BMW X1: Have we got the pick of the range?

  • Is the 20d engine the best of the diesels?
  • Should you go for two- or four-wheel drive?
  • And is M Sport trim the most desirable?

Our BMW X1 long-term test car has the powerful 20d diesel engine and high-end M Sport trim grade.

We’ve previously looked at which of its many optional extras are worth having – this time let’s look at whether or not the engine and trim level applied to our test car are the sweet spot in the range, or if we’d be better off with a different combination.

20d engine

Our car’s 2.0-litre 181bhp ‘20d’ engine currently sits one from the top of the diesel range. There is a more powerful 214bhp 25d version available but in all honesty the 20d feels more than brisk enough on the road – I’ve never found myself craving any more performance from it and it’s both cheaper to buy and more economical to run than the 25d.

It would be interesting to try the rung below, the 140bhp 18d which is a little cheaper to buy but its fuel economy and CO2 figures are all but identical to the 20d. Judging by the 318d saloon we drove recently fitted with the same engine, though, we suspect it may feel lacking in performance.

So it seems the 20d engine really is the optimum choice of the X1 diesel range.

BMW X1 xDrive

xDrive or sDrive?

The BMW X1 is available with either rear-wheel drive (which BMW calls ‘sDrive’) or four-wheel drive (‘xDrive’).

Our X1 is an xDrive model, which currently costs around £1,355 more than the equivalent sDrive. A mild winter has meant we haven’t had chance to try the X1 in properly snowy or icy conditions where the xDrive powertrain might have a chance to shine.

Given that the extra weight and mechanical losses of the four-wheel drive system has a sizeable impact on fuel economy and emissions, most UK buyers would be best off with the sDrive version. Best off spending the change on a set of winter rubber; easily done thanks to the firm's excellent winter tyre scheme.

See our BMW X1 Facts and Figures section for more details .

BMW X1 M Sport

M Sport trim

The M Sport specification essentially tops the X1 range, and it’s the most on-road oriented specification in terms of both appearance and suspension set-up.

Rather than the quasi-off-roader black plastic bumpers and skid plates of other X1 models, the M Sport gets more aggressive-looking body-coloured bumpers along with showier wheels and a gloss black finish for the roof rails and other bits of exterior trim. It’s also fitted with a firmer ‘M Sport suspension’ set-up.

Given that the M Sport package is largely a visual affair, whether or not it’s worth the extra £3,000 over the basic SE model depends on how much you like the way it looks. Although the steroidal exterior is a bit flash for my tastes, I’m a big fan of the interior with its brushed aluminium trim on the dash and doors, quality leather upholstery and black headlining.

For those concerned about the impact the firmer dampers might have on ride quality, our X1 is actually surprisingly comfortable even on its optional 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres. If you’re after a softer ride though, you can spec the M Sport model with standard suspension free of charge.

Buyers who aren’t particularly image-conscious could save a bundle of cash by opting for the basic SE model which looks plainer but on the equipment front still offers climate and cruise control, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth connectivity. Choosing the upgraded SE Business edition adds niceties such as heated seats, sat-nav and media system plus the same Nevada leather upholstery as M Sport models.

BMW X1 MSport

You can view the BMW X1 range in our new car prices section here.