Mothers with attitude - BMW X1 road test

on 19 September 2017.

Mothers with attitude

My first car was a clapped-out Morris Marina that my Dad bought from a man in a pub for £50. That was in 1985, a purchase which set the tone for the next thirty odd years as I drove a succession of old bangers. It was pattern partly driven by finances but also a stubborn inverted snobbery which disdained new cars as ostentatious and nouveaux. Eventually, into my 50s and weary of unreliable motoring, last year I gave in and bought a two year old VW Golf. It was an unimaginable luxury to drive a car which always started in the morning and didn’t over-heat in traffic.

To drive a brand new BMW therefore, took a massive psychological leap. People like me just didn’t drive BMWs, let alone a four-wheel drive against which I had yet more stubborn prejudices. Admittedly, the BMW X1 has a more dignified and pleasing design than most 4X4s and isn’t showy and vulgar in the way say, Range Rovers are, but still I approached it warily. The occasion for my road test was a trip to Cornwall with my 19 year old son who made approving noises as he climbed into the X1 which struck me as having something of the Tardis about it. Not huge from the outside but beautiful and spacious within, easily accommodating my son’s 6 feet 5 inch frame.

As a middle-aged woman, I’m not overly concerned with a car’s specifications and need only to ascertain a few basic facts: Can I get the dog in the boot? Does it have cup-holders, and is it a nice colour? Dick Lovett’s Sales Manager, Simon Lisemore pointed out features which would satisfy a more demanding customer, the first of which was the X1’s Head-up Display which projects onto the windscreen just above the steering wheel not just what speed you are travelling at, but which what speed you should be travelling at. Very useful for this veteran of speed awareness courses because of my stubborn inability to register the 30mph zone.

Moreover, the Heads-up Displays shows the BMW Navigation Plus system so that I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road. Its real time traffic feature let me know that the Bank Holiday Monday traffic jam I found myself in on the M5 would only delay me by 7 minutes. I thought this nothing short of miraculous. How many agonising minutes do we spend in stationary traffic wondering how long we’re going to be stuck there? Moreover, the delay gave my son and I the chance to bicker happily over the controls and work out their manifold functions.

There seems to be a feature for just about any eventuality you might find yourself in. In the unlikely event that the car should break down there is a little button which not just alerts the BMW breakdown service to your exact location, but can even diagnose the problem with the vehicle. There is an on-board concierge service so that had I, for example, wanted to know if I can buy a pair of shoes in Truro, a BMW customer service assistant could have told me where to find the shop. But the most useful feature for me was the Max A/C button. A menopausal hot flush, those ninjas of physiology, was neutralised in seconds as cool air swiftly surrounded me.

The journey from Pangbourne to Penzance can be a gruelling one which usually necessitates regular stops to unbend the back and legs. In the X1 we flew down in supreme comfort. Minutely adjustable seats with lumbar support meant that I arrived in Cornwall feeling nearly as fresh as when I started the journey. If there was a drawback it was the car was so smooth and comfortable that it was difficult to register how fast we were travelling. Thankfully though, the head-up display with speed limit warning kept me in-check - driving at 70mph in the X1 feels like 30mph in the Golf. I was beginning to see the point of BMWs.

Of course, many of its features were still wasted on me: sports steering, cruise control, multi-function control, sport automatic transmission and the finer points of the precision BMW engineering which have earned them their reputation were of little interest. But opening the boot by pressing a button on the key fob I found thrilling. Also, my spatial awareness isn’t great so the parking assist feature was very helpful manoeuvring a car larger than I was used to. But more than anything, the X1 made me feel safe while driving and I was struck that this would be an ideal car for a woman with children. It felt reliable and solid and had more than enough room for all the accoutrements of family life. It certainly accommodated the needs of my little family and on the return journey my son reclined his seat and had plenty of room to arrange his long frame and sleep for the entire return journey.

There was one final prejudice to overcome - four wheel drives are gas-guzzlers, right? Not this one, apparently. It took less than half a tank of diesel to get us from Berkshire to Cornwall, a journey of some 240 miles and its emission-reduction technology means that the engine cuts out when the car is idling. Good for the planet and the wallet as it keeps Road Tax and fuel consumption to a minimum. Mothers with attitude But it was still fantasy for somebody like me to drive a BMW. As a typical woman the last thing I enquire about with any purchase is the price but I naturally assumed such luxury was out of my price range. Wrong again. Through either a leasing or finance agreement, I would be able to drive one of these miracles for as little as £440 per month. That’s about £13 a day, a sum I spend on take away coffee, sandwiches and other fripperies on a daily basis. Not much of a sacrifice to be a BMW driver.

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