When it was first introduced on the market, the BMW X1 took advantage of a niche that was mostly barren, but as times progress, so did the segment fill with alternatives. We’re talking here about competition from the likes of Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque, which have established themselves as powerful opponents. The X1 still remains a worthy alternative, only uglier, aspect we are going to tackle further on.
The company insists the X1 is part of the 1 Series family, as it is built on the same production line with all the variations of the BMW 1 Series; moreover, on the corporate website, the X1 appears on the same branch with the other 1 Series examples. Truth be told, this is more a marketing scheme in order to showcase the compact nature of the small SUV and the versatility of a single line of cars, as the automobile shares the bulk of its components with the larger 3 Series.
Compared to its rivals, the BMW X1 looks a bit incoherent. The front end seems to be too long compared to the rear, as the bonnet extends beyond the front axle and the actual cars starts from that point. The famous kidney grille is in place, flanked by the hawk beak headlamps and the circular fog lights. Below, the bumper has a single horizontal air intake, spanning the entire front of the car, with a prominent lip emphasizing its width. A common characteristic in the crossover/small SUV segment is the plastic body trim which decorated the exterior of the vehicle, from the front to the rear, encompassing the wheel arches and side skits – the X1 doesn’t disprove it, although this can be painted in body colour, not just in black.
Looking at the window line from the profile, it somewhat resembles the one from the 5 Series GT, but unlike the pretentious lines of its larger brother, the BMW X1 looks more as a reinterpreted wagon than a thoroughbred SUV.
The rear is very much recognizable as belonging to the Bavarian company, as it sports a boot lid a-la-X3 and a pair of rear lights that seem lifted from a 3 Series. Lower still, a rather plain bumper incorporates only a single exhaust tip.
All in all, if you’re willing to ignore the less than attractive exterior, the compact SUV is not something to sneer at, as it offers decent versatility, moderate off-road capability and ample cargo space for your luggage.
BMW X1 – 5 Point Review
Inside, the X1 looks as a carbon copy of other variants in the range, such as the regular 1 Series and the larger 3 Series. Perhaps a bit of individuality wouldn’t have hurt.
The large dials are clear and deliver the information you need at a glance, and the three spoke steering wheel has controls mounted on it, so it’s easier to access various functions of the automobile without taking your hands off it. Concerning quality, we prefer the looks of the regular 1 Series, which seems to have been given more attention than what we have here. Despite the resemblance to the 3 Series, don’t get your hopes up, as the BMW X1 is miles behind: the dashboard and centre console, as well as some other visible area have an inadequate build quality and feel, as hard surfaces greet you instead of providing you with a more pleasant tactile sensation. Regardless of the company’s claims of luxury, the reality differs from the pretty media talk.
The BMW X1 washes some of its sins when it comes to driving. Unlike other similar sized vehicles, the base model is rear wheel drive, which grants it some unique characteristics, giving the impression that you’re not driving an SUV, but a saloon with a jacked up suspension. Also, the lower than usual driving position contributes to conveying this feel, as the driver’s seat is situated in a slightly less elevated position than you would get in a competing automobile. The four wheel drive version is able to tackle mildly rugged terrain, but don’t venture too far, as the primary function of the vehicle is on-road driving.
If you’re buying the car strictly for urban usage, mind the fact that the steering might get a little heavy, especially when you’re faced with sharp turns. Although power assisted, it still has something that prevents it from being as smooth as we would like it to be, considering the premium assertions of the brand. That being said, you still get a bit of body roll – more than in a salon or a wagon, but less than some rivals, such as the Tiguan.
Users of X1’s haven’t reported major issues insofar as engine and drivetrain failures are concerned, nor did the electrical part pose a problem. On the other hand, the heavy steering has been heavily criticised, together with the interior build quality which was considered unworthy for a car with a premium reputation (and price tag).
An aspect that you might consider is that unlike some of its Japanese rivals, BMWs tend to have a better resale value, so if you ever get bored and decide to buy something else, you will not face heavy depreciation and you’ll get a fair price for your car.
Prices for the BMW X1 start from £24,230 for the base model and go as high as £35,105 for the xDrive25d M Sport variant.
The most efficient power plant from the X1 line-up is the sDrive 20d Efficient Dynamics, which will return 62.8 mpg, mixed cycle. Powered by a 2.0 litre diesel, it produces 163 horsepower and comes at a cost of 26,760. It’s not the fastest thing on earth, as it lags slightly behind the “normal” 2.0 diesel, but it comes with start/stop technology by default, which should make up by providing better mileage.
The most powerful engine is, again, a diesel. More specifically, the xDrive 25d M Sport variant, which promises 218 horsepower, extracted from a 2.0 litre unit. Mileage remains decent, at 51.4 mpg for the automatic and 47.9 for the manual, and it delivers rather impressive results for an SUV: 0-62 comes in a mere 6.8 seconds and the top speed stands at 127 miles per hour. Price for the automatic gearbox variant stands at £35,105, while the manual retails for £33,540.
The BMW X1 provides sufficient room in the front for the driver and the passenger. However, if you move on the back seat, things get a bit crowded, as the front seats only allow for marginal leg room and overall comfort is reduced to a minimum. Headroom is plentiful, as the high roofline is accommodating, yet despite the fact that BMW advertises the car as being able to sit five adults comfortably, we’d slash that figure to 4, as the slim middle seat and large footprint of the transmission tunnel will make for one awkward ride. Boot space, with seats in place measures 420 litres, expandable up to 1,350 litres if the second row is folded. Moreover, the boot lip is sits relatively low, so you won’t have to struggle to remove heavy objects.
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Is the BMW X1 a reliable car?
In our 2021 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the BMW X1 had a mediocre overall rating from its owners, placing it 74th out of the top 75 automobiles. Customers believe that the interior design, seat comfort, driving experience, and overall value might all be improved, but they enjoy the tactile controls and luggage space. The BMW brand did better in 2021, ranking 21st out of 29 manufacturers. The engine and practicality are the most appreciated factors, but the interior design and exterior design were disappointing. BMW’s dependability score was below average; 19.2% of owners experienced at least one problem in the first year of ownership, with the electrics accounting for a fifth of those issues.