BMW X1 Review
The BMW X1 is a fun-to-drive and well-built alternative to the likes of the Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3; just be ready to pay extra for plenty of desirable options.
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- Enjoyable to drive
- High-quality interior
- Decent cabin space
What's not so good
- A little noisy at speed
- Limited smartphone mirroring
- Alternatives have bigger boots
BMW X1: what would you like to read next?
The BMW X1 is a small family SUV that prioritises everyday practicality and usability over futuristic gimmicks and quirky styling. In this respect, it’s a bit like having Gordon Ramsey prepare you a lovely beef wellington. There’s no doubt it’ll taste delicious, but it isn’t quite as exciting, or as memorable, as having Heston Blumenthal rustle up some kind of nitrogen-infused beef-flavoured edible wallpaper…
The way the BMW X1 looks makes it something of a wallflower in the small SUV world. Sure, the sporty front end you get in M Sport guise cars mimics the bigger X3 quite convincingly, but it can’t really hold a candle to the crease-ridden Volvo XC40 and curvaceous Mercedes GLB in the style stakes.
The same goes for the BMW interior, but at least the X3’s solid-feeling materials, super-intuitive infotainment system and spacious cabin help make it one of the easiest small SUVs to live with. It’s just a shame you don’t get any smartphone mirroring as standard.
There’s plenty of room in the front and the sliding and reclining rear seats mean three adults won’t feel too hemmed-in in the back. It’s pretty easy to fit a child seat, and there’s a decent amount of space in the BMW X1’s boot – although a Q3 and GLB are roomier still.
If you’re able to get yourself a diesel X1 with automatic emergency braking and parking sensors added as extras, go for it! It’s a great, family-friendly mix of comfort and practicality.
That said, neither of these cars can match how car-like the BMW X1 feels to drive. Head down a twisty country lane and it’ll carve through tight corners without the unpleasant body lean you get in many high-riding family cars. Despite this, it’s still pretty comfortable to drive in town – especially if you pay extra for the optional adaptive suspension.
Speaking of driving in town, the BMW X1’s raised seating position and decent visibility mean you won’t have any trouble navigating through tight car parks; although the optional reversing camera is a worthy upgrade to help prevent low-speed scrapes.
At the other end of the speed spectrum, you’ll find the BMW X1 deals very well with motorways, but it is let down a smidge by the amount of tyre noise you hear in the cabin.
That said, part of the reason you’ll notice this is because the BMW X1’s engines are so hushed – especially the petrol units. These are ideally suited to pottering around town, but there is a range of diesel engines you’ll want to consider if you do mostly long journeys.
It’s a shame that some of the BMW’s driver assistance systems cost extra, but if you don’t mind paying a little bit more for some key optional extras, then the X1 is one of the very best small family SUVs on sale.
Read on for our in-depth interior, practicality and driving review sections, or head over to our BMW X1 deals page to see how much you can save on your next new car.
The BMW X1 is just about spacious enough for five adults, has a big boot and makes fitting a child seat easy, but backache sufferers will be unhappy that lumbar adjustment is optional
The BMW X1 proves an SUV can be fun to drive and very practical – no other car this size walks that tightrope quite so well
You’ll be able to get comfy behind the wheel of the BMW X1 no matter how tall or short you are, thanks to a driver’s seat and steering wheel with a full range of adjustment. The BMW’s dashboard points towards the driver, so everything is really easy to operate, and the pedals in the BMW X1 aren’t offset like they are in other BMW models.
Heated seats are fitted as standard to xLine and M Sport cars but are an option on the rest of the range, while lumbar support is, annoyingly, also an option on all models. Both are worth considering if you’re susceptible to backache on long drives.
BMW’s electric front seats with driver memory are also worth buying if you share the car with another driver. Aside from having electric adjustment that’s less fiddly than doing it manually, their memory function means the seat can return back to your exact driving position at the press of a button.
Adults will be fine in the back seats and the BMW X1 has more head and legroom than you get in the Mercedes GLA or Audi Q3. The seat even reclines a few degrees to let you relax on a long journey and it slides forwards and backwards on runners so you can choose between having more rear legroom or extra boot space.
The BMW X1 also copes admirably with three in the back. The middle seat is a little narrow, but a third passenger will be comfy enough, and the hump in the floor isn’t an issue because the footwells are big enough to share.
Even fitting child seats is easy. The BMW X1’s SUV-style raised ride height means you don’t have to bend your back when fitting the seat, plus the Isofix points are clearly marked and the doors open wide.
The BMW X1 comes with vast amounts of handy storage compartments. All the door pockets can carry more than one bottle of water at a time, the glovebox is large enough to take a large and a smaller bottle of water at once and there’s a hidden cubby under the front centre armrest complete with a USB plug to charge your phone.
That’s not all. The BMW X1 comes with an Extended Storage pack fitted as standard, which throws in map holders on the backs of the front seats, a rear centre armrest with two cupholders and a phone tray, a 12V socket for the rear seats and the boot, and a height-adjustable cargo net.
The BMW X1’s boot has a 505-litre capacity. That’s large enough for a few large suitcases – and more than you can fit in a Volvo XC40 460-litre – but it’s outclassed by the 530-litre Audi Q3 and 570-litre Mercedes GLB.
It does come with various cubbies and tethers to keep the boot tidy and your luggage secure, however, and you also get a 12V socket for plugging in a portable vacuum and a huge underfloor storage tray that’ll swallow a small suitcase.
The general design is also well thought out. There’s no load lip so you can easily slide in heavy luggage and the floor remains flat when you fold the rear seats away. The only annoyance is the two-piece rear parcel shelf that is a pain to remove and replace.
With the back seats up, the BMW X1 has no problem carrying a baby stroller or a set of golf clubs, and you can expand its carrying capacity to 1,550 litres with the back seats folded, so there’s space for a bike without you having to take its wheels off.
All models come with handy three-way (40:20:40) split rear seats that mean you can carry a maximum of two people in the rear with something long poking through from the boot.
The BMW X1 grips well and doesn’t lean too much in corners – it’s sportier to drive than alternatives, but to get the best from it you’ll need to spend extra on options
The BMW X1 handles like the late great Jonah Lomu – it’s large but surprisingly light on its feet
If you’re looking for something a bit faster, you should consider the 190hp 20d model. It’ll reach 60mph from rest in less than 7.8 seconds and doesn’t use much more fuel than the 18d version once you’re up to speed. It costs a bit more to buy but makes a good motorway cruiser.
If you spend more time driving in town than on the motorway, you should check out some of the BMW X1’s petrol engines. The 140hp 18i is perfectly capable of carrying you and four friends around without feeling strained, while the faster 20i models 20i is the most athletic X1 you can buy. Neither can match the diesel cars’ fuel economy, but they’re smoother, quieter and cost less to buy.
The BMW X1 manages to be a very practical car that is also decent fun to drive. As ever with a BMW, to truly get the best from it you’ll need to spend a little extra money on options.
First on the list should be the excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox. It shuffles through gears with a creamy smoothness that makes the BMW X1 extremely comfortable to drive, but it responds rapidly if you’d rather choose when to change gear yourself.
It’s particularly worth considering if you do lots of town driving because it means you don’t have to operate the clutch in stop-start traffic. Its ‘creep’ function also makes low-speed manoeuvring easier than in an Audi Q3 automatic that tends to lurch at low speeds.
Parking the BMW X1 is easy because all models come with rear parking sensors and the car’s raised ride height gives you a decent view out. The only blind spot worthy of note is at the rear pillars on either side of the back windscreen, so it’s worth forking out for the rear camera.
It’s also worth paying extra for the adaptive dampers. They let you choose between a comfortable ride on the motorway or in town, and a tauter setup when you want to give it the beans on a country road.
And that might happen more often than you think because although the BMW X1 is a practical family car at heart, it’s also good fun to drive. There’s plenty of grip in the bends and remarkably little body lean.
In fact, the X1’s only real weakness is the amount of tyre roar that gets into the cabin at a cruise because all but basic SE models come with 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s more noticeable than in other small SUVs because you won’t hear a great deal of engine or wind noise at speed.
It’s a shame that the Driving Assistant Plus – which includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, automatic headlights and adaptive cruise control – is a rather expensive optional extra.
The BMW X1’s interior feels expensive and its dashboard is intuitively laid out. Pricey M Sport cars get lovely Alcantara suede seats, but the top-of-range infotainment costs extra
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