BMW X1 review

Category: Family SUV

The X1 is a spacious premium family SUV that's available as a plug-in hybrid

BMW X1 front right driving
  • BMW X1 front right driving
  • BMW X1 rear cornering
  • BMW X1 dashboard
  • BMW X1 boot
  • BMW X1 driver display
  • BMW X1 right driving
  • BMW X1 front driving
  • BMW X1 front right driving
  • BMW X1 rear right driving
  • BMW X1 rear driving
  • BMW X1 left static
  • BMW X1 grille
  • BMW X1 headlights
  • BMW X1 alloy wheel
  • BMW X1 rear lights
  • BMW X1 rear detail
  • BMW X1 front seats
  • BMW X1 back seats
  • BMW X1 infotainment touchscreen
  • BMW X1 interior door detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
  • BMW X1 front right driving
  • BMW X1 rear cornering
  • BMW X1 dashboard
  • BMW X1 boot
  • BMW X1 driver display
  • BMW X1 right driving
  • BMW X1 front driving
  • BMW X1 front right driving
  • BMW X1 rear right driving
  • BMW X1 rear driving
  • BMW X1 left static
  • BMW X1 grille
  • BMW X1 headlights
  • BMW X1 alloy wheel
  • BMW X1 rear lights
  • BMW X1 rear detail
  • BMW X1 front seats
  • BMW X1 back seats
  • BMW X1 infotainment touchscreen
  • BMW X1 interior door detail
  • BMW X1 interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

It's said that history remembers only brilliant failures and brilliant successes – and the BMW X1 falls into the second camp. Since the first-generation version was launched, more than 100,000 have found homes in the UK alone.

So why has this family SUV proved so popular? Well, with its premium badge, the original X1 was something of a trailblazer that cornered a new part of the market. It’s a success BMW hopes to build on with this third-generation model.

It seems to be off to a good start on paper. The latest X1 is larger than its predecessor, with more engine choices and just as much standard kit. Plus there are two plug-in hybrids with impressive electric-only ranges, along with a fully electric version (to read about that see our BMW iX1 review).

Does the BMW X1 continue to deliver on its posh and practical promise? Read on to find out as we tell you how it ranks against the best family SUVs – ranging from the Audi Q3 and Genesis GV70 to the Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40.

"The X1 struggles to stand out against the competition due to its hatchback-like driving position, numb steering and firm ride, plus an interior that feels cheap by premium family SUV standards." – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Overview

Some premium family SUVs are more comfortable and better to drive, but you won’t find any that are more spacious inside than the BMW X1. Your choice of engine will depend on whether you prioritise performance or fuel economy, unless you're shopping for a company car, in which case the PHEVs make most sense.

  • 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

Strengths

  • +Strong engines
  • +PHEVs have a competitive electric range
  • +Better handling than rivals

Weaknesses

  • -Firm ride
  • -Rivals have quieter engines
  • -Steering feels a bit light at speed

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The BMW X1’s engine line-up starts with the sDrive20i petrol, which gets 168bhp and can officially propel the car from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds – slightly faster than the Volvo XC40 B3.

Alternatively, there’s the 215bhp xDrive23i, which feels more urgent and cuts the 0-62mph to 7.1 seconds, or the fastest version – the M35i xDrive – which does the sprint in a brisk 5.4 seconds.

There are also two petrol plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), the xDrive25e (0-62mph in 6.8 seconds) and xDrive30e (5.7 seconds). Officially they can go 53 miles on electricity alone, which is further than PHEV versions of the Range Rover Evoque and XC40.

If you want a diesel X1, there are two engine options. The 148bhp sDrive18d can officially propel the car from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. It’s not exciting  but it is quick enough to rival the entry-level diesel Evoque for performance. The more powerful xDrive23d shaves a second or so off the sprint time and you can feel the difference.

The X1 comes with front-wheel drive if it's fitted with one of the sDrive engines or four-wheel drive if it has an engine with xDrive in the name.

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.

BMW X1 image
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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 or plushness as a Genesis GV70, Evoque or XC40.

BMW X1 rear cornering

Handling

The pay-off for the X1's firm ride is a more dynamic driving experience than you get in most family SUVs. Body control is good, and the car feels more agile than the GV70, Evoque and XC40.

The steering is direct but also incredibly light. That's fine around town, where the X1 is effortless to squeeze into parking spaces and while performing tight manoeuvres. At higher speeds there's not a great sense of connection to the front wheels, and that robs you of a bit of confidence.

Noise and vibration

The X1's xDrive23i petrol engine is noticeably noisier than the equivalent Evoque or XC40 engine, and the sDrive18d diesel is even gruffer. There’s also a fair bit of wind noise and road roar at motorway speeds.

The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is impressively swift and subtle in its shifts. There’s no manual gearbox option.

"Both the X1 xDrive23i and the much more powerful Genesis GV70 rocketed from 0-60mph in an identical 6.7 seconds in our test, because the Genesis is slowed down by its significantly greater weight." – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Strengths

  • +Good interior quality
  • +Infotainment software responds quickly

Weaknesses

  • -Physical rotary controller has been removed
  • -Driving position could be better

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. You don't get lumbar support as standard, and we think you'd be wise to add it as an option if you'll be doing long journeys.

On the minus side, some people might find that the top of the steering wheel cuts off the top of the standard digital driver's display and the steering wheel is fractionally offset to the left, making it a bit trickier to get comfortable.

Ironically, the X1 has become less user-friendly with this latest generation because there are no physical buttons for the climate control and other important functions (you have to use the infotainment touchscreen or the voice command system).

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

You sit lower down in the X1 than in the Genesis GV70, Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40 but it has big windows so visibility is good.

Every X1 has a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and bright LED headlights, so it's as easy to park and drive at night as any family SUV

The optional "augmented view" digital driver's display shows navigation directions on the head-up display as if they’re projected on to the road. It only works if you’re using the car’s sat-nav though. If you're using a sat-nav app through the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring (which is standard on all X1s), you won't get the same fancy look.

BMW X1 dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every X1 gets a 10.25in digital driver's display plus a 10.7in touchscreen infotainment system. The good news is that the infotainment (which BMW calls Operating System 9) 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 family SUV class-leading system to one that's merely quite good and fiddly to use when you're driving. The most intuitive system on the market is the one found in the Genesis GV70 (which has a touchscreen and a control dial).

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 Genesis GV70 and the Range Rover Evoque look and feel far more luxurious inside.

"A wireless mobile phone charging pad is standard, but its poor design means your phone is likely to go flying as soon as you turn a corner. What's more, abandonment of BMW’s iconic rotary infotainment controller is a backwards step." – Steve Huntingford, Editor

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Strengths

  • +Big boot
  • +Versatile rear seats
  • +Lots of front and rear space

Weaknesses

  • -Narrow middle seat

Front space

In the front, the BMW X1 offers lots of head room 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 second-generation X1 was already one of the best family SUVs for practicality and the latest version is even bigger.

You’ll find class-leading head and leg room in the back, and 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 boot

Seat folding and flexibility

There are handy levers in the X1's boot for occasions when you need to fold down the rear seats. The seatbacks divide into three sections in a 40/20/40 split (rather than the more common 60/40 arrangement), which is very handy.

You can have sliding rear seats as a reasonably priced option that allows you to prioritise either rear knee room or boot space depending on your needs.

Boot space

The X1's boot offers 500 litres of storage volume, which is around 60 litres more than the Volvo XC40 and 42 litres less than the Genesis GV70. Even so, it's an impressive boot size by family SUV standards and includes a useful amount of underfloor storage.

Thanks to the X1 boot's shape, we managed to fit in more carry-on suitcases below its load cover than either of those rivals: the X1 swallowed eight cases against seven in the XC40 and six in the GV70.

Versions of the X1 with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine lose 10 litres of boot space to the hybrid tech.

"The X1 feels airier in the back than the XC40, thanks to having taller side windows. It’s just a shame that the middle seat is rather narrow and its backrest a little too firm." – Claire Evans, Consumer Editor

 

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Strengths

  • +Good amount of standard equipment
  • +Longer warranty than rivals
  • +PHEV has low BIK rates

Weaknesses

  • -EV rivals are even cheaper for company car drivers
  • -Some rivals get slightly more safety kit

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The BMW X1 will cost you about the same as an Audi Q3 or Volvo XC40 as a cash purchase, but much less than a Genesis GV70 or Range Rover Evoque. You can check the latest prices for any model on our New Car Deals pages.

Naturally, company car users will be drawn to the plug-in hybrid versions, which – thanks to the 53-mile official range – sit in the 8% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band. You'll pay even less BIK tax for the fully electric version. To read about that see our BMW iX1 review.

Private buyers will be pleased to learn that regular (non-PHEV) 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. There’s also the top-spec M35i for those after the sportiest X1 – that version is the only one to get the most powerful M35i engine.

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 driver display

Reliability

 

BMW came 12th out of 32 brands in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – below Volvo (ninth place) but way above Land Rover (28th).

Petrol versions of the X1 were some of the most dependable family SUVs out there, managing to secure a top 10 position out of a 34-strong field. The diesels didn’t do as well, placing in the bottom third.

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. It’s difficult to directly compare the X1's safety with the GV70 and XC40 because both were tested under less stringent regimes in earlier years.

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

"While the X1 does get standard-fit AEB, the GV70 and XC40 also provide road sign detection and blindspot monitors. The XC40 even gets a rear cross-traffic alert system as standard." – Stuart Milne, Digital Editor


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FAQs

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £4,101
Target Price from £33,438
Save up to £4,101
or from £372pm
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Nearly new deals
From £34,940
RRP price range £35,410 - £53,770
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)7
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, diesel, petrol
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 / £3,824
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,193 / £7,648
Available colours