2015 BMW X1 driven


Most versions of the BMW X1 have four-wheel drive, even though few owners will go off road

Andrew English

WHO was first to put a compact SUV on sale? Who cares. I think the world would rather know who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. Nevertheless, BMW makes muted claims for it with its X1 (the former, that is, though it would be much more interesting if it was the latter).

Much more pertinent is that BMW launched the X1 in 2009 and has sold 730,000 examples since then, which is amazing when you consider what a grim thing it is. Built in Leipzig alongside the 1-series hatchback, even BMW insiders can’t believe how many folk have fallen in love with this desperately ordinary school-run ute. It’s part of the inexorable rise of the SUV that seems to see no one question whether a vehicle is any good before signing the PCP agreement.

Anyway, BMW has had a rethink on its smallest SUV (discounting the Mini Countryman) and given it a complete makeover. On the outside it’s taller, shorter and wider, with a smoother, more wind-cheating look and a bigger grille. But I had to feel sorry for the designer, Calvin Luk, who was hauled on stage at the launch to parrot on about how the fog lamp is now the “third eye” and the new X1 has “a larger than life, big attitude we call X-ness.” Could have been worse, Calvin, they might have had you saying how eXy the new car is…

Actually, it really is a better looking thing all round, but you are still going to lose it in the multi-storey. The interior benefits from a rethink on flexibility, gaining a front passenger seat that folds flat to take in really long loads of over two metres. There’s also more leg room in the rear seats, with a new three-section split-folding backrest as well as an optional sliding system, which moves the seats fore and aft by about 4cm. In either position, there’s room enough for three adults and plenty of luggage.
The range kicks off with the two-wheel-drive 18d diesel model, available for £26,780, while the 20d diesel (£30,630), 20i petrol (£31,225) and 25d diesel (£36,060) are all four-wheel drive.

The 20d is likely to be the best seller, but the car offered at the launch was, you’ve guessed it, the 25d. Its four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine produces 228bhp, enough to sprint the X1 from 0-62mph in just 6.6sec. But while leather upholstery, LED headlamps and heated seats are all standard on this range-topping model, our car was specced up to more than £40,000 with only a handful of extras.

These included a £495 driver assistance pack, featuring lane departure warning, auto dipping headlamps, forward collision alert, pedestrian protection braking, and speed limit information. But while most of these systems were reasonably effective, the speed-limit sign recognition failed to note so many limit changes it was effectively useless.

Still, the interior of the X1 really is a much nicer place than it was, with all the new design additions matching those on the updated 1-series. Only some questionable wood finishes for the dash and the fact the leather seats aren’t especially comfortable let it down.

There are decent-sized door pockets, good storage spaces and clear and easy-to-use controls, particularly the latest iDrive capstan control, which lets you scroll through onscreen menus and is such an improvement on the original as to be virtually unrecognisable. BMW has made great play of the high seating position for the second-generation X1 and certainly you spend the first ten minutes of the drive poking in vain at the seat lowering button.

The 25d diesel engine is pretty smooth at idle, with just a trace of vibration back through the major controls. On the move it’s surprisingly powerful with a good mid range which suits the eight-speed automatic gearbox’s ratios well. The ’box can be quite abrupt in its changes, though, and it doesn’t always take the hint when you gently press the throttle.
This is quite a sporting car, which feels at odds with the high driving position. On relatively smooth roads the X1 felt well planted up to a point. The damping control of the body is a great deal more sophisticated than in the previous model, which had a one dimensional, over-stiff approach to everything. The new car also turns into corners well and the body follows the front wheels with surprisingly little sway.

Unfortunately, the steering is so divorced from the road that you hear rather than feel some bumps, but the brakes are terrific with a strong initial grab; you quickly learn to not jab at the pedal. In fact, you have to be quite sensitive with all the major controls to avoid driving as if you’d filled with kangeroo petrol.

With a two-tonne towing limit, an electronically controlled Haldex-clutch-based four-wheel-drive system, this is quite a useful vehicle, but it’s doubtful that many will ever venture off road and the most that any of them will ever venture over is that difficult kerb stone outside Ikea.

You might wonder why people bother with something like this when a BMW 3-series Touring with four-wheel drive costs less and is better in virtually every way, and you’d be right to do so. But at least the X1 is now competitive with its direct rivals. -Telegraph.co.uk