BMW X1 SUV
Price £27,090 - £36,370
- Very good to drive
- Cheap to run
- Expensive to buy
- Baffling list of optional extras
- Basic model is two-wheel-drive only
At a glance
“The BMW X1 is a an economical, practical and good-to-drive compact SUV that’s better looking than the model it replaces.”
The BMW X1 is the smallest SUV in BMW's range and, despite its chunky good looks and raised ride height, isn’t much longer or wider than the Ford Focus. It's still bigger than the previous-generation X1, though, and in keeping with the current popularity of a raised driving position and the improved visibility that brings, the X1 is about 15cm taller than a traditional family hatchback. Direct rivals include other premium compact SUVs like the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA-Class and Range Rover Evoque, as well as the more mainstream (and significantly cheaper) Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Honda CR-V.
This generation of the BMW X1 shares much of its mechanical underpinnings with the MINI hatchback and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, enabling it to be offered with either front or four-wheel drive (the latter referred to by BMW as ‘xDrive’). It's a better-looking car than the model it replaces, which had a slightly awkward design, and BMW has worked hard to ensure that the X1 lives up to the brand's reputation for making SUVs that are good to drive.
The X1 is available with one petrol and one diesel engine, both displacing 2.0 litres, although the diesel comes in three different power outputs. The 2.0-litre petrol in the four-wheel-drive xDrive20i produces 189bhp, goes from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, returns 44.8mpg and emits 146g/km of CO2, making road tax £145 a year. In truth, specifying a petrol-engined X1 is a relatively rare choice; the diesels make more sense thanks to their relaxed nature and lower running costs.
The entry-level sDrive18d is available with front or four-wheel-drive and has 148bhp, which is enough to get the X1 from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds. In front-wheel-drive form, it returns an impressive 68.9mpg and costs just £20 a year to tax, thanks to its low CO2 emissions.
Moving up the diesel engine range increases the car's price and reduces economy slightly, partly because all other models are four-wheel-drive only. The 188bhp xDrive20d returns 57.6mpg and costs £110 a year in road tax, but it's quick, with 0-62mph taking 7.6 seconds.
The top-of-the-range 228bhp xDrive25d is faster still, going from 0-62mph in just 6.6 seconds, yet it's barely any less efficient than the xDrive20d, with fuel economy of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 133g/km making road tax £130 a year. Note that choosing an automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive or a higher trim levels (with larger alloy wheels) will reduce fuel economy and increase CO2 emissions slightly.
The X1 is an enjoyable car to drive, with accurate steering and little body lean when cornering. While it feels every inch the premium product, those MINI underpinnings give the X1 a surprising sense of agility when cornering, and it's nippy and easy to drive, both in town and on twisty backroads.
Inside, the BMW X1 is well built and well designed. It's not the last word in excitement, but the materials used are all very high quality and every switch and dial operates with a reassuring sense of solidity. Front and rear passengers benefit from generous amounts of head and legroom, while the 505-litre boot is competitive, even if the Range Rover Evoque has a larger load area.
BMW offers the X1 in SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport trims. All come with alloy wheels, sat nav and air-conditioning as standard, while spending the £1,500 or so BMW asks for Sport trim brings larger alloy wheels, sports seats and various exterior and interior styling upgrades. xLine models have leather upholstery as standard, while M Sport adds part-leather seats, LED headlights and a sporty bodykit.
While this X1 is too new to have featured in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, BMW's reputation for reliability is average, with a 21st-place finish (out of 32 manufacturers) in this area. A five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP is more reassuring and the X1 scored well for both adult and child occupant protection.
Fuel economy is good across the range and the BMW X1 is available with a good-value service package
The BMW X1 handles well, but the top-of-the-range xDrive25d is more powerful than anyone would really need
The BMW X1 has sat nav as standard across the range and can be fitted with a huge amount of extras
The BMW X1 is spacious in the rear and has a very competitive boot size
Tried-and-tested parts should help the BMW X1 reliability case, but some useful safety kit is optional