BMW X1 SUV
Price: £24,205 - £33,510
- Comfortable to drive
- Well equipped
- Appealing diesel engines
- Awkward styling
- Expensive to buy
- Heavy steering is a chore around town
"Practical and comfortable, the X1 combines the driver appeal of a sporty hatchback with the practicality of an estate."
The BMW X1 is a compact crossover between a small hatchback and a large executive saloon. A higher body and more practical interior help make this BMW 1 Series more desirable. Factor in its good handling, powerful engines and low emissions and you have an impressive overall package. The X1 is more business-like to drive than its bigger brothers, the X3 and X5, but if you go for the diesel engines you get a good mix of economy and performance that easily rivals anything on offer among the MINI Countryman, Audi Q3, Volkswagen Tiguan or Ranger Rover Evoque.
The BMW X1 comes in two models – a four-wheel drive xDrive version or entry-level rear-wheel drive sDrive – and four main specifications – entry-level SE, Sport, xLine and top-of-the-range M Sport, all for less money than a Q3 or Evoque.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The EffiecientDynamics diesel model is capable of more than 60mpg
The X1 will cost you about the same to insure as a BMW 1 Series, with even the slowest, cheapest models inviting high premiums – a bit galling considering it doesn’t match the 1 Series' performance. Thankfully, the daily running costs are minimal for a BMW. The most economical model is the rear-wheel drive sDrive 20d EfficientDynamics, which returns 62.8mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 119g/km of CO2. That's pretty good for a heftier car that can still accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds. However, even the entry-level sDrive 16d returns 57.6mpg and emits 128g/km of CO2. We’d recommend avoiding the petrol engines, though, as the four-wheel-drive 20i returns only 37.7mpg in combined economy and emits a substantial 176g/km of CO2.
Interior & comfort
Heavy steering makes the X1 a bit of a chore to drive around town
It's not as high as a Q3, but you still get a good driving position in the X1 thanks to the tall suspension. Both the driver's seat and the nicely chunky steering wheel have plenty of adjustment so it's easy to find the ideal position. Legroom is a bit tight in the back, however, and the steering wheel is a bit hard to turn at times and the clutch is rather heavy, making town driving somewhat tiresome, especially if you’re stuck in a traffic jam. It's a lot better news when out on the open road, where the stiff suspensions keeps body roll to a minimum when driving through corners. The firm suspension does, however, mean that the ride can be very uncomfortable on rough roads – so much so that we’d avoid the larger alloy wheels and recommend that you’re absolutely certain about getting the M Sport model over the standard SE, as it's the model with the firmest suspension.
Practicality & boot space
Boot isn't the biggest in class but there's a load of useful cubbyholes
The X1 offers 420 litres of boot space, which is 40 litres less than an Audi Q1 and a hefty 155 litres behind the Range Rover Evoque. Folding the standard-fit split-fold back seats down expands the boot to 1,350 litres.
Once inside, you get lots of storage compartments and cubbies, plus some handy load protectors. The top-of-the-range models also have roof rails included as standard. The view out of the back is hampered somewhat by the small rear windscreen, making reverse parking a bit difficult at times.
Reliability & safety
Reliability should be good but there's still a few questionable materials inside
BMW was the worst performing premium manufacturer in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings, but the X1 managed to rank 58th in the list of the top 100 cars. Its main criticisms were being hard to drive and having an uncomfortable ride, but it did rank 14th for reliability, so potential buyers can have some peace of mind that it should prove suitably durable.
In terms of safety, it was awarded the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring an excellent 87 per cent for adult occupant protection. The X1 comes equipped with traction control, electronic stability control (ESP), a full range of airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and seatbelt reminders as standard.
The interior quality was improved by a 2011 update, especially in the xDrive, but the standard of materials used underneath the dashboard and for the door trims are not quite what you would expect from a premium manufacturer like BMW.
Engines, drive & performance
The high riding X1 is not as good to drive as the BMW 1 Series
The two version of the X1 - the four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive – only offer marginally different driving experiences. You get superior off-road capability in the 4x4, and better, more agile performance in the rear-wheel drive model. The latter also has better fuel economy because it uses less energy to turn the wheels. Both are decent on the motorway, but don’t expect to get the precise handling of the 1 or 3 Series – the X1 is just too tall and its heavy controls aren’t responsive enough for it to be huge fun to drive.
The car doesn’t suffer from too much body roll for such a high vehicle and it has plenty of grip, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox is surprisingly even better than the excellent six-speed manual. Combined with the 2.0-litre diesel engine, the automatic is quick, efficient and very good for overtaking.
Price, value for money & options
Competitively priced but still expensive to buy
Buying an X1 is all about balancing running costs against the initial purchase price. It may be relative inexpensive to run for a BMW, but even the base model is expensive. Also, the X1's resale value on the used car market won’t be as strong as the Q3, so how much you pay when you buy won’t necessarily be offset by a decent second-hand price when you sell.
However, the X1 definitely comes well equipped, whichever model you choose – with electric windows, air-conditioning, climate and cruise control, and an MP3 stereo with Bluetooth connectivity all offered as standard. Just be careful of the options list, as accessories like sat-nav can quickly send the final cost of an X1 soaring.
What the others say
Rear passenger space is on a par with a 3-Series, although headroom is better due to the higher roofline. Plus, the rear seatbacks adjust. The 420-litre boot is fractionally bigger than in most family hatchbacks and the seats fold flat, but while this means the X1 is more flexible than the 1-Series, it isn’t massively practical.
On the road, the X1 benefits from having characteristics from both cars and SUVs. BMW has kept body roll sufficiently in check to allow it to be capable of a lively back-road sprint and, when equipped with four-wheel drive, there's a good deal of grip too.
Make no mistake, the BMW X1 is a good product. But is it one that anyone will actually want?
The low running costs and sharp handling of BMW's smallest SUV are appealing, but the cabin is a little short of space and quality.
Last updated: 6 Jan 2014