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First Drive

2015 BMW X1 xDrive20d review

BMW's X1 gets a substantial makeover in its bid to mount a fiercer challenge to rivals like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA

Words ByNic Cackett

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Although little more than a raised-up BMW 3 Series, the BMW X1 proved a popular choice with buyers when it launched in 2009. Its timing was perfect, catching the early flush of enthusiasm for smaller, premium crossovers ahead of its rivals.

Its all-new replacement, based on BMW’s new compact platform, targets greater presence and increased practicality among its other advances. Expect the biggest seller in the new range to be the ever popular xDrive20d variant, as driven here.

What's the 2015 BMW X1 like to drive?

Efforts to make over the X1 as a proper X model extend to the driving experience. While the entry-level sDrive18d is now front-wheel drive, most models will feature a new all-wheel-drive system that delivers exemplary amounts of grip.

The car’s balance is more nose-focused than in other xDrive products, but that doesn't detract from the X1’s ability to convey confidence at speed. Its stability, expressed via typically weighty steering, is admirable, as is the taut body control, apparently impervious to the effects of that higher roofline.

The power, provided by a new generation of BMW’s familiar 2.0-litre diesel engine, is commendable too. It remains a raspy unit when pushed, but the results are endearing: amiably brisk in town and hard working through the mid-range and beyond it.

A new eight-speed automatic adds to the car’s tractable nature, and contributes to an improved efficiency that sees CO2 emissions drop to 128g/km and economy up to a claimed 57.6mpg, both slightly better than the equivalent Ingenium-engined Range Rover Evoque.

On the minus side, the X1’s firm ride quality is a little unsettled on British roads, and the brakes are over-assisted at the top of the pedal’s travel, but neither significantly blot the car’s copy book.

What's the 2015 BMW X1 like inside?

Getting your head around the alterations made to the X1’s proportions is really the key to understanding it. To ensure it looks more like a rugged SUV, the new model has been made significantly taller, meaning its already decent all-round head room is much improved.

It gets a longer wheelbase too (despite being marginally shorter overall) meaning there’s extra leg room - by as much as 66mm if you take the optionally adjustable rear seats, and are willing to impinge on boot space.

There is more of that too; as much as 85 litres, according to BMW, which includes a healthy amount of hideaway space beneath the boot floor. It helps that the car is a little wider, although that hasn’t made the middle seat of the redesigned rear bench any more habitable. However, with its larger windows contributing to the airiness, the X1 now accommodates two adults in the rear comfortably.

Like the platform, the dashboard architecture is shared with the 2 Series Active Tourer, meaning it's pleasant enough, being solidly built and sensibly laid out - all substantial improvements on its predecessor.

Should I buy one?

A change in the architecture and the superior styling has certainly given BMW’s smallest SUV an identity to call its own. It's one that, on this initial encounter, seems more likable than the Q3 and GLA that Audi and Mercedes-Benz have derived from their own respective hatchbacks.

At Β£33,680 on the road, the high spec xLine trim tested is competitive rather than overtly good value, but BMW might find that’s sufficient to make this more practical and potent X1 as successful as the previous version.

What Car? says...

The rivals

Audi Q3

Mercedes GLA

BMW X1 xDrive20d xLine Engine size 2.0-litre diesel Price from Β£33,680 Power 188bhp Torque 295lb ft 0-62mph 7.6 seconds Top speed 136mph Fuel economy 57.6mpg CO2 127g/km