The entry-level diesel (badged 18d) is available with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive (sDrive or xDrive), whereas all other engines come with four-wheel drive only.
It's partly for that reason we reckon the sDrive18d is the pick of the range. It's not only the cheapest option, it's also the most frugal, which also means attractive monthly tax bills for company car drivers. Despite that, performance is still more than punchy enough, making the more powerful 20d and 25d seem unnecessary.
We'd avoid with 189bhp 2.0-litre petrol; the diesel engines are better suited to the X1.
Compared to its stiffly sprung and unforgiving predecessor, the latest X1 is much improved. Admittedly, it is still stiffer than the small SUV norm, sometimes becoming unsettled over really rough roads, but this does seem in keeping with BMW’s sporting remit.
Naturally, the ride is most soothing on the smallest wheels as fitted to SE trim models, but it is still acceptable on the larger wheeled variants. We'd advise avoiding the run-flat tyres though; their stiff sidewalls don't help comfort.
Adaptive dampers are optional, allowing you to stiffen the suspension to improve cornering or slacken it for added comfort by pressing a button. While the different modes do make a noticeable difference, even the softest setting still delivers a fairly firm ride.
Most versions of the BMW X1 come with four-wheel drive as standard, although the entry-level diesel (badged 18d) is available with front-wheel drive.
While this does help economy, you do occasionally feel the steering wheel writhing in your hands when you accelerate quickly – this is a phenomenon know as torque steer.
Whether you opt for two or four-wheel drive, the steering is weighty and precise, which makes it easy to place the X1 on the road; it's no hot hatch but there's a reasonable amount of feedback. Meanwhile, the stiff suspension ensures there’s precious little body roll even when cornering. All in all, the X1 is a very stable thing at all speeds and is more fun to drive than its main rivals, the VW Tiguan and Mercedes GLA.
There’s some wind noise on the motorway although not enough to bother you too much. More of a worry is the amount of road roar the X1's tyres generate – the noise is loud enough at 70mph to force you and your passengers to raise your voices. The diesel engines can sound a bit gruff under hard acceleration, but they’re quiet at a steady cruise and transmit little vibration through the controls.
The manual gearbox is a big improvement over the previous X1's although it's still a little stiffer than we'd like; a VW Tiguan's is slicker, for example. An eight-speed automatic 'box is optional on all engines and standard on 20i and 25d models. It's one of the best automatic gearboxes in this class but adds a fair bit to the price.
There’s a good range of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, plus a central armrest to aid comfort. The driver's seat has plenty of side support too, even on SE models, which miss out on the heavily bolstered sports seats of Sport and M Sport versions.
It’s a shame that adjustable lumbar support is optional across the range; those traveling long distances would be wise to add it. Despite this, though, it’s easy enough to get comfortable, with all the dashboard controls laid out in a logical manner.
Overall, visibility is very good in the X1 thanks to a driving position that's higher than a traditional hatchback's. Helping further is a low-mounted dashboard that gives you a decent view over the bonnet.
Unfortunately, the windscreen pillars can cause issues for some drivers who have to sit close to the wheel; the size and position of the pillars can block your view when pulling out at junctions.
The upsweeping rear window line can also be problematic when reversing, although rear parking sensors are standard on all models. A reversing camera is optional as part of the Technology Pack, but this costs nearly £1000. Also optional is a Driving Assistant pack that includes a lane-departure warning.
The BMW X1 has a brilliant infotainment system – particularly by small SUV standards. All versions come with a DAB radio, a CD player, a USB socket, satellite navigation and Bluetooth, and you also get a colour screen with crisp graphics. The screen is a rather small 6.5in, but the interface – a rotary dial between the front seats surrounded by a handful of shortcut buttons – is wonderfully intuitive. You simply twist the dial to scroll through the on-screen menus and press it down to make a selection.
Opt for the Navigation Plus package and you gain a larger 8.0in display with online connectivity and real-time traffic information. You also get a full colour head-up display which projects information, such as your speed and navigation directions, onto the windscreen right in your line of sight. Although this system is pretty pricey, it is worth considering given the big benefits it brings.
Whereas the original X1 had hard, cheap-feeling plastics throughout its interior, this latest model is about as classy inside as small SUVs get. The X1 has the kind of solid build quality and premium feel that you’d hope for from a premium-badged German car.
Even on base SE versions, there’s plenty of chrome trim and metal effect inlays to lift things further, while all controls operate with a well-oiled precision. If you really want to push the boat out, leather upholstery is standard on high-spec xLine models and optional on all other trim levels.
Rather than lagging behind its rivals for perceived interior quality, the X1 is well ahead of the Mercedes GLA and Range Rover Evoque, and even pips the Audi Q3.
There’s plenty of space for lanky adults to get comfortable, thanks mainly to the generous head room. However, the cabin isn't much wider than that of many standard family hatchbacks, such as the VW Golf, so don’t expect the X1 to feel as airy as a Volvo XC90.
There’s a pair of cup holders up front that are deep and will hold a large takeaway cup. The door pockets have drinks holders that will keep a 1.0-litre bottle secure, while the small cubby in front of the gearlever is a convenient spot to store items. The centre armrest is a handy place to hide your phone and connect it to the USB input. You can stow a 500ml bottle in there, too.
There’s plenty of space in the back of the X1. True, there isn't quite as much head or leg room as in a VW Tiguan, but a couple of six-footers will be more than comfortable on long journeys, especially with the sliding rear seats slid as far back as they'll go.
As is the case in the X1's main rivals, carrying three adults in the back of the X1 is a bit of a squeeze, but it is certainly possible. Three kids in the back will be perfectly happy.
Storage space is pretty good, too; the nets on the backs of the front seats make for convenient document holders, and if you pay a bit extra you'll also get folding tray tables on the front seat backs.
The rear seats split and fold in a 40/20/40 configuration by pulling small levers in the boot, which adds an extra edge of versatility to the X1 that many rivals don’t offer. Practicality is improved further by the standard sliding and reclining rear seats.
The latter feature allows you to either prioritise leg room or boot space depending on your cargo vs people-carrying needs. You also have to pay extra for adjustable lumbar support, while a folding front passenger seat is also on the options list, giving you the option to carry extra long loads.
The BMW X1's boot is slightly smaller than a VW Tiguan's, mainly because it's that bit shallower. However, you'll still fit more luggage in an X1 than you would an Audi Q3 or Mercedes GLA, and the load bay is usefully square with a nice broad aperture.
Folding down the rear seats increases luggage capacity considerably, and the extended load area is flat with no annoying steps in the floor. The boot entrance is also flush with the floor of the load bay, so you don't need to negotiate a big lip when loading or unloading heavy items.
Better still, all X1s come with a electric tailgate; to open the boot you just press a button on the key fob and to close it again there's a separate button on the tailgate itself.
The BMW X1 is hardly cheap for a car of its size, and it's predicted to lose value slightly more quickly than the similarly priced Audi Q3. That said, reasonable discounts are available if you're prepared to haggle, and some of BMW's PCP deals are also attractive if you need to take out finance.
The sDrive 18d model is the cheapest to run, especially if you're a company car driver, although even the more powerful four-wheel drive models aren’t too pricey. The 20i petrol version is best avoided – a 20d diesel offers similar performance and isn’t much more expensive to buy, and the extra fuel and depreciation costs of the petrol will more than offset the difference.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
Entry-level SE trim gets a decent amount of equipment, including dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, sat-nav and a DAB radio. Moving up to Sport trim brings mainly styling additions, while xLine adds a lot to the price, so we reckon it's best to stick with SE and add a few options.
We’re fans of the Navigation Plus system with its bigger screen, traffic reports and head-up display, while we’d also be tempted to add heated front seats.
Our reliability data for the previous-generation X1 does not show BMW’s smallest SUV in a particularly good light. It fared badly in our most recent customer satisfaction survey, with a poor reliability score.
Although you’d hope BMW as a whole may do better, they could only manage 28th out of 37 manufactures surveyed. At least a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty is standard, however, which betters the three-year/60,000-mile warranties offered by many rivals.
The X1 was awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating, with scores of 90% for adult protection, 87% for child protection, 74% for pedestrian protection. The rival VW Tiguan scored better for adult safety, but worse for child and pedestrian protection.
Every X1 has front, side and head airbags as standard, plus a tyre pressure-monitoring system and an emergency assist service that automatically informs the emergency services of your location if you have a crash. However, it's disappointing that BMW charges extra for automatic emergency braking; most rivals, including the VW Tiguan, get this important safety feature as standard.
Meanwhile, security is impressive. An alarm, engine immobiliser and remote central locking are fitted to every X1, and security experts Thatcham awarded the car five-out-of-five for resisting theft, and four-out-of-five for guarding against being broken into.
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