In-depth reviews

BMW X1 review

If you want a small premium SUV that’s practical and fun to drive, the BMW X1 is it

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

£29,430 to £42,255
  • Sharp handling
  • Plug-in hybrid
  • SUV styling
  • Not an off-roader
  • Can get expensive
  • No rear-drive option

The facelifted second generation BMW X1 remains a strong competitor in the fierce small premium SUV segment. Where the original X1 wasn't much more than a pumped-up 1 Series, the current car is more like a shrunken X3. The chunky looks create plenty of space inside, so it's ideal family transport for buyers who feel that a compact hatchback isn't big enough for their needs.

But this practicality doesn't come at the expense of driving fun, and enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that the X1 delivers the kind of satisfying handling that BMW is famous for. Both front and four-wheel drive versions are engaging to drive, while the range of three and four-cylinder turbo petrol engines deliver punchy performance combined with decent running costs. The X1 is as good as ever.

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. The same underpinnings feature on the BMW 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers too, which means they’re all designed with front-wheel or four-wheel drive. 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 139bhp, while the sDrive20i is a four-cylinder petrol making 190bhp. 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. Both petrol models have the option of four-wheel drive xDrive. 

The diesels comprise the sDrive18d with a 148bhp three-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 £29,000 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-3 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.

For an alternative review of the latest BMW X1 SUV visit our sister site

Which Is Best


  • Name
    sDrive 18i [136] SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
  • Price

Most Economical

  • Name
    sDrive 18d SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
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  • Name
    xDrive 20i [178] SE 5dr Step Auto
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