BMW X1 xDrive 23d SE

Pondering the merits of its existence in the first place, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER says that judged on its own merits, BMW’s X1 is a reasonably attractive proposition.


David Hooper wonders if there is a place in the market for the X1.

HERE is another of those cars which leaves me wondering why? Why has its maker gone to all the trouble and expense of bothering to make it at all. Why is it needed? Why would anyone buy it? Just . . . why?
For many years buying a car was simple, the model ranges were clearly defined and generally speaking, the bigger the car, the more it cost. Fine. Everyone knew where they stood.
Take BMW as an example. The choice was fairly simple. If you wanted a compact saloon there was the 3-Series. If you needed more space there was the 5-Series, and if you wanted an executive car, you could have the 7-Series. Yes, there were different derivatives within those model ranges, but the choices were clearly defined.

The interior of the X1 is bright and clean.

Cars with the “X” designation represented the 4x4s. The X5 was first, and then came the X3, which offered a smaller, cheaper, and arguably more environmentally acceptable alternative to the enormous and imposing X5.
Then along came the 1-Series, a more compact compact, with slightly lower starting prices, but still offering the high quality standards BMW customers expect.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that the X1 should come along. It fills a gap in BMW’s range, filling in the space in the brochures below the X3 and X5 ranges, but is it a gap that needed filling?
The entry model can be yours for less than £23,000, while the cheapest X3 will cost you just over £3,000 more. The car I’ve been testing is the top of the range 23d model, which costs just over £29,000, while the dearest X3 costs almost £40,000.

rear seats
You can’t accuse the X1 of being dark in the back!

Between the cheapest and dearest models in both ranges then, there is quite a gap, but in between, especially when you add the £8,000-worth of options to the price of the car I’ve been testing, which actually gives you the X1 that I would want to buy, there is a lot of overlapping between the two ranges.
Then we come to the size of the cars. They are so similar they are difficult to tell apart, unless you stand them side-by-side. Of course, there are differences, but the X3 is only marginally bigger than its sibling.
So all this begs the question: Is the X1 the runt of BMW’s litter? No, is the short answer, it isn’t. If you forget about the X3 and judge the X1 as a car in its own right, you will find little to dislike.
Your neighbours will be in no doubt that the new motor on your drive is a BMW. It’s double kidney grille at the front, which looks large on this car, and the BMW badges fore and aft, will quickly give that game away, but even without the badges, its styling is fairly unmistakable.
Its interior is as plush as they come, the optional cream leather upholstery making it a very pleasant place to be, while the large double length glass sunroof adds to the light and airy ambience of the car’s interior.
Small it maybe, but it doesn’t feel any less substantial for that. The ride quality is firm and the steering feels quite heavy at low speeds.

The X1 may be a compact model, but the luggage space is pretty good.

All the X1 models are powered by two-litre diesel engines, two models are rear wheel drive, while the other three in the line-up are driven by all four wheels. My test car was the most powerful of the five models, with 204bhp, which gives this X1 rapid  performance and impressive levels of grip through the corners, even on the damp and greasy road conditions we have at the moment.
Although the last of the snow had melted away when my X1 arrived, I would have been glad of its four-wheel-drive ability and increased safety just a week before.
Adults can sit comfortably in the back of the car, although the leg room isn’t overly generous, and the sills of the car protrude beyond the doors, which meant I regularly had dirty trouser legs!
The boot is a usable size, and the rear seats can also be folded down if required.
Owners of an X1 then will not feel hard done to in any department, but I think they should still ask themselves whether an X3 would better suit their needs, particularly if they are considering one of the dearer models in the X1 range.
The X1 fills a niche and keeps BMW’s model range tidy in its brochures. Whether it was necessary to fill that niche, only its sales figures will reveal in time to come, but the car itself has a lot going for it.

Rating: ★★★½☆

BMW X1 xDrive 23d SE.

BMW X1 RANGE: From sDrive 18d SE (£22,660) to xDrive 23d SE (£29,055).

ENGINE: 1995cc, 204bhp four-cylinder engine, driving four wheels through 6-speed automatic gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 167g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 127mph. 0-62mph in 7.3 secs.

ECONOMY: City: 36.2mpg.
                 Country: 51.4mpg.
                 Combined: 44.8mpg.
                 Fuel tank: 61 litres.

WARRANTY: 3 years/Unlimited mileage.

PRICE: £29,055.