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In-depth reviews

BMW X1 SUV review

“The BMW X1 is a luxurious and sporty compact SUV that’s available with a range of powertrains to suit all lifestyles”

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Price
£35,380 - £54,105

Pros

  • Wide engine range
  • Latest technology
  • Involving drive for an SUV

Cons

  • Gearbox could be smoother
  • Large hump in the rear floor
  • Top models expensive

Verdict - Is the BMW X1 a good car?

The first two generations of BMW X1 started life competitively, but the shine wore off over time and more modern SUV rivals stole the limelight. This new version continues that trend, albeit with a strong range of engines, impressive practicality and cutting-edge technology that should help hold its position alongside the class leaders.

BMW X1 models, specs and alternatives

It’s amazing how BMW’s range of SUVs has expanded over the years; at the turn of the millennium, the X5 was the only 4x4 the German brand offered, followed by the smaller X3 in 2003. This lineup has since expanded to a total of seven individual models – not including the range of i-badged electric models or M-fettled performance variants.

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The X1 – as its name suggests – is BMW’s smallest SUV and the most recent model to receive the brand’s latest flavour of styling and technology upgrades. It’s grown slightly for this third generation, too; the new BMW X1’s wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) is 20mm longer than before, with a 50mm growth spurt overall. This means the compact SUV feels anything but small on the inside.

Rivals now span far and wide. Conventionally, the X1 would’ve locked horns with the Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3, but now faces stiff competition from more mainstream – but increasingly upmarket – models, like the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan.

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As before, the BMW X1 is available with a range of powertrains. BMW thinks that over time, the plug-in hybrid and pure-electric BMW iX1 variants will take the lion’s share of sales, but it hasn’t turned its back on conventional combustion engines; the maker also offers a choice of three petrol (20i, 23i and M35i) and two diesel (18d and 23d) engines.

All but the entry-level sDrive18d diesel and 20i petrol get xDrive four-wheel-drive, while a seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard across the range. The 20i should prove most popular for private buyers, while the 23i gets a useful chunk of extra power if you plan to cover more miles or regularly embark on longer motorway journeys. Even BMW will admit it expects to sell fewer diesels to X1 buyers than before.

That’s not least because company car buyers will be more interested in the pair of plug-in hybrids. Badged xDrive25e and xDrive30e, these produce 242bhp and 322bhp respectively. With a maximum pure-electric range of 57 miles, both models find themself in the low 8% Benefit-in-Kind tax bracket. Of course, the all-electric iX1 – with a range of around 270 miles – trumps both when it comes to rock-bottom running costs. We’ve reviewed that model separately.

The X1 M35i xDrive model was not released at launch but introduced later in 2023 as a high-performance, sportier petrol-powered version of the X1. It’s fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that produces 296bhp and sends power through a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It also gets an uprated chassis setup to help put down all that power, and tweaked styling with a new front bumper, roof spoiler and M-branded touches inside and out. It will cost from around £46,000 when it goes on sale in the UK.

There are three ascending trim levels to choose from: Sport, xLine and the range-topping M Sport. Not all engines are available with all trims, with the basic Sport currently only available in conjunction with the 18d and 20i motors, as well as the less-powerful of the two PHEVs. The flashiest M Sport spans the entire range, however.

The second-generation BMW X1 also spawned a couple-styled X2 variant, and while the latest model hasn’t been revealed yet, we expect it to break cover sometime in 2023. 

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    sDrive 20i MHT Sport 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £35,380

Most Economical

  • Name
    xDrive 25e Sport 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £42,670

Fastest

  • Name
    M35i xDrive 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £49,235

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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