Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level 18i has a 1.5-litre petrol engine and is available only with front-wheel drive. It’s essentially the same engine you'll find in a Mini Cooper and delivers adequate, if not especially sporty, acceleration – 0-62mph takes 9.7sec. But we reckon it's the pick for most buyers because the more powerful 20i costs a fair bit more to buy and run.
The 18d is also worth a look if you do lots or miles and are willing to consider a diesel. It pulls harder than the petrols at low revs, so feels a lot quicker than the 0-62mph time of 9.3sec would suggest. Indeed, it feels stronger than the equivalent Range Rover Evoque D150 or Volvo XC40 D3. You also get the option of four-wheel drive, so we don't see the point in going for the faster xDrive20d.
We haven't tried the plug-in hybrid xDrive25e yet but, on paper, it's surprisingly nippy and can be driven on electric power alone for up to 31 miles, according to the official WLTP tests.
Suspension and ride comfort
The X1 has stiffer suspension than the majority of family SUVs, so you do feel more of lumps, bumps and potholes. While the ride is never truly uncomfortable or jarring, if comfort is a top priority you would be better off with a Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40.
Naturally, the X1 is most agreeable on its smallest 17in alloys wheels, which come as standard on SE models. Go for a higher trim level and you'll get 18in rims that worsen comfort slightly, which is compounded by the stiffer suspension fitted to M Sport models. The optional 19in and 20in alloys are really best avoided.
Adaptive suspension is optional on M Sport models. You can make the suspension firmer at the touch of a button to improve cornering, or soften it for added comfort. However, while the different modes do make a noticeable difference, even the softest setting still delivers a fairly firm ride.
That relatively stiff suspension does at least prevent the X1 from leaning much through corners. Compared with an Evoque or an XC40, for example, it's far more agile and stays more upright through corners. Indeed, the X1 handles more like a regular hatchback or saloon than most family SUVs.
The steering doesn't give you a brilliant sense of connection with the front wheels, but it's still possible to have some fun along a winding country road. The less practical BMW X2 an even better choice if you want something sporty, though.
Although four-wheel drive is available on selected engines, it’s only really useful in slippery conditions because the X1 doesn’t have a great deal of ground clearance. Unsurprisingly, the Evoque is a much better option if you need to go off road.
Noise and vibration
There’s some wind noise on the motorway, although not enough to really bother you. More of an annoyance is the amount of road roar the X1's tyres generate; at 70mph the noise is loud enough to force you and your passengers to speak with raised voices.
The diesel engines can sound a bit gruff under hard acceleration, but they’re quiet at a steady cruise and transmit little vibration through the controls. The petrol engines are pretty smooth and hushed, too, although the Evoque is a quieter car overall.
Meanwhile, the shift action of the X1's manual gearbox is notchier than we'd like and certainly not as slick as a Volkswagen Tiguan's. You can have an automatic gearbox on the 18i and 18d if you're prepared to pay extra, although it isn't as good as the auto 'box you get as standard on the more powerful 20d and 20i models.
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