BMW X1 Review logo

BMW X1 Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2015
      Body type
      Crossover
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel, PHEV
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Roomy, well-built small SUV”

Best bits

  • Generous standard equipment
  • High-quality interior
  • Plug-in hybrid is super efficient

Not so great

  • Smaller boot than some rivals
  • Highlights bumps on poorly surfaced roads
  • Noisy on the motorway

Read by

BMW X1 Front

Overall verdict

BMW X1 Interior

On the inside

BMW X1 Driving Front

Driving

BMW X1 Boot

How much does it cost to run

BMW X1 Back

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The BMW X1 is a sporty small SUV that's fun to drive, has a practical, spacious interior and a high quality cabin. It’s a shame that some of its options are so expensive, but if you are willing to splash out, then you’ll end up with one of the very best cars in this class. A firm ride and so-so refinement are the only real negatives."

BMW X1 Front

Shopping for a small SUV presents you with more choices than almost any other area of the car market. The original X1 was one of the first premium entrants into this new niche, and proved popular but deeply flawed.


However, this second iteration has transformed it into one of the most competent cars in a class now awash with posh alternatives for all different tastes and budgets. While the BMW is nowhere near as flashy or fashion-forward as some newer rivals, a recent facelift has ensured it remains close to the top of the pile.


Under the skin, it shares many components with the MINI Countryman, and just like in that car, buyers can pick from a range of petrol and diesel engines. The entry-level petrol is a three-cylinder turbo, where all the rest have a 2.0-litre capacity and four cylinders, with outputs ranging up from 140PS to 192PS in the xDrive 20i.


Whichever fuel type you choose (our pick is the front-wheel drive sDrive 18d for its compelling blend of gutsy pulling power and economy) both come with two or four-wheel drive options, while a mix of manual and automatic transmissions are offered.


A plug-in hybrid flagship version (badged xDrive 25e) joined the line-up in 2020, combining a 125PS 1.5-litre petrol engine driving the front wheels with a 95PS electric motor turns the rears. It has claimed CO2 emissions from as low as 41g/km, and an electric-only range of 31 miles - perfect for commuters and company car users.


To drive, the X1 feels like a normal family hatchback. It's not top heavy and won't lean or roll through corners like some SUVs. It copes well in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic, and it's not intimidating to manoeuvre. This agile handling is helped by weighty steering, and even front-wheel-drive models are grippy and stable.


The downside to this sporty character is a firm ride, and poorer rolling refinement than you'd expect in such a family focused car. The BMW generates a lot of tyre roar on the motorway, especially in the higher trim levels with larger alloy wheel designs. Its diesels are also noisier under strain than its rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan.


That means it's not quite as relaxing on long journeys as softer SUVs that put a focus on passenger comfort. We think that's a shame, since in many ways the X1 is a very welcoming space to spend time.  This is the smallest SUV BMW makes yet it has loads of room for tall adults and a boot that will happily swallow their luggage for a fortnight.


Its cabin is conservatively styled, but nicely appointed, with expensive-feeling materials throughout and the high level of fit and finish you would expect from any premium SUV. Since the facelift the standard kit list has ballooned to include important features like smartphone mirroring and automatic emergency brakes.


Everything inside the X1 just sort of works. It goes about its business in a very understated, capable manner. If you're considering a stylish premium SUV with a smart design and a high-quality interior, we think you should take a test drive in the BMW as well. It's the perfect control, with talents that will soon expose flaws in rivals.

Is the BMW X1 right for you?

The X1 is a small premium SUV for people who want a sporty drive, decent fuel economy and few compromises. It delivers on all those counts, with a practical interior, clever boot, and strong engines. 


If you want a cosseting and refined motorway cruiser, then sadly the X1 will disappoint. The agile way it goes round corners also makes it fidgety and stiff on uneven roads, and the tyres (and diesels) are noisy.


It'll suit buyers who need the load-carrying abilities and passenger space of an SUV, but have no plans to go off-road. While it does come with four-wheel drive, it's not the best car for countryside excursions. 

What’s the best X1 model/engine to choose?

We would stick to the diesel engines in the X1. They're not as refined as their petrol counterparts, but strong performance combined with excellent fuel economy is a difficult combination to beat in a practical family car.


The 150PS 2.0-litre in the 18d is more than up to the task of hauling a full X1 around, and unless you live in a part of the country that gets a regular dusting of snow and ice, we'd go for the cheaper two-wheel drive model.


In this form, the BMW is relatively affordable, although we would definitely splash out the £1600 extra for the eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's wonderfully smooth, with crisp and rapid changes in its sportier modes.


Simple is best when it comes to the trim levels too. The aggressively-styled M Sport models are popular, but its sports suspension does no favours to the ride comfort. Entry-level SE cars come with everything that you need equipment-wise, and picking the more affordable model gives you the scope to add a couple of extras.

What other cars are similar to the BMW X1?

Every premium brand does its own version on the small SUV theme - with similarly steep pricing and a lot of choice between engines, gearboxes, two- and four-wheel drive options - so you're free to be led by styling and badge preference.


If you want something that will really turn heads, the Range Rover Evoque is the catwalk model of this class, but suffers from higher daily running costs.


For those uninterested in a sporty driving experience, the more relaxed Volvo XC40 has a really plush ride. It's every bit as stylish as the British car, with a smarter interior and one of the best crash safety ratings.


Any growing families who want to carry up to seven passengers in a relatively small footprint will need to go for the Mercedes GLB. It's the only premium compact SUV to offer this functionality, with a hi-tech interior. Of course don't discount the high quality Audi Q3.


People looking to save on their fuel bills but not yet ready to invest in a plug-in hybrid could pick a Lexus UX. Its petrol-electric powertrain doesn't need charging, and it's very refined, though not as practical as the BMW.


Of course, if you are shopping on a smaller monthly budget, there are plenty of mainstream alternatives that are either better equipped for the same money, or significantly cheaper. Our favourite is the Skoda Karoq.

Learn more

BMW X1 Interior

On the inside

BMW X1 Driving Front

Driving

BMW X1 Boot

How much does it cost to run

BMW X1 Back

Prices, versions and specification

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

How much boot space is there in the X1?

The BMW X1 has a 505-litre boot capacity that is generous by the standards of this class, and that space expands to 1,550-litres with the rear seats folded. It’s a flat load bay too, with back seats that split in a useful 40:20:40 ratio as opposed to the more common 60:40 layout.

Dan Powell

Answered by

Dan Powell

What is the BMW X1?

As the number in its name suggests, this is BMW’s smallest SUV, but in fact it’s bigger (and a touch more expensive) than a lot compact crossovers, since it’s not based on a supermini.

Dan Powell

Answered by

Dan Powell

Is a BMW X1 fuel efficient?

Yes, most engine variants emit between 113g/km and 125g/km of CO2, and even the quicker petrol variants with four-wheel drive stay below 145g/km. That translates into fuel economy stats that range from mid-fifties to high thirties, depending on if you choose a petrol or diesel X1.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady

Does the BMW X1 come as a 4x4?

Absolutely. Pick an ‘sDrive’ model and your X1 will be front-wheel drive, but all the diesels and the quicker petrol come with the option of fitting BMW’s intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive.

Dan Harrison

Answered by

Dan Harrison

Is the BMW X1 a good car?

The X1 is great fun to drive, surprisingly practical and nicely finished inside, but it’s easy to push the price up with the wide array of expensive options, so it’s not an affordable choice.

David Ross

Answered by

David Ross