BMW X1 review - Engines, performance and drive
The BMW X1 is possibly the best handling small SUV on sale in the UK
Unlike bigger BMW models, the X1 is available with front-wheel drive. The facelift didn’t change the chassis set up, which is no bad thing. The UKL2 platform that underpins it, shared with sister company MINI, features a strut-type suspension set-up at the front and a multi-link axle at the rear. Adaptive dampers are available as an option on the M Sport only, and we'd recommend adding them, as they bring big benefits for the X1's ride and handling.
After only a few miles behind the wheel of the X1, it’s clear that this is the most driver-focused model in the small premium SUV class. It feels more like a conventional car than an SUV because you sit lower, but this means it also feels sportier.
Combined with weighty steering and less body roll than most rivals, it offers more grip and corners harder, making it the more involving choice. There are different drive modes, and with the adaptive dampers connected to the toggle switch that selects these different settings, the X1 feels alert in Sport mode. Yet the ride is never as crashy as in some rivals, even in the stiffer setting.
In Comfort mode the X1 is surprisingly absorbent, even with the larger wheel options offered by BMW. The suspension filters out suspension movements with finesse and keeps things level. This means it’s more comfortable around town and on the motorway than most rivals, while the engine isn’t quite as noisy, either.
The four-wheel-drive xDrive20d model uses an intelligent all-wheel-drive system that can send power to the front or rear when either axle senses slip, while it comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Don’t go thinking you can take your X1 too far off the beaten track, though. While hill descent control is included, this isn’t the kind of car you’ll go mud plugging in at the weekend.
UK buyers have the choice of two diesel and two petrol engines in the X1. All offer decent performance and great economy. There’s also a plug-in hybrid version which is the most economical of all.
The hybrid system produces 217bhp and 385Nm of torque – and BMW claims the drivetrain offers maximum electric-only range of around 32 miles at speeds of up to 84mph, while 0–62mph takes 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 120mph.
At the test track the X1 xDrive20d we tested was slightly faster than a Volvo XC40 D4, beating it by six tenths from 0-60mph, with a time of 7.6 seconds. It was also a few tenths faster from 30-50mph in the lower gears, while this advantage increased between 50-70mph in the higher gears. The engine is more refined and the gearbox a little snappier to change in manual mode as well, tying in with the extra focus placed on the driver. There’s nothing to split the transmissions or the traction the four-wheel-drive systems offer when cruising, though, because both are smooth.
The automatic gearbox is likely to be the top pick transmission. It’s nicely refined and changes gear with precision and pace. It’s a bit jerky in Sport+ mode, but leave it in Comfort and you won’t be disappointed.
In this review
- 1BMW X1 reviewThe BMW X1 is a small crossover that offers style, fun driving and a premium feel in an attractive package
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe 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 X1 achieves top safety rating, but standard kit could be better