BMW X1 review
If you want a small premium SUV that’s practical and fun to drive, the BMW X1 is it
Now in its second generation, and following a facelift, the BMW X1 remains a desirable choice in the hotly contested SUV class. Originally little more than a high-riding hatch, the X1 has evolved into a great all-rounder, with chunky styling and lots of interior space for the family buyers it’s targeted at.
Yet despite its versatility, the X1 remains good out on the road, and keener drivers will find it a more engaging car than the softer, less well balanced setup of some rivals. Both front- and four-wheel drive versions acquit themselves well, and BMW’s three- and four-cylinder petrol engines offer convincing performance and running costs.
About the BMW X1
The BMW SUV range kicks off with the X1, although in spite of its name it’s not the smallest SUV in the German firm’s line-up. That accolade goes to the related X2, which is a sister car to the X1 but with a more compact, five-door coupe-style body.
While the X2 appeals to the marque’s sportier customer base, the boxy X1 is a much more practical choice for families. It’s also got plenty of intrinsic appeal with styling that’s clearly related to the bigger and more upmarket BMW X3, and thus every BMW SUV all the way up to the luxury X7 model.
There’s a closer relationship to the MINI line-up than more expensive SUVs in the range though, as the X1 rides on the same UKL2 platform as the MINI Clubman and Countryman. BMW diehards may find fault with the concept of front-drive models diluting the brand’s driver-focus, but most won’t care as all versions of the X1 handle nicely and are fun to drive.
The current X1 hit the streets in the UK in 2016, so it’s been around long enough to have received the facelift treatment. It’s mid-life updates included interior and exterior design changes, as well the arrival of a hybrid option.
Unlike the first generation X1, the current model features styling and dimensions that are more familiar to the larger X3 SUV than the 1 Series hatch. That means a raised ride height and a bigger body that creates more space inside than the first generation model, making the X1 a viable choice for buyers needing more space than a compact family hatchback can offer.
As mentioned above there are front and four-wheel drive variants available, with the majority of models coming with front-wheel drive as standard. The sDrive18i has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine making 134bhp, while the sDrive20i is a four-cylinder petrol making 176bhp. The sDrive18i has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while an eight-speed auto is offered as an option. This auto is standard with the 20i. A seven-speed gearbox is offered on lower models. The 2.0-litre petrol model also has the option of four-wheel drive xDrive.
The diesels comprise the sDrive18d with a 148bhp four-cylinder, six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, and the xDrive20d, which has a 187bhp four-cylinder diesel and four-wheel drive as standard. This model also has an eight-speed auto as standard, while this gearbox and the 4WD system can be added to the 18d for extra cost.
A PHEV model joined the range in the mid-life facelift. Called the xDrive25e, it uses a 10kWh lithium-ion battery pack, an electric motor mounted to the rear axle and a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, sending power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
There are four variants of BMW X1 on sale: SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport. All cars come as standard with sat-nav and infotainment with connected services, a power tailgate, rear parking sensors, climate control, multifunction steering wheel and a sliding rear bench to boost versatility.
On top of this, Sport models add a slightly sportier look, with bigger wheels, black plastic detailing and two-colour interior trim, while xLine cars feature satin aluminium trim and different wheel designs. The M Sport lives up to its branding, with body coloured exterior trim and an extended bodykit, lowered suspension, part-Alcantara seat trim and LED headlights.
Unlike some rivals, all engines are available in every trim, so you can have the basic 18i petrol in fully-specced M Sport trim, or the most powerful xDrive20i in subtle SE trim. Prices for the X1 start from around £30,000 and rise to around £40,000. M Sport is the most expensive trim, but you do get the option of the M Sport Plus Pack with exclusive kit.
Two rivals for the X1 come from the same stable, in the shape of the BMW X2 and MINI Countryman. The former is a sportier looking alternative to the X1, which has racier looks, but not as much space inside, and carries a premium of around £1,500. The Countryman is around £5,000 less than the X1, but offers a bit less space.
Elsewhere, the Audi Q2, Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque, Mazda CX-30 and VW T-Roc can all be considered rivals to the X1, while a smaller budget can grab yourself a more versatile competitor in the shape of cars like the Peugeot 3008, Skoda Karoq and SEAT Ateca.
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In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingIf you want a small premium SUV that’s practical and fun to drive, the BMW X1 is it
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe BMW X1 is possibly the best handling small SUV on sale in the UK
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEfficient petrol, diesel and hybrid engines put the BMW X1 at the front of the small premium SUV pack
- 4Interior, design and technologySecond-generation BMW X1 goes for a traditional SUV shape, with typical BMW styling cues
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceWith improved practicality, the BMW X1 is ideal compact family transport
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe BMW X1 achieves a top safety rating, but standard kit could be better