The BMW X1 is a small crossover that offers style, fun driving and a premium feel in an attractive package

The second generation BMW X1 is a total transformation from the original model. Where that car wasn't much more than a pumped-up 1 Series, the current car is more like a shrunken X3. The chunky looks create plenty of space inside, so it's ideal family transport for buyers who feel that a compact hatchback isn't big enough for their needs.

But this practicality doesn't come at the expense of driving fun, and enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that the X1 delivers the kind of satisfying handling that BMW is famous for. Both front and four-wheel drive versions are engaging to drive, while the range of three and four-cylinder turbo petrol engines deliver punchy performance combined with decent running costs. The X1 is a serious contender in the compact premium crossover sector.

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BMW X1 xDrive20d xLine

As the entry point to the BMW SUV range, the X1 is a great choice for buyers after a compact premium model. It certainly erases any memories of the first model, which was little more than a high-riding variation of the 1 Series hatchback.

The BMW X1 Mk2 went on sale in 2016 with the BMW model code F48. It's a ground-up redesign that's based on the same UKL2 platform as the MINI Countryman and Clubman, BMW 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers and the coupe-styled X2 crossover. This platform is offered with front or four-wheel drive, so unlike the previous X1, there's no rear-wheel-drive option on the current model. While that will be anathema to diehard BMW fans, the front-drive versions (badged sDrive) handle well, as do the xDrive 4WD variants.

BMW X1 vs Volvo XC40 vs Audi Q3

The biggest change for the second-generation X1 was the introduction of styling and dimensions that are more familiar to the larger X3 SUV than the 1 Series hatch. That means a raised ride height and a bigger body that creates more space inside, making the X1 a viable choice for buyers needing more space than a compact family hatchback can offer.

There are front and four-wheel drive variants available, with the majority of models coming with front-wheel drive as standard. The sDrive18i has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine making 139bhp, while the sDrive20i is a four-cylinder petrol making 190bhp. The sDrive18i has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while an eight-speed auto is offered as an option. This auto is standard with the 20i, while both petrol models are front-wheel-drive only, with no option to add xDrive 4WD.

The diesels comprise the sDrive18d with a 148bhp three-cylinder, six-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive, and the xDrive20d, which has a 187bhp four-cylinder diesel and four-wheel drive as standard. This model also has an eight-speed auto as standard, while this gearbox and the 4WD system can be added to the 18d for extra cost.

There are four variants of BMW X1 on sale: SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport. All cars come as standard with sat-nav and infotainment with connected services, a power tailgate, rear parking sensors, climate control, multifunction steering wheel and a sliding rear bench to boost versatility.

On top of this, Sport models add a slightly sportier look, with bigger wheels, black plastic detailing and two-colour interior trim, while xLine cars feature satin aluminium trim and different wheel designs. The M Sport lives up to its branding, with body coloured exterior trim and an extended bodykit, lowered suspension, pat-Alcantara seat trim and LED headlights.

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The BMW X1 is possibly the best handling small SUV on sale in the UK
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Efficient petrol and diesel engines put the BMW X1 at the front of the small premium SUV pack
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Second-generation BMW X1 goes for a traditional SUV shape with typical BMW styling cues
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Far better practicality than before, the BMW X1 is ideal compact family transport
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Proven platform and electronics, but autonomous braking is an option

Unlike some rivals, all engines are available in every trim, so you can have the basic 18i petrol in fully-specced M Sport trim, or the most powerful xDrive20d in subtle SE trim. Prices for the X1 start from around £27,600 and rise to around £36,000, which is about £3,000 less than the entry level X3. M Sport and xLine cars are the same price, so you're just choosing between a sporty or rugged look.

Two rivals for the X1 come from the same stable, in the shape of the BMW X2 and MINI Countryman. The former is a sportier looking alternative to the X1, which has racier looks, but not as much space inside, and carries a premium of around £2,500. The Countryman is around £4,000 less than the X1, but offers a bit less space.

Elsewhere, the Audi Q2, Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque, Mazda CX-3 and VW T-Roc can all be considered rivals to the X1, while a smaller budget can grab yourself a more versatile competitor in the shape of cars like the Peugeot 3008, Skoda Karoq and SEAT Ateca.

Last updated: 
13 Sep, 2018