BMW X1 SUV
Price £26,780 - £36,060
- Well equipped
- Comfortable to drive
- Appealing diesel engines
- Awkward styling
- Quite expensive to buy
- Heavy steering is a chore around town
At a glance
"Practical and comfortable, the X1 combines the driver appeal of a sporty hatchback with the practicality of an estate."
The X1 is BMW's answer to compact, premium-badged SUVs such as the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA. All three of those models can feel a bit overpriced, as you can find similar quality and driver enjoyment in more mainstream SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5. What's more, an all-new BMW X1 is coming later in 2015, so you can either wait to see how good that is or use its impending arrival to negotiate a better deal on this current model.
If you decide to press on with the current car, it has a lot to commend it. Being a BMW, it's naturally quite sporty to drive, but because of its large, upright body, it's also reasonably practical. A facelift in 2012 improved the looks a lot, although the disproportionately long bonnet remains as evidence of its close relationship with the old BMW 3 Series Touring, rather than the 1 Series as its name suggests. That facelift added more external chrome and body colouring, as well as more aggressive styling. The quality of the interior trim was also improved, although it still trails the 3 Series in this regard.
BMW diesel engines are known for their good blend of power and economy and the X1 offers no shortage of them. The best one is the 2.0-litre 20d, especially when paired with the optional smooth-changing eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's sandwiched by a choice of less powerful 2.0-litre versions badged 18d and 16d on the one side, and the muscular 25d on the other. This more powerful 2.0-litre takes the car from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds.
The one petrol engine – a 2.0-litre – is available in two power outputs. There's a marginal difference between them in terms of performance, but when it comes to running costs, they’re both much more expensive than the diesels, and so best avoided.
Rear-wheel-drive models suffer poor traction in the snow, but good fuel economy. In common with most family SUVs, the X1 isn’t intended for serious off-roading, so the four-wheel-drive versions – badged xDrive – would be a little redundant were it not for the fact that they offer excellent grip on wet or greasy roads. The X1 is quite a tall car, but doesn’t lean too badly in corners, while its supple suspension gives a comfortable ride.
The X1's tall cabin provides good headroom, but legroom in the rear is at a premium. The boot isn’t that big either, but with the standard 40:20:40 split rear seats folded down, it's useful enough – especially thanks to its wide opening and small lip.
Trim levels range from basic SE to range-topping M Sport. We say ‘basic’, but the X1 is well equipped as standard with DAB digital radio, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone connectivity and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The X1 is a safe car, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating backed up by standard parking sensors, city braking assistance, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, not to mention a wealth of optional safety kit. Unfortunately, its record for reliability and owner satisfaction is less impressive.
Avoid the petrol model and the BMW X1 offers affordable running costs
The BMW X1 20d offers the best balance between performance and economy
Step up from a 3 Series and you’ll notice a shortfall in quality in the BMW X1
The BMW X1 is much more practical than the standard 1 Series
The pre-facelift BMW X1 scored poorly in our Driver Power 2014 survey