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BMW X1 review

BMW X1 review
02 April 2019

“It has the competition licked for driving experience and feels every bit as premium on the inside as BMW claims it does.”

Brush through BMW’s brochure for the X1 and there you’ll find words like “dynamism”, “agility” and “luxury” abound. All car manufacturers are guilty of over-egging their own product and drawing you into a world of sweet, sweet marketing. BMW takes the cake for it. But you know what? They’re onto something with the X1.

You’d be forgiven of course for thinking of the X1 as just another soft-roader - an SUV lookalike on a hatchback platform pretending to be oh-so-rugged and something it isn’t. But don’t be fooled. The X1’s a bit better than that. For a start, it’s based on the same platform as the 3 Series Touring and is similar in size, just taller. So it has presence. It’s also available with xDrive, BMW’s full-time all-wheel drive system. 

And it’s out on the road where the X1 really differentiates itself. It weighs little more than the nimble 3 Series and despite its higher centre of gravity, it handles similarly with a playfulness and response befitting of the Touring. The ride is also beautifully damped on the harder M Sport suspension, which is a rarity for a BMW.

Turn into a tight hairpin a little too quickly and the X1 grips through the turn with a slight hint of body roll as you apply the throttle and exit the corner. sDrive models (BMW’s name for front-wheel drive) handle best. They are lighter on their feet and feel less laboured in corners. xDrive models benefit from steadfast grip and are far less likely to claw at the ground in bad weather. Pulling out of junctions is a lot easier because of this. For many, this will make the xDrive a better choice.

You can have your X1 with a turbocharged petrol or diesel engine. There’s no hybrid. Most people choose a diesel but don’t discount the petrol units.

The 20i (a 2.0-litre four-pot turbo-petrol) punches out 192bhp and 207 lb-ft of torque which doesn’t sound much but paired with the sport automatic transmission delivers swift progress and will return 37.7mpg combined with sDrive or 35.3mpg combined with xDrive, which really isn’t so bad. Our engine of choice though is the 20d which has 190bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It’ll return up to 47.1mpg combined.

It’s well-equipped too, although BMW’s don’t lead the way for kit. The top trim level on a Hyundai Santa Fe for example outdoes the X1. But you pays your money and you takes your choice and BMW’s badge will always appeal.

There are four trim levels to choose from in this order: SE, Sport, xLINE, M SPORT. SE and Sport models don’t have leather seats or LED headlights but come with features like cruise control, Drive Performance Control with ECO PRO, Comfort and Sport modes, BMW ConnectedDrive, Performance Control and all the usual kit you get with a modern BMW. But we’d avoid these models entirely truth be told.

What you want is the xLINE or M Sport. Both models have LED headlights and the luxurious upholstery you want in a BMW (Dakota leather on xLINE models and Alcantara and hexagonal cloth on M SPORT models). Despite commanding a significant retail premium over SE and SPORT, lease prices aren’t actually much higher on these trim levels so it may be worth considering going for an M SPORT.

Anything else you need to know? Oh yeah, the X1’s a really good family car. In fact, scrap that, it’s a great family car.

Because it’s based on the same platform as the 3 Series Touring, it has slightly more rear legroom and much more headroom. There’s 37mm more rear legroom than in the older X1 and if you add a sliding bench as an option, you can slide the rear seats back and forth to prioritise passenger or luggage space. Speaking of luggage space, there’s 505-litres of it with the rear seats in place, which really is plenty.

The rear seats also split-fold 40-20-40. This allows you to configure the interior for pretty much anything. Fold all the rear seats down and the boot expands to a colossal 1,550-litres which by our reckoning is all a family needs. It isn’t the strongest tower the X1, but it’ll tow a braked trailer up to 2,000kg if equipped with xDrive.

Our verdict

The new BMW X1 is a much better car than the one it replaced. It’s now a genuine alternative to a 3 Series Touring. It has the competition licked for driving experience and feels every bit as premium on the inside as BMW claims it does. The downsides are there’s no real-wheel drive option (the competition doesn’t offer that either) and it isn’t as efficient as the competition. Other than that, it’s a great package.