Motoring: BMW X1 with X factor

BMW has brought the X1 into line with its bigger brethren

BMW has brought the X1 into line with its bigger brethren - Credit: Archant

BMW has improved its junior X range model in all key areas to give it more grown-up appeal, says motoring editor Andy Russell

The new design has created a lot more interior space

The new design has created a lot more interior space - Credit: Archant

If you create a series of cars in different sizes they should be like Russian dolls and look the same regardless of where they fit in the range. Many people like the look of the bigger versions but can’t justify it and will opt for a scaled-down version.

For all its success; with more than 41,000 UK sales since BMW launched the X1 in 2009 (and 800,000 sold worldwide), I never felt this pioneering premium sports activity vehicle had the X factor of the bigger X3 and imposing X5 in terms of looks, quality or driving experience. It didn’t deter buyers, but the new X1 is a big change for the better.


BMW has brought the X1 into line with its bigger brethren – so much so that it could be confused for a new X3. It looks far more imposing, with more road presence. But it’s biggest gain size-wise is that it’s 53mm taller, enabling a raised seating position and creating more space. The new X1 looks so much better that, combined with a spacious and versatile interior, I can see some X3 owners downsizing.

Under the bonnet

They’re all 2-litre turbo engine, but four outputs and petrol and diesel. Forget the 192hp petrol when you’ve got three diesels – 150hp 18d (the only one to offer an sDrive front-wheel drive option), and 190hp and 231hp xDrive 20d and 25d.

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The mid-power diesel will be popular. If you can, pay £1,685 for the super-slick, quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with responsive kick-down and paddle shifters. It has strong low-down pull and mid-range performance, so there’s little need to work it hard, even for overtaking. When you do hit the throttle it’s smooth and refined but can sound a little gruff.

Even driven hard it never returned less than 40mpg and most of the time averaged 45mpg with a best of 58mpg on a gentle cruise.

How it drives

The X1 is built on a new platform so is more dynamic than its predecessor. The ride is always firm, even with the optional £390 electronic damper control to stiffen the suspension for cornering or soften it for comfortable cruising, so it’s sensitive to poor surfaces and can feel fidgety. If you’re thinking of the harder M Sport suspension it’s best to try before you buy. The firm ride was not helped by the test car’s stiff-walled run-flat tyres, a £180 option, which created a lot of road rumble too.

The trade-off is entertaining handling that rewards keen drivers with a flat, stable stance through corners and well-weighted speed-sensitive steering. It can be hustled precisely along meandering routes, showing good poise and balance and with body roll kept in check.

Space & comfort

The new platform and design has created a lot more interior space with generous headroom and legroom for six-footers. A rear bench option that slides through 13cm to tailor to loads or legroom is worth the £195. Boot space hasn’t been sacrificed – in fact it’s a class-leading 505 litres with the versatility of a removable floor panel revealing an underfloor compartment for separating loads or it cab be taken out to make the boot deeper.

Rear seat backs split 40/20/40 and fold flat to create an uninterrupted 1,550-litre load bay.

At the wheel

The driving set-up is pure BMW. Short or tall, there’s enough adjustment of seat and steering wheel to feel at home. Clear white on black instruments, minimal dashboard controls and most functions operated via a display screen through the excellent iDrive controller make piloting the X1 intuitive and straightforward. I even liked the gloss black trim and Sport model’s matt coral red accent strips.


Available in SE, Sport, M Sport and xLine models, even the entry model has satellite-navigation, iDrive infotainment controller, powered tailgate, DAB radio, dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers and lights, starter button and rear parking sensors. Higher models add styling touches and upgraded trim.

Final say

The new X1 fully deserves its X tag with BMW improving it in all areas – looks, image, space and driving appeal. It may be the junior model but it now feels all grown-up.

Fact file

Price: BMW X1 xDrive20d Sport £30,940 (range from £27,090)

Engine: 1,995cc, 190hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 7.6 seconds; top speed 137mph

MPG: Urban 49.6; extra urban 65.7; combined 58.8 (eight speed auto 49.6, 62.8, 57.6)

CO2 emissions: 127g/km (auto 129g/km)

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 25 per cent

Insurance group: 29 (of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Size: L 4,439mm; W (incl door mirrors) 2,060mm; H 1,612mm

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