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. However, lesser models are missing some desirable safety features.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Enjoyable to drive
- High-quality interior
- Practical cabin and boot
What's not so good
- Road noise
- Expensive safety options
- Diesel engines sound rough
BMW X1: what would you like to read next?
As an addition to the ever-growing list of premium small SUVs, the BMW X1 stands alongside cars like the Q3 and Mercedes GLA. You may have to fork out a bit more cash than for some of its peers, but it’s also more practical and spacious, feeling like the business-class upgrade to the alternatives.
The X1 is a solid choice for families looking to graduate from handy hatchbacks like the BMW 1 Series. For starters, the X1’s interior is very spacious for you and three passengers. A fourth could fit in the middle rear seat but would feel slightly cramped. The seats are all comfortable and will hold you well as you drive.
Meanwhile, the X1’s boot is the biggest in the its class. It’s practical, too: there’s no load lip, the rear seats can be folded forward with easy-to-find buttons by the boot lid and there’s a great amount of under-floor storage.
The infotainment is similarly brilliant. The X1 comes with BMW’s iDrive, which is one of the best systems currently on the market. It remains considerably intuitive to navigate and the rotary dial controller is just sensitive enough. The graphics are very crisp and it comes well-equipped with a satnav and DAB, USB and Bluetooth compatibility.
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.
The safety and driver assistant features aren’t quite as remarkable. Desirable kit like Driving Assistant Plus – which includes automatic emergency braking – rear parking cameras and front and rear parking sensors are all optional extras, and not exactly cheap.
The X1 is as easy to drive as its smaller, 1 Series sibling – if not more so. The X1’s ride height and excellent visibility mean it will be a proficient town car, ideal for the school run or work commutes. It grips the road extremely well and both the steering and suspension give you, the driver, top-notch feedback as you make the jump to motorway-level speeds. The smallest available wheels, found on the SE trim, are the best and give the smoothest ride. Noise is the main downside; it emanates quite loudly from the tires.
Of the engine options available for the X1, the diesels perform the best and – if you drive a lot – are the cheapest to run in the long-term. However, they can also sound pretty rough and archaic out on the road.
All the same, the BMW X1 is still an excellent small SUV and can provide all the smoothness, spaciousness and practicality that a family will need in their day-to-day lives.
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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 is optional even in these models
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 vast amount of storage space the BMW X1 offers cements its status as a great family car. All the door pockets can carry more than one bottle of water at a time, the glovebox is huge enough to take a large and a smaller bottle of water at the same time, 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 boot has a 505-litre capacity that’s bigger than you get in the Mercedes GLA (481 litres) and the Audi Q3 (420 litres).
It also loaded with features with various cubbies and tethers to keep the boot tidy and your luggage secure, a 12V socket that’s handy for a portable vacuum, and huge underfloor storage that’ll swallow a small suitcase.
The general design is also well thought out. There’s no load lip so you can slide in heavy luggage without having to lift it in 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 its outright capacity means it is better able for carrying suitcases than the likes of the Audi Q3 or the Mercedes GLA.
Fold the back seats down and space leaps to 1,550 litres, which means the BMW X1 has room for a bike without you having to take its wheels off, and even with a full complement of cardboard boxes there’s space left over for a suitcase and soft bags.
All models come with handy 40:20:40 splitting 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
Performance increases with the 190hp 120d and 230hp 125d without harming fuel economy too much, but the latter in particular is completely wasted in a sensible family car like this.
If you want to make your BMW X1 feel a bit sportier then the petrol 192hp 220i is a better option than the quicker diesels – it revs more freely, is smoother and sounds nicer. It gets from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and can return none-too-shabby fuel economy of 44.8mpg. Most important of all, it’s cheaper than the 225d with the same trim.
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 can also change gear quickly when you want to get a move on. 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 if you’re not overly keen on reverse parking it’s worth forking out for a 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, or 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 with lots of grip in 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 rolling on huge 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s more noticeable than in other small SUVs because the BMW X1 suffers from very little engine or wind noise.
And that’s all you really have to worry about on the motorway because the BMW X1 secured a five-star rating for safety in 2015 and comes with automatic emergency braking as standard.