Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 184 quattro S line S tronic
List price £35,130
Target Price £31,549
This popular Audi SUV is now five years old, but it's still desirable and great to drive
BMW X1 xDrive20d xLine auto
List price £34,800
Target Price £32,419
The previous X1 wasn't BMW's finest hour. Does this new model fix the faults?
Range Rover Evoque 2.0 TD4 180 SE auto
List price £35,000
Target Price £33,869
Latest diesel engine brings improved refinement, lower CO2 emissions and better mpg.
The original BMW X1 was something of a trailblazer. It wasn’t the first small SUV with mainly on-road ambitions, but it was the first to wear a premium badge, and so it helped pave the way for one of the most lucrative markets in the modern car world.
Mind you, while the old X1 was ahead of its time in some ways, it also had a cramped and low-rent interior, things the latest model aims to remedy. Although based on the 2 Series Active Tourer, it offers a higher driving position than this MPV sibling and is available with four- as well as front-wheel drive.
To find out how good the new X1 is we’re pitting it against its closest rival, the Audi Q3. However, a £35k budget will also get you into the fashionable Range Rover Evoque, which, with Land Rover's latest diesel engine, promises to be surprisingly affordable to run.
What are they like to drive?
All three of these SUVs have 2.0-litre diesel engines with similar amounts of power. However, the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 are lighter than the Range Rover Evoque, which helps explain why both were significantly quicker than their rival in all of our acceleration tests.
There is little to split the Q3 and X1 against the stopwatch, although the BMW’s automatic gearbox is smoother in slow-moving traffic and that bit more responsive when you ask for a burst of acceleration. The Evoque’s is smooth enough in most situations, but there’s often a long pause between you pressing the accelerator pedal and the car surging forward, which can be rather unnerving when pulling on to roundabouts.
The Q3 and X1 are squatter than the Evoque, so it’s hardly surprising they’re that bit more agile. They suffer less body lean through corners and less nose-dive under braking, and both have more outright grip than the Evoque. Put simply, the baby Range Rover feels more like a big 4x4, whereas the German cars handle more like hatchbacks.
That being the case, we question why Range Rover has opted for such quick steering; it makes the Evoque feel nervous, particularly along narrow country lanes. The X1 and Q3 have slightly heavier steering, with the BMW’s being that little more precise and confidence-inspiring at speed.
Ride comfort, rather than agile handling, will understandably be the priority for many buyers, and it’s here the Q3 has a clear advantage. It smoothes over lumps and bumps that bit better than the X1, particularly over patchy surfaces.
The Evoque is the least comfortable; you notice your head being jostled from side-to-side when driving along any road that isn’t perfectly smooth and, while the problem is at its worst around town, the Range Rover never quite settles – even on the motorway. If you spend a lot of time on the motorway, you’ll appreciate the Q3’s comparatively peaceful cruising manners – it recorded the lowest decibel reading at 70mph.
The Evoque’s door mirrors whip up a fair amount of wind noise at speed, but that’s nothing compared with the din in the X1; its road noise is bad enough to force you into a shouting match with your passengers. We only hope the issue was down to our test car’s non-standard run-flat tyres (which are a £180 option), because it could prove a deal-breaker for anyone who regularly tackles long motorway journeys.
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