In-depth Reviews

BMW X1 SUV - Engines, drive & performance

The BMW X1 handles well and comes with powerful engines

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

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This latest version of the BMW X1 is significantly different to its predecessor. That car was based on an old version of the BMW 3 Series Touring estate, whereas the new X1 is built on the same up-to-date platform as the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and the latest MINI Countryman.

This means the latest X1 is a very capable car that feels almost as nippy and agile as the MINI. The steering is weighty and accurate, and there’s surprisingly little body lean for a car of this size. All versions come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but can be equipped with a seven- or eight-speed automatic in the petrols and diesels respectively. This changes gear with minimal fuss, but can become jerky in Sport mode.

BMW X1 petrol engine

The petrol engine range of the X1 expanded in the summer of 2017 with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder similar to that used in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and MINI hatchback. Available with front-wheel drive only, it’s good for 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. This offers a less expensive choice than the 2.0-litre xDrive 20i four-wheel-drive model, which produces 189bhp and provides a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds. This is pretty sprightly considering the X1’s size. This X1 is best suited to those who want a high-riding car for driving around town, or who do less than 10,000 miles a year and it can also be chosen with front-wheel drive as the sDrive20i.

Diesel engines

The most powerful xDrive20d produces 188bhp and, like all BMW xDrive models, has four-wheel drive. As it’s a diesel, it’s very punchy at low and mid-range revs, but gets quite loud as you accelerate. It accelerates quickly, though, doing 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. An eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard.

The 188bhp xDrive20d should be a capable performer on and off the road thanks to its four-wheel-drive system and healthy amount of low-down power. It's only marginally slower than the more powerful, now discontinued 25d, but it's still smooth, refined and plenty punchy enough for most people.

The entry-level diesel produces 148bhp, and is available with a choice of front or four-wheel-drive, and a manual or automatic gearbox. Regardless of the combination you choose, this engine takes almost two seconds longer to complete a 0-62mph sprint than the xDrive20d. 

Although a six-speed manual gearbox was available on the 20d from launch, in November 2017 the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox became the only option.

Hybrid engines

Using a 123bhp version of BMW's three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol together with a 94bhp electric motor, the X1 xDrive25e is no slouch. It can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, making it faster than the Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 - and the BMW has four-wheel drive, where the Volvo is two-wheel drive.

The BMW is more fun to drive than the Volvo too, remaining balanced through corners with little body lean. Although the 10kWh battery is quite heavy, it's positioned low beneath the back seats to keep the car's weight distribution even. There isn't quite enough feedback through the steering wheel, but its weight and accuracy are ideal.

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