BMW X1 review
The BMW X1 is a small crossover that rivals the Audi Q3 and offers more practicality than a 1 Series
The BMW X1 was the brand’s third addition to its X car range when it went on sale in 2009, slotting beneath the bigger X3 and X5. While in theory it represents a more practical, more rugged version of the BMW 1 Series, it is in fact built on the same platform as the previous-generation 3 Series Touring.
Designed the rival cars like the MINI Countryman, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 in the premium crossover market, the X1 is available with rear or four-wheel drive as well as a choice of petrol or diesel engines.
Buyers can opt for SE, Sport, xLine or M Sport trims, as well as frugal EfficientDynamics and EfficientDynamics Business specs on the rear-wheel-drive 20d model. All the diesels will manage nearly 50mpg, while the ED versions are capable of 62.8mpg. Most models are available with manual or automatic gearboxes.
Standard equipment is pretty good, with all cars getting alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio and automatic air conditioning. Roof rails, foglights, parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring all help with the X1’s practicality.
Our choice: X1 sDrive 20d SE
The BMW X1 has always been a bit of a Marmite car. It’s instantly recognisable as a baby BMW, but can’t compete with the Mercedes GLA or Audi Q3 for clean, upmarket lines.
The sleek headlights and LED daytime running lights give the front of the car a boost, while the interior's clear layout and high quality materials mean it feels higher quality than non-premium rivals like the Skoda Yeti. It's showing its age a bit now though, and doesn’t come close to more modern models like the 3 or 4 Series.
As with all X models, the suspension has been raised – but don’t expect to venture too far off the beaten track, this is a crossover rather than a full-blown SUV.
All of the trim levels – SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport – beefed-up body cladding and alloy wheels as standard, with xLine models adding 18-inch alloys, sportier exterior styling with new bits of trim, as well as unique colour choices and ‘X’ embossed seats.
Sport versions get bigger bumpers and side skirts, plus red-trimmed sports seats, red detailing on the leather gearshift and different alloy wheel styles.
The BMW X1 is much better on the road than off of it – despite the SUV looks - but that's almost expected of this type of car. Many crossover SUVs at least give a commanding view of the road but the BMW doesn't as a result of the low, car-like driving position.
There's lots of grip, especially on four-wheel drive models, and body roll is minimal. Early models suffered from very heavy steering, but from 2013, the standard-fit Servotronic setup improved things, making low speed manoeuvres much easier.
Avoid the M Sport versions if you want comfort, as the large alloy wheels mean the ride gets worse and the car crashes over bumps and potholes. SE cars are well cushioned though, and actually offer decent long-distance refinement.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox works well but the eight-speed auto is better still. It matches up well with the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the 25d – making overtaking easy. There is a 20i petrol engine available, but it's no faster than the 20d model and economy is worse.
Euro NCAP awarded the BMW X1 five out of five stars for safety, thanks in part to ESP, seatbelt reminders, Isofix child-seat fixings and a full complement of airbags as standard on all models. An 87 per cent rating for adult protection shows how safe the car is for driver and passenger. You can also add a reversing camera and adaptive headlights for added safety.
It's worth noting that entry-level sDrive models are rear-wheel drive, so they won't be much good when the weather turns icy. If you value year-round grip you’ll need to opt for one of the pricier xDrive versions.
BMW placed 10th in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, two places shy of Mercedes, but just above Audi. The BMW X1 placed 100th out of 150 cars, a drop from 58th in the 2013 poll – but that probably has something to do with the amount of time it has now been on sale.
The BMW X1's 420-litre boot is 40 litres smaller than the Audi Q3's, and a full 155 litres less than the Range Rover Evoque's. Fold the rear seats down and you get a large 1,350-litre load area, however, which is only 15 litres less than the Q3.
There's plenty of space around the interior to store bits and pieces, including a large bin in the dashboard – but that's taken up by a CD drive for the sat-nav if you specify that option.
It's a comfortable place to sit too, but visibility is not great thanks to large pillars, and parking in town isn't very easy. The small rear doors make access a chore, but there's actually decent legroom in the back once you're in and two adults will fit in the seats without much trouble.
The BMW X1 is the smallest SUV in the line-up, so it's the lightest - and that means fuel economy is good for a 4x4.
The entry-level 16d and 18d models both return 57.6mpg and produce CO2 emissions of 128g/km, which are strong figures for a car like this. However, for the best economy go for the 20d EfficientDynamics, which returns average mpg of 62.8 and emits 119g/km of CO2.
The petrol models are much less efficient than the diesels with the four-wheel-drive 20i managing just 37.7mpg and a hefty 176g/km of CO2.
Standard equipment is pretty good, but be careful of adding too many options, as it can get expensive. A range of fixed-price servicing deals should help to keep running costs in check, but the X1 can’t match the Audi Q3 for residual values.