- We like...Classy, great to drive
- We don't...Noisy engine
Newest BMW isn't an off- roader - but it is a stylish hatchback that sits you just that bit higher. We're big fans The X1 is BMW’s first go at making a small-ish off-roader-styled car. But it isn’t an off-roader – even if that’s what it looks like. While some X1s send power to all four wheels – ours (the one that BMW hopes to sell most of), channels it only to the rears.
There are a couple of inches of extra clearance between ground and car, so you’ll cross a field as long as it isn’t boggy. But it isn’t meant to do much more. What it does give is a hiked driving position and a greater sureness that comes with driving something chunkier than a regular saloon.
And, except for the greater distance separating the occupants’ behinds and the road, it feels uncannily like a 3-series saloon to drive. Against what you might think, it’s closer to a 3-series and, despite its X1 name, it doesn’t stand as an extension to the 1-series range. The distance between its front and rear wheels is pretty much exactly the same as a 3-series Touring’s, though the X1 is shorter, narrower and taller overall. This means that, unlike the 1-series, there’s adequate leg room in the rear and the boot is sensibly sized, too. The rear seat is too narrow to squeeze in three grown-ups comfortably, though.
There’s a family look that comes across from its big brother, the latest X5, but from some angles it resembles a 1-series, albeit one that’s scoffed plenty of pies.
It rides well, sponging smooth all but the roughest roads although it will pitch and bobble on really rough surfaces. The steering is weighty and will come as a shock to anyone who’s only ever previously driven a small, light car. But, persist with it and it delivers a rare accuracy and confidence, allowing you to sweep across a string of bends quickly, precisely adjusting the car’s line as you go. Once you’re used to it, it'll help your confidence. The 2.0 diesel has 174bhp and it feels quick enough, not speedy, while its six-speed manual gearbox is precise but needs a firm hand.
Once you have that motor revving it is surprisingly noisy, more than you’d get from the same unit when sat in a 3-series saloon. It’s most noticeable at town speeds but once up to 60-70mph it settles to a thrum. Pity, because otherwise the X1 is otherwise a composed and quiet motorway traveller.
The car has stop-start – come to a halt in traffic, apply the handbrake and set the gears to neutral and it’ll still the engine, saving fuel and cutting emissions. BMW was early to adopt the system (which has now spread so that most makes have it) and their know-how shows: it’s the most reliable we’ve tested. Once you need to move, dip the clutch and the engine’s running before you’ve finished selecting gear – though here it does so reliably, but with a slight cough ‘n’ splutter. For the car that it is, exhaust emissions are low and a test economy on 43.4mpg sits well with the ‘official’ 55.3mpg. There are smaller aqnd bigger diesels in the range but, as yet, no petrol-engined models.
Should you buy one? Like a shot. Pitched between the 3-series saloon and 1-series hatchback, prices are fairly pitched and it’s a handy car that promises much. It mayn’t be an off-roader but we like it – a lot.
- Engines2.0 diesel
- 0-60 mph8.1secs
- Insurance groups10
Motors.co.uk value verdict: