BMW X1 review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The BMW X1 is a small crossover that rivals the Audi Q3 and offers more practicality than a 1 Series

Sharp handling, efficient diesel engines, decent amount of space
Disappointing interior quality, awkward styling, heavy steering

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The BMW X1, as the name suggests, is smaller than BMW's X3 and X5 SUVs - it rivals the MINI Countryman and Audi Q3 in the premium crossover SUV class.

Like many cars in this small SUV segment, the BMW X1 is a beefed-up version of the brand's hatchback - in this case, the 1 Series. There are four main specifications to choose from: SE, Sport, M Sport and xLine. However there are also the EfficientDynamics versions, which boast better fuel economy and emissions.

In fact the 20d EfficientDynamics model can return 62.8mpg, making it a good choice for those desperate for an SUV with low running costs. If you're planning to take the car off-road, however, you'll need to go for the xDrive 4x4 models - the entry-level cars are rear-wheel drive only.

The BMW is decent value, however, undercutting its premium rivals like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA on list price. There are lots of petrol and diesel engines to choose from as well, so you can be sure you're getting the one that's right for you.

Our choice: X1 sDrive 20d SE



Especially when compared to the Mercedes GLA, the BMW X1 can't compete when it comes to looks. A recent facelift has improved the X1's appearance but it can't escape the fact that it looks like a jacked-up 1 Series.

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 more upmarket than non-premium rivals like the Skoda Yeti. It's still not quite up to the standard you might expect from a BMW, though.

All of the trim levels – SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport - get 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. However it's not much fun to drive in town as the steering is quite heavy. Things do improve once you’re up to speed, though, as the steering is precise and offers plenty of natural feedback.

Avoid the M Sport versions if you want comfort, as the large alloy wheels mean the ride gets worse and the car crashes into potholes. The standard six-speed manual gearbox works well but the new eight-speed auto is better still. It matches up well with the 2.0-litre diesel engine in the 25d and overtaking is easy enough to give confidence. There is a 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, though, that because entry-level models are rear-wheel drive they won't be much good when the weather turns icy compared with four-wheel drive rivals.

BMW placed 14th in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, which is actually the lowest ranking of the big German manufacturers. The BMW X1 placed 58th in the 2013 poll, held back by the heavy steering and harsh ride.


BMW X1 interior

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 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.

Running Costs


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.

Disqus - noscript

what BMW get so right with most of their cars they get so wrong with any small SUV they try!

Wrong! The X1 is based on a 3 series touring platform, not a 'jacked up version of the 1 series'. Get your facts right and your poorly judged opinion may be worth something...

The ugliest car on sale in the world right now.

How can you say that? Just look at the Yeti!

'ugliest car on sale' - thats harsh. I think the X1 is one of the smartest small SUV's.

Sorry but I and everyone I have talked to about it has to disagree. its a monstrosity of the highest order.

Ha your right it is close! At least the Skoda has one thing in its favour, its not a BMW!

I drive one and I love it! People be hating 'cause they can't afford it. :)

Last updated: 11 Mar, 2014