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BMW X1 front

heycar review

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    Impressive cabin

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    Feels reassuringly solid inside

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    Dynamic handling despite its size

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    Safety tech in spades

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    Great feel in full flow

Need to know

The BMW X1 is a premium family SUV that, now into its second generation, delivers a fun driving experience, practical load-lugging ability and a luxurious feeling interior. Introduced in 2015, this model was given a major visual refresh for 2019, incorporating BMW’s latest grille.Under the skin, it shares many components with the MINI Countryman, and just like that car buyers can pick from a range of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Whichever fuel type you choose, both are available with two and four-wheel drive options, while a mix of manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions are offered with the majority of engines. A new plug-in hybrid version (badged xDrive25e) joined the line-up in 2019, combining a 1.5-litre petrol driving the front wheels with a 94bhp electric motor powering the rear axle. It has claimed CO2 emissions from as low as 43g/km, and an electric-only range of 35 miles. All X1s come with five doors and five seats, and there are four specifications offered: SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport; although not all the engines are available on every trim level.

Common questions

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Exterior design

The X1 struggles to strut the premium SUV catwalk with the same swagger as the svelte Range Rover Evoque, scandi-chic Volvo XC40 or squared-shouldered Mercedes GLB. It looks sportier now than before, with BMW changing its iconic kidney grilles for larger vents that meet in the middle, altering the headlight design and fitting more intricate front bumpers.It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s possible to dial up the visual aggression by moving up the trim range. Standard models have 17-inch alloys, plastic wheel arch protection, LED headlights, twin exhausts and front fog lights in the bumper. Sport grade brings with it a set of 18-inch wheels, roof rails, and body coloured side skirts, while the xLine features a bright chrome grille and window surrounds, and M Sport versions get more aggressive bumpers.There are nine paint standard colours, but all of the most exciting metallic shades, including Misano Blue and Sunset Orange, are exclusive to the M sport variants, which is a shame.

Interior design

The X1 might not be the smartest on the outside, but you’ll soon forget its divisive looks once you are nestled inside the classy, well made interior. The design is more conventional than in some rivals, but that also means that it’s wonderfully intuitive to use, and all the controls feel nicely damped and precise to operate, giving a strong sense of the X1’s underlying quality. 

Every model (from 2019 onwards) comes with an excellent 8.8-inch infotainment screen that has sat-nav, and a full suite of media features and online connectivity as standard. It’s a joy to use, since the system is controlled via a scroll wheel on the centre console. Simply turn it to navigate the different menus, and push down to make a selection. It works so well that the optional 10.3-inch touchscreen system is redundant, but it’s very irritating that Apple CarPlay is an optional extra on every version, since most rivals offer this as standard. The materials look and feel expensive, even on the SE grade, but step up to a Sport for racy red stripes on the cloth upholstery, chunky sports seats and gloss black trim inserts on the dash. The xLine versions are the only models to get real leather trim (M Sport cars have Alcantara) but every X1 has sliding rear seats that give it generous head and legroom when set all the way back.

What to look out for 

The xDrive25e plug-in hybrid is the fastest and most efficient version of the X1. A combined output of 217bhp gives it a 0-62mph sprint time of seven seconds flat, and with a full charge in its batteries it’s also capable of 149mpg. Downsides? The battery pack steals boot space, which drops to 450 litres, and it’s also seriously expensive. We think the best conventional engine choice is the front-driven sDrive18d diesel. It only has 148bhp but delivers that performance really smoothly, while also returning up to 56.6mpg. The X1 comes with a huge number of options, but if you are buying used then bear in mind that pre-facelift cars have a smaller 6.5-inch infotainment screen, and different levels of kit. Since it’s a BMW, it’s great to drive, with more grip, cornering composure and in-gear pace than many rivals, but the ride is firm. If you choose a version with large diameter wheels then it’s worth investing in the optional adaptive dampers, which have a softer comfort setting.

What we think

The BMW X1 is a sporty small SUV with great driving dynamics, a practical, well-thought out 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.

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