BMW X1: driven

* We test drive new SUV * On sale next month * Prices start at £22,660...

BMW X1: driven

BMW X1: what is it?

BMW's all-new compact SUV, a rival for vehicles such as the Land Rover Freelander and Volkswagen Tiguan.

What's it like to drive

The X1 is available with a choice of three 2.0-litre diesel engines. The 18d has 141bhp, the 20d 175bhp and the 23d produces 201bhp. As you'd expect, the 23d is quick, but the 20d is strong and flexible enough to meet most buyers' needs. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the 18d and 20d, while a six-speed auto is standard on the 23d and optional with the 20d.

BMW claims that the X1 provides 'supreme agility in its class. That's maybe a bit strong, but it handles sharply and xDrive (four-wheel-drive; rear-wheel-drive models are badged sDrive) versions grip tenaciously. The steering is communicative, too, although the initial turn-in to corners could be sharper.

The firm suspension won't be to all tastes BMW might have been better trading a little cornering sharpness for a more forgiving ride.

As with the closely related 3 Series, the X1 shuts out road and suspension noise brilliantly and there's little wind noise to trouble you at speed. It's a shame, then, that the X1's 2.0-litre diesel engine doesn't seem as hushed as it does in the 3 Series. It's rather gruff, in fact.

What's it like inside?

Like most BMWs, the X1 is blessed with an excellent driving position and supportive seats. You don't sit as high as in a full-on SUV, but all-round visibility is good. The dashboard is well ordered and easy to use, too.

Choose the optional satellite-navigation system and the latest, user-friendly version of BMW's iDrive system comes as standard.

BMW makes much of the X1's versatility and suitability to sporty, active types but, in truth, it's no more practical than some small family hatchbacks that cost half the price.

Headroom is generous, but rear legroom is merely average and the bulky centre tunnel and rear wheelarches are intrusive. The boot is a decent size, however, and it's easy to fold the rear seats totally flat for more space.

For now, the X1 is available in one trim level SE and you get plenty of kit for your money. Dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and a leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel come as standard.

Options include a reversing camera, panoramic glass sunroof and adaptive headlights.

How much? Running costs?

The X1 is hardly cheap for a car of its size, but the lower-end models are reasonably priced compared with rivals such as the Ford Kuga. Running costs for the sDrive models are low, thanks to excellent fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but as you push up the range, so the costs start to escalate.

Most versions are likely to hold their value pretty well.

The X1's solid build quality and switchgear are what we've come to expect from BMW, but some of the plastics don't have the dense, soft-touch feel that those in a 3 Series do and some of the fittings aren't as classy as you'd expect for a premium brand car. BMW's reliability record is generally excellent, however.

The xDrive models come with the reassurance of four-wheel drive and all X1s have a stability control system. BMW's Performance Control system, which distributes power between the rear wheels, is an option. Six airbags are fitted as standard.

Prices BMW X1 sDrive18d SE 22,660
BMW X1 xDrive18d SE 23,940
BMW X1 sDrive20d SE 24,205
BMW X1 xDrive20d SE 25,510
BMW X1 xDrive23d SE 29,055

The low running costs and the sharp handling of BMW's smallest SUV are appealing, but the cabin is a little short of space and quality.