BMW X1 - First Impression

Chris Pickering drives the all-new BMW X1

The small premium SUV market is rapidly becoming a crowded one. Yummy mummies and upwardly mobile urbanites have been devouring cars like the BMW X1 in their thousands ever since the original model was launched in 2009. Now there’s an all-new X1 designed to fend off the likes of the Audi Q3, the Mercedes GLA and the Range Rover Evoque.

The first thing you notice is that the new model is indeed a good deal more SUV-like. There was a touch of ‘3-Series on stilts’ to the old car, but while this one is actually slightly shorter, it’s also significantly taller and somewhat wider.

Inside it’s all familiar BMW fayre. The dashboard swoops and creases in typical Beemer style with a mixture of soft touch materials and shiny highlights. Sitting quite high, you get a suitably commanding view out over the bonnet.

As you might expect, the X1 has grown considerably on the inside. Rear legroom has increased by up to 66 mm on cars with the optional sliding rear seats, while the boot is now one of the biggest in its class at 505 litres. Fold down the 40/20/40 split rear seats and this grows to a very generous 1,550 litres. It’s easy to access too, with a flat floor (concealing an additional storage compartment) and an electrically operated tailgate that opens and closes hands-free.

While it may now be a taller, chunkier car, it certainly doesn’t drive like one. The X1 is genuinely fun to punt along, with an agile, well-balanced chassis and considerable reserves of grip. The steering is quite meaty - perhaps unnecessarily so in Sport mode - but it’s crisp and responsive.

It rides well too. The optional Electronic Damper Control system on our test car provided an excellent blend of comfort and body control, with sufficient differentiation between the settings to make it worth having. Our only gripe is the noise from the 19-inch runflat tyres, which is quite noticeable once you get moving.

At 231bhp, the Twin Power Turbo engine in the x25d is the most powerful four-cylinder diesel ever fitted to a production BMW. It feels revvy, responsive and entirely capable of the claimed 6.6 second 0-62 mph time. Returning 56.5 mpg and 132 g/km, it concedes just 1.1 mpg and a handful of grams of CO2 to the less powerful 20d. The range also includes a tax-friendly front-wheel drive 18d, which returns 65.7 mpg and emits just 114 g/km, plus a token petrol engine in the form of the xDrive20i.

In the case of the x25d, the engine is coupled to a new 8-speed automatic gearbox, which shuffles the gears quietly and unobtrusively on its own. It’s testament to the driver appeal of the X1, though, that we did actually use the steering wheel mounted paddles quite extensively.

Price-wise, the X1 falls between the Audi Q3 and the likes of the Range Rover Evoque. Before options, our xLine-spec xDrive25d would set you back £35,150, but fully kitted out it comes to just over £45,000.

The Navigation Plus package accounts for a fairly substantial portion of that at £1,490, but it’s a useful addition that includes an upgraded 8.8-inch screen for the infotainment system, real-time traffic updates for the sat nav and the same head up display that you’ll find in the flagship 7-Series. The £1,150 Driver Comfort package, meanwhile, provides things like active cruise control, parallel parking assistance and BMW’s Traffic Jam Assistant. The latter can effectively drive the car for you at speeds of up to 21 mph, providing you maintain one hand on the wheel.

Specced as such, the X1 is not an especially cheap car. It is, however, competitively priced against its premium rivals and better to drive than most. Throw in decent levels of comfort and practicality, and you’ve got something that’s sure to cut the mustard in the Waitrose car park.

[Model tested X1 xDrive25d xLine 2.0d]