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BMW X1 - First Impressions

  • BMW X1 not for off-roading but perfect for smooth tarmac
  • Diesel engine and 8-speed automatic work best in Sport mode
  • Boot space and practicality continue to impress us

If you are thinking about a BMW X1 as an off-roader, don’t.

Where the BMW X1 excels is on the road, especially smooth open tarmac where the firm suspension and muscular engine make it far more fit for purpose.

This may be a diesel but it’s BMW’s 2.0-litre stalwart and in the 181bhp guise (dubbed the ‘20d’) mid-range power works well for blasting along back roads or high-speed cruising. 

BMW X1 20d Diesel engine

The sports suspension that works so well on blemish-free black top becomes fidgety on wrinkled surfaces and positively slams into rough, wrecked asphalt that populates much of Britain’s country lanes though.

While passengers haven’t complained about the ride, from the driver’s seat it does feel jerky and bumpy just like encountering air turbulence in an aircraft. 

The firm suspension is only aided and abetted by the optional 19-inch alloys that have been smeared with low profile rubber. That means there isn’t a lot of tyre sidewall to soak up bumps so any shocks have to be absorbed by the suspension – the stiff, sports suspension. Hmm, not hard to see why the passengers end up being rocked and rolled on anything less than millpond smooth surfaces.

BMW X1 Optional 19-inch M Sport alloys

Good news is that out on smooth tarmac the BMW X1 is a hoot. In Sport mode the gearbox makes the most of the engine’s pulling power as it surges through the eight gears.

It also sharpens the throttle response as well as tending to select the gear that keeps the engine in its power band so as soon as you press the accelerator the speed begins to build instantly.

The other upside is the smoothness of the gear change whether up or down, and it is harder to spot the gear changes compared to the gearbox’s normal ‘Drive’ mode.

In fact, I prefer the Sport mode for everyday driving rather than the default mode which works to maximise fuel economy but mutes the throttle response and makes the gear changes, especially going down the gears, feel more noticeable.

BMW X1 open boot with large garden sacks

Interior space, particularly the boot, has been impressing. Ferrying a 11-year old and two adults, plus picking up associated weekly shopping, carrying luggage for nights away and, with the rear seats folded flat, three large garden sacks reveal that the X1 is a really viable and practical family car.

The substantial boot hooks can take two or three plastic shopping bags and the rubber straps are very useful to secure loose loads in the middle of the boot floor.

Okay, leg room in the rear for a large adult may be on the tight side, but the boot space is bigger than a Ford Kuga and the shape of it makes it very useable for wide packages.

BMW X1 rear passenger space

The BMW X1 has presence especially in this M Sport guise with the white paint and large optional 19-inch M Sport wheels.

It certainly turns heads when it cruises through the local supermarket car park though interestingly it does not stand tall when parked up. And I mean literally. It may be a 4x4 but its roofline is no taller than other cars with the same footprint, which makes it tricky to pick out in a large Tesco’s car park when I can’t remember where the hell I left it.

Staff Writer James, this car's custodian, is still waiting to spend any time behind the wheel of our X1. I've told him I'll hand the keys over just as soon as I find it. Honest.

Total mileage: 4,347 miles

Average mpg: 41.5mpg