mind it, my boyfriend didn't like it, one of our friends thought it was lovely, the maid thought it was "very nice". Like most crossovers, it is always going to look a bit like a giant hatchback. That is the nature of the beast. I didn't mind the beefy front, was ambivalent about the back and amused by the swirled metal on the wheels which reminded me of the Celtic tattoos of a TV starlet. Slightly confusing were the white slashes along the top of the headlights, like David Bowie's eye make-up circa 1972.

My other issue was the cabin noise. The 3.0L inline six engine offered ample power and held its own nicely on the highway but the cabin noise at high speeds was pretty rowdy. To be fair, the BMW is a young model for the marque but it would be nice to see the wrinkles in this one ironed out quickly, especially with the pricetag. The glitches are all fairly easily fixed - a bit more insulation under the hood to muffle the engine noise, a retractable cup holder for the front seat passenger, a few extra inches in the back seat, a little more imagination from the interior designers, using a foot pedal for the parking brake so you don't bang your knuckles every time you put on the seatbelt. They are the little things that mean a lot in terms of value for money, something that is just as important to buyers of premium brands as it is for those car-hunting at the bargain end of the spectrum. glewis@thenational.ae