Smarter design, improved internal space and a whole host of technical improvements make BMW's smallest SUV very desirable. Better suited to smooth roads than rough tracks, it is more of a man about town than country gent.
- Exterior design
- Surefootedness of xDrive all-wheel-drive, fitted on all but one model variant
- Smooth and refined diesel
- Busy instrumentation and controls
- Unforgiving ride
The cross-over sector has experienced a dramatic increase in registrations (up 63% between 2004 and 2014, according to SMMT) and therefore represents a crucial market for all manufacturers. BMW has put its own spin on the SUV with a greater emphasis on sportiness, but it is a dichotomy fraught with challenge: the boxier shapes of SUVs affect vehicle dynamics considerably and sporty-plus-comfortable don't always go hand-in-hand. The X1 is BMW's smallest SUV and is therefore reasonably placed to accommodate these conflicting challenges and the all-new second generation brings evolved looks along with a whole host of technical improvements to enhance the driving and ownership experiences further.
While the new X1 carries a vaguely similar profile to the first model, it is considerably more handsome. It adopts a muscular pose, with the cabin sitting more assertively (53mm higher) above a stronger shoulder line. Proportions are more pleasing to the eye and the vehicle as a whole maintains a closer family resemblance to its larger X-range siblings.
Inside, the facia is classic BMW: two flat dials in front of the driver; popped-up toast style main display; extra banks of buttons for media/nav and climate, plus the iDrive interface behind the gear selector. It is all well executed but collectively it does look cluttered, especially with the matt Coral Red dashboard inserts on our test car. The speedo is particularly crowded, but thankfully the (optional) excellent head-up display - capturing just the critical information - means one rarely has to dip one's eyes. At night, the red back-lit dials and illuminated door cappings bring the cabin to life. Fit and finish is very good and the comfortable seats offer sensible back and lateral support. The powered boot lift (fitted to all models) is one of the better mechanisms, being both quick and quiet.
The X1 is available with one petrol engine or three diesel power outputs (all from two litre units) at launch. All use an updated version of BMW's xDrive four-wheel-drive system. (The sDrive two-wheel-drive option is available only with the lower 150PS diesel). Our mid output (190PS) diesel is smooth, punchy and works well with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. While performance is similar to the 192PS petrol, the diesel pushes out an additional third more torque.
Despite the height increase of the new X1, BMW has done an exceptionally good job of the handling. It is taught, turn-in is good, it remains flat and composed in the bends and the all-wheel-drive makes it incredibly grippy. Ride, even in Comfort mode, is on the firm side though, so it does force the driver to be extra vigilant where potholes are concerned. Even with its slightly ruggedised looks, the firm suspension (along with only modest ground clearance) mean the X1 is geared more to tarmac than mud. Sport mode does a good job in livening-up the proceedings and the clever Eco Pro mode now includes an unobtrusive free-wheeling ability to improve fuel consumption further.
As a balance then, the new X1 delivers increased internal space and improved looks, while the engines, drive train and handling will satisfy the driving enthusiast when there is a clear section of road to enjoy. The busy dashboard layout and complex iDrive menu system do take away some of the design purity but overall, it offers a satisfying, well-equipped and technically advanced package.
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