BMW X1 review

Category: Family SUV

A very spacious premium family SUV available as a plug-in hybrid with an excellent electric-only range

BMW X1 front right tracking
  • BMW X1 front right tracking
  • BMW X1 rear right tracking
  • BMW X1 interior dashboard
  • BMW X1 interior rear seats
  • BMW X1 interior infotainment
  • BMW X1 right tracking
  • BMW X1 front cornering
  • BMW X1 rear tracking
  • BMW X1 rear right static
  • BMW X1 rear lights details
  • BMW X1 interior front seats
  • BMW X1 interior driver display
  • BMW X1 interior steering wheel
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 boot open seats down
  • BMW X1 front right tracking
  • BMW X1 rear right tracking
  • BMW X1 interior dashboard
  • BMW X1 interior rear seats
  • BMW X1 interior infotainment
  • BMW X1 right tracking
  • BMW X1 front cornering
  • BMW X1 rear tracking
  • BMW X1 rear right static
  • BMW X1 rear lights details
  • BMW X1 interior front seats
  • BMW X1 interior driver display
  • BMW X1 interior steering wheel
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 boot open seats down
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Introduction

What Car? says...

It's said that history remembers only brilliant failures and brilliant successes – and the BMW X1 definitely falls into the second camp. Since the first-generation version was launched in 2009, more than 100,000 have found homes in the UK alone. But why has it proved so popular?

Well, the original X1 was something of a trailblazer. You see, while it wasn’t the first family SUV to make driving prowess its forte, it was the first of its kind to wear a premium badge, and helped to establish one of the most lucrative corners of the market. It’s a success BMW hopes to build on with this third-generation model.

Not only is the X1 now physically bigger than it’s ever been, but it also features a range of petrol and diesel engines, most with some sort of hybrid technology. They include two plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that can officially travel up to 55 miles on electricity alone. (For the full electric car version, see our BMW iX1 review.)

It’s not just the sensible side of things that the X1 looks to have covered, either. As well as being spacious, its interior has a glitzy dual-screen layout on the dashboard that’s packed with features and, like your smartphone, it can receive over-the-air updates.

So does the BMW X1 deliver on its posh and practical promise – or are you better off with a different premium family SUV, such as the Audi Q3, the Genesis GV70 the Range Rover Evoque or the Volvo XC40? Well, we've driven them all, and over the next few pages of this review we'll tell you how the X1 stacks up in terms of performance, practicality, running costs and more.

Once you've picked the model for you, we can also help you find the best price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They have lots of new family SUV deals.

Overview

Some premium family SUVs are more comfortable and better to drive, but you won’t find any that are more spacious than the X1. The pure electric range on offer in the plug-in hybrid versions are impressive, too.

  • Big boot and lots of rear seat space
  • Fantastic electric range in the plug-in hybrids
  • Decent level of standard equipment
  • Firmer ride than in rivals
  • Lack of physical controls for infotainment
  • Engine refinement is disappointing
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The BMW X1’s engine line-up starts with the front-wheel-drive sDrive18d diesel, which gets 148bhp and can officially propel the car from 0-62mph in 8.9sec. It’s not exciting, but it is quick enough to rival the entry-level D165 diesel Range Rover Evoque (the Volvo XC40 no longer has diesel options). The other diesel in the X1’s range is the more powerful 208bhp mild-hybrid xDrive23d, which has four-wheel drive and trims the 0-62mph time to 7.2sec.

If you’re after petrol power, there’s a 215bhp mild-hybrid petrol xDrive23i, which is a tenth of a second quicker from 0-62mph than the xDrive23d and feels urgent in the way it builds speed. We timed one at our private test track accelerating from 0-60mph in just 6.7 seconds.

BMW X1 image
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The eye-catching engines might prove to be the two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options. There’s the xDrive25e (0-62mph in 6.8sec), and the more powerful xDrive30e (5.7sec). The 55-mile official electric-only range is impressive on paper, outgunning the PHEV versions of the Evoque and XC40.

Suspension and ride comfort

There are two suspension options for the X1 – the standard set-up and the M Adaptive system, which allows you to make the suspension firmer or softer at the touch of a button.

So far we've tried the adaptive version, and even in the Comfort setting, it can thump over road imperfections and feel a little unsettled. It's smoother at higher speeds, but doesn’t offer the same sophistication and plushness as the Genesis GV70, the Evoque or the XC40.

BMW X1 rear right tracking

Handling

Predictably, the pay-off for the X1's firm ride is a more dynamic driving experience. Body control is good, and the car feels a bit more agile than the GV70, the Evoque and the XC40.

The steering is direct, but it's also incredibly light. That's fine around town, where the X1 is effortless to squeeze into parking spaces and while performing tight manoeuvres, but at higher speeds it doesn’t offer a great sense of connection to the front wheels, which robs you of confidence.

Noise and vibration

The X1 sDrive18d’s gruff engine note is a pretty vocal companion in the interior, and while the other engine we’ve tried so far – the xDrive23i – is quieter, it’s still loud compared with an equivalent Evoque or XC40. There’s also a fair bit of wind noise and road roar at motorway speeds.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is standard on all engines, is impressive, though: it’s swift and subtle in its shifts. There’s no manual gearbox available.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

There’s a good range of adjustment in the BMW X1's seat and steering wheel, and the driver's seat has plenty of side support. Some people might find that the top of the steering wheel cuts off the top of the standard digital driver display, though, and the wheel is fractionally offset to the left, making it a bit trickier to get comfortable.

Adjustable lumbar support is reserved for the options list across the range. You'd be wise to add it if you cover a lot of motorway miles.

It’s a real frustration that there are no physical buttons to operate important functions including the climate controls and anything to do with the infotainment system. If you want to use any of the features, you’ll have to use the touchscreen or the voice command system – both of which are more fiddly and distracting to do than using the physical rotary controller on the 2015-2022 BMW X1.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

You sit lower in the X1 than you do in the Genesis GV70, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40 but it has tall side and rear windows so visibility is good.

A reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors come as standard on all models. LED headlights are standard across the range for excellent visibility at night.

The optional ‘augmented view’ shows helpful navigation directions on the head-up display as if they’re projected on to the road itself. It only works if you’re using the car’s built-in sat-nav though – you won’t get the same fancy look if you’re using a sat-nav app through the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.

BMW X1 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every X1 gets a 10.25in digital driver display plus a 10.7in touchscreen infotainment system. The good news is that the infotainment (which BMW calls Operating System 8) has loads of features, while the screen has very sharp graphics and responds to touch inputs rapidly.

The bad news is the need to operate its functions with the touchscreen or the voice command system (which is reasonably effective but far from perfect), rather than straightforward buttons. The same infotainment set-up can be found in the BMW 3 Series and BMW iX but they include rotary dial controllers, while the X1 and the closely related BMW iX1 and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer miss out on dials.

It might sound like a small change, but it’s enough to turn this from a class-leading system to one that's merely quite good and fiddly to use when you're driving. Indeed, the most intuitive system on the market is the one found in the GV70, which has a touchscreen and a rotary controller.

Quality

The interior of the X1 is up there with the better efforts in the family SUV class, both in terms of build quality and plushness of materials. There are quite a lot of plastics, but they at least feel high quality for the most part. And it all feels robust aside from some wobbly bits of trim on the centre console.

Overall, the interior is not as good as in the second-generation X1. The GV70 and the Evoque look and feel far more luxurious inside.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

In the front, the BMW X1 offers lots of headroom and the seats go back a long way, so even lanky folk will be able to get comfy.

There’s a pair of cupholders deep enough to hold large takeaway coffees. The door pockets are a good size and there’s a big storage tray under the central armrest.

Rear space

The outgoing X1 was already as practical a family SUV as you could find, and this new version is even bigger.

The larger dimensions of this third-generation model means you’ll struggle to find close rival that will accommodate tall adults in the rear seats with a greater level of comfort.

You’ll find class-leading head and leg room, and even three adults in the back should be manageable. It’s worth noting, though, that the Genesis GV70 has a wider and more comfortable middle seat.

BMW X1 interior rear seats

Seat folding and flexibility

There are handy levers in the boot for those occasions when you need to fold down the rear seats, and the seatbacks divide in a 40/20/40 split (rather than the usual 60/40 arrangement), which is super-handy.

Sliding rear seats are a reasonably priced option and allow you to prioritise either rear knee room or boot space, depending on your needs.

Boot space

At 540 litres, the X1's boot offers more than 100 litres more storage space than the Volvo XC40. It's a really impressive space by family SUV standards and includes a useful amount of underfloor storage.

For reference, we managed to fit eight carry-on suitcases below the load cover of the X1, compared to seven in the XC40 and six in the GV70.

The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the X1 lose just 10 litres of space over the other models.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The pricing of the BMW X1 is broadly in line with the Audi Q3, the Genesis GV70, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40 so (like those rivals) it’s not cheap.

Company car buyers will be drawn to the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions, which, thanks to the 55-mile official range, sit in the 8% benefit-in-kind tax band. That's lower than the 34-mile PHEV version of the Evoque (12%) and 28-mile XC40 (14%). The GV70 isn't available as a PHEV.

Private buyers will be pleased to learn that regular versions of the X1 are pretty frugal. On our real-world test route, the most powerful petrol version – the xDrive23i – returned an impressive 36.6mpg, compared to 34.3mpg for the XC40 B4 FWD and 25.8mpg for the GV70.

Equipment, options and extras

There are three main trim levels for the X1: Sport, xLine and M Sport. Even entry-level Sport is reasonably well equipped, with cruise control, a digital driver display, touchscreen infotainment, all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera.

The xLine trim adds some different styling, while M Sport tweaks the styling again and adds M Adaptive Suspension.

Each trim can be upgraded to a Technology Plus Pack version to add a head-up display, an upgraded sound system, high-beam assist, a self-parking system and other extras.

BMW X1 interior infotainment

Reliability

BMW came 16th out of 32 brands in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – just above Volvo (17th) and way above Land Rover (in 31st place).

The second-generation 2015-2022 BMW X1 was one of the most dependable family SUVs out there, but we don't yet have data for the latest version.

All X1s come with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, which is better cover than the three-year/60,000-mile warranties offered by Audi and Volvo.

Safety and security

The X1 received the top five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and earned high scores across the board. The GV70 outperformed the X1 when it came to protecting the chests of adult occupants in a frontal impact, and the necks and heads of children in lateral impacts. It’s difficult to directly compare the X1's safety with the XC40, which was tested under a less stringent regime in 2018.

The X1 gets automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard, but we recommend ticking the options box for the Driving Assistant Professional package. It adds lane-keeping assist, road-sign detection, blind-spot assist and a rear cross-traffic alert system.

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FAQs

  • The newest X1 was too new to be included in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but the previous-generation model was very reliable. BMW as a whole finished 16th out of 32 brands in the survey.

  • Yes. It's available with mild-hybrid petrol or diesel engines, plus two petrol plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) in the form of the xDrive25e and xDrive30e. If you want a full electric car have a look at our review of the closely related BMW iX1.

  • Good but not perfect. Every X1 gets a 10.7in touchscreen infotainment system, and it has sharp graphics and responds rapidly to touch inputs. However, it doesn’t get the fantastic BMW rotary iDrive controller, so it's not as user-friendly as some systems.

  • Pretty big by the standards of the class. At 540 litres, the X1's boot offers more than 100 litres more storage space than the Volvo XC40.

  • The Audi Q3. There is also a sleeker coupé SUV model called the Audi Q3 Sportback but no closely related electric car version to rival the BMW iX1.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £2,115
Target Price from £33,584
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From £32,999
RRP price range £34,935 - £53,770
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)7
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, petrol parallel phev, diesel
MPG range across all versions 353.1 - 60.1
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £597 / £3,820
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,193 / £7,639
Available colours