At first glance the new X1 might look pretty similar to the outgoing version, but in truth it’s a machine almost entirely transformed from the original. For starters it rides on a new platform shared with the 2 Series Active Tourer and uses a new four-wheel-drive system on models so equipped. The engines are updated and the automatic gearbox is new, while the exterior has been thoroughly revamped.
Inside there’s a new cabin, also loosely related to its 2 Series sibling as well as an upgraded specification. In the UK we’ll get one front-wheel-drive diesel version and three 4WD versions – two diesel and one petrol.
It’s a relatively compact car still so the X1 clearly sits on the first step of BMW’s X models but there have been significant changes to its appearance. Considerably shorter but taller and wider than before, the X1 now carries more authority than before, and looks like a much closer relation to the bigger X3 and X5 models. It wears the bolder, larger kidney grille of the bigger models and gives off quality vibes, which is exactly what will attract the majority of potential buyers.
The important thing about switching to the new platform is that the engines are now transversely fitted up front, freeing up more space in the cabin. The driving position has been raised significantly so you sit with the authoritative driving position that is all important in this sector. Head and legroom is good too, especially as those in the front and rear sit more upright, increasing the feeling of space. Boot space has been usefully increased too, now offering 505 litres.
Given that the X1 is designed to offer practical and sensible everyday transport it comes as a surprise to discover just how well it drives. In xDrive25d guise there’s a 225bhp 2.0-litre diesel unit up front, and matched to a slick six-speed automatic it is almost faster than it needs to be – 0-62mph is despatched in just 6.6 seconds. Even so it provides a relatively relaxed driving experience with ample torque which should make short work of heavy loads.
It also stays faithful to the BMW ethos by being rewarding to drive at speed. The steering is quick, especially with the optional Active Steering system fitted, and it resists roll through the bends very well. The downside of this is the ride quality, which is on the firm side, although the right specification minimises the issue.
The standard specification is healthy even on the base xLine model, with DAB radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation and BMW’s emergency on-call assist are all thrown in, as are rear parking sensors and automatic headlights and wipers. Prices are still to be confirmed but the basic model with front-wheel-drive could prove to be very good value compared with the competition.
The X1 is well-placed to serve a very broad audience, as it offers good space inside but doesn’t take up a huge amount of road. Choose the right model and you get impressive fuel consumption – 65.7mpg from the sDrive18d version – which should make it pretty cheap to run too. It’s ideal as a family car but also has that bit of presence and quality that will make it desirable for singletons and couples.
Price: From £35,000
Engine: 2.0-litre unit producing 225bhp and 332lb/ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: Top speed 146mph, 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds
Economy: 56.5 mpg combined
Emissions: 132g/km of CO2