IN the nothing-is-cheap Singapore economy — certainly not cars — one can but just watch in amazement at the rise and rise of car prices.
The certificate of entitlement (COE) system has just been handing cash to the government, and it’s alarming how the money is just whizzed over for a vehicle that is in your temporary custody for just a decade. And if you want to renew your vows and woes with your car of choice (it could be spending more time in the shop due to wear and tear issues), it’ll cost you another load of cash which will puff up the government’s coffers.
As cars continue to be driven out of reach of the common man — the cheapest is in excess of $150K — even entry-level models of premium brands, which are meant to make these marques accessible to more people, are hitting the $200K+ price tag.
The BMW X1, launched in 2009 has become an attractive proposition to the brand, riding on the enthusiasm for SUVs and crossovers, selling around 2 million units worldwide.
In Singapore, the latest version of the X1 will set you back to the tune of just under *$260K. And the price will likely bounce about — still out of reach to the intended audience — through the regular rounds of COE bidding exercises.
To cater to the needs of Singapore’s peculiar market, the BMW X1 sDrive16i available here is loaded with a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged engine that allows it to squeak into the COE Category A band. This congested segment is meant to be for “more affordable” cars, though that’s highly debatable since the amount paid for a Cat A COE is only slightly lower than what you’d shell out for the Cat B COE meant for more powerful cars.
It’s easy to understand why the X1 is popular.
The interior of the new X1 has been sharpened considerably, enhancing its appeal to a wider and more digital-savvy and connected audience hanging on to their Apple and Android devices. The X1 is also packed with features that you might see in models higher up the rungs.
The interior of the BMW X1 sDrive16i serves as a good case study for keeping things simple.
The centre console has key features you’ll access regularly — the gear shifter, ignition, park and hazard switches, Autohold, driving modes and volume control. The last item is also on the multi-function steering wheel.
But there’s no visible switch to turn off the auto start/stop function, when the engine cuts off temporarily at red lights, for instance. But, with this 1.5L, 3-cylinder engine, the engine resuscitation is relatively gentle.
The cup holders are of course in evidence, and a simple wireless charging dock for your mobile phone. A couple of USB C slots are available should there be a demand for them.
There’s no iDrive dial in sight. Many of the functions handled by the iDrive are on the touchscreen panel, which joins up with the display to create a sweeping, curved effect.
From options to set your sound preferences (pumped through a Harman Kardon system) to telling you the time in letters (that might baffle and distract some drivers), adjusting the cabin temperature to traffic conditions, this is the go-to spot for setting up the car.
The ride afforded by this X1 variant is fairly nippy, though it still takes more than 10 seconds to get up to 100kmh from standstill. The front-wheel-driven crossover is engaging and enjoyable as it navigates an assortment of terrain with enthusiasm on 17″ wheels.
The X1 may park itself in the small car category, but it’s quite comfortably proportioned and capable of delivering big-car features.
There’s enough room for passengers in the rear, considering it’s not an SUV, and certainly the boot is quite large.
For the ideal audience — the young family or singles on the march up the ladder — this is a neat car to get things done while making a statement. But maybe that’s a dream for another time and place.