Recombu Cars reviews the latest BMW X1, a quirky crossover that attempts to marry premium German motoring with practicality and versatility.
BMW leaves no stone unturned when it comes to filling gaps in the market and it gained a significant advantage over its key rivals when it introduced the original X1 back in 2009. Mixing SUV styling cues and a high driving position with traditional premium features and that desirable badge turned out to be a winning combination, and now there’s a new version.
Most importantly the new X1 is on a different platform, namely the front-wheel-drive architecture already used on the 2 Series Active Tourer, so sDrive models now drive the front wheels while xDrive versions send power to all corners. We drove an xDrive25d, with prices still to be announced but expect to pay around £35,000 in this specification.
The changes underneath the X1 have given the designers a bit more freedom, as well significant alterations to the exterior dimensions. It’s a significant 36mm shorter than the old car, but adopts a more-SUV like stance thanks to an increase of 53mm in height and extra width.
It’s still recognisably an X1 but it looks more like a shrunken X5 than the hopped-up hatchback it did before, with the bigger kidney grilles at the front adding more depth to the body. Whether you’re in traffic or it’s parked on your drive, the additional presence is welcome.
Switching to the more modern platform means a transverse engine up front and, therefore, more space in the cabin. Just like its 2 Series Active Tourer sibling, the X1 manages to offer quite a lot of space given the relatively compact exterior.
Climb aboard and you sense the change in height more than anything; the seating position has been raised but the whole cabin is taller, so you sit more upright and the dashboard appears more stacked. That means more space in the footwell, better storage and a general sense of spaciousness.
It’s even better in the rear where there is more space plus the addition of a sliding rear seat. Boot space is increased to 505 litres with the seats up.
Performance & handling
On paper the numbers for the X1 look significantly improved. In x25d form the 2.0-litre diesel unit offers 225bhp and a hefty 331lb/ft of torque, which makes it as good as a performance diesel SUV. With four-wheel-drive to ensure good traction and a slick six-speed automatic gearbox the performance is easy to exploit, although the smoothness of the shifts disguises how rapid it is. It may not be the quietest of engines but it is smooth and very efficient.
It also drives with a good deal more sophistication than before, although there is a trade-off in terms of ride quality. For a car of this nature it can be hustled with surprising speed, much in the way that the X5 is capable beyond its size, even if few will actually drive it in this way.
The downside is the ride, which is occasionally firmer than you might wish for although there is the softer SE spec compared to the M Sport as well as the option for adaptive damping.
Economy & environment
There are respectable improvements over the old car with regard to fuel consumption and emissions performance, but what really impresses is that these gains have come alongside stronger acceleration and top speed. For a compact SUV like this to be capable of 146mph but also 56.5mpg combined and 132g/km of CO2 for the xDrive25d is nothing short of remarkable.
As well as the more efficient new engines, the new X1 benefits from the Driving Experience Control, which allows you to switch into EcoPro mode for maximum efficiency by backing off the air conditioning, changing the throttle response and the gearbox programme to help save fuel.
Equipment & value
Three trim levels are available for the new X1; xLine, Sport Line and M Sport. Even the basic spec gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, BMW’s emergency on-call service, DAB radio, rear parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers.
Sport nets you bigger alloys, gloss trim inside and out and sports seats, while the comparable xLine is more comfort oriented with heated seats and aluminium effect trim.
The addition of sat-nav and emergency on-call as standard are welcome as they are normally expensive options, but overall the spec list is decent rather than overly generous.
There’s a stack of standard safety equipment across the range to help keep you safe, including a sophisticated ESP system that combines hill start and brake drying (in case you’re fording a stream), plus Active Guard, which includes forward collision warning and city collision mitigation.
There’s a lot to like about the X1. Not only is it a big improvement over the old one, it’s an impressive car in its own right. It looks smarter, drives with more sophistication and is both quicker and more efficient. Admittedly there are questions marks over the ride quality and some of the cabin materials feel surprisingly cheap, but that’s unlikely to put off most potential buyers.
On the rivals front, the key competitor is the Audi Q3 which can’t compete in terms of the driving experience but does offer better overall quality and comparable space. Lexus’s NX is a rival too, but there’s no diesel offering and is less fun to drive.