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BMW X1: Test Drive Review

Date: 22 October 2009   |   Author: Tristan Young

Category: Small off-roader
P11D price: £24,030
Key rival: Nissan Qashqai

BMW's plan with the all-new X1 is split the small-4x4 market into two, with the new X3 due next year becoming larger and more of a rival for the Land Rover Freelander, Volvo XC60 and Audi Q5.

The new BMW X1 is positioned to take on rivals that, as yet, don't exist. However, BMW expects Audi to have a Q3 in the near future, for which the X1 will be the main rival.

Other rivals must include the off-road versions of the Saab 9-3 and Audi A4, badged 9-3X and A4 Allroad, not least because the X1 shares some of its underpinnings with the 3-series Touring. Alongside these prestige rivals, there's also the similarly sized Nissan Qashqai and Peugeot 3008.

BMW has cleverly engineered what shouldn't really be possible; a higher driving position, good ground clearance and a low roofline. It works, and there is more room for rear-seat passenger legroom than in a 3-series and nearly as much boot space at 420 litres (the 3-series has 460). However, the boot looks shallow (although wide) and there's little under-floor storage space.

Specification levels are also reasonable on the 177PS 2.0-litre diesel SE we drove, which is also the entry point at launch. Standard kit includes alloys, twin-zone aircon, front fog lights and anti-misfuelling system. However, failure to spec a satnav system (priced from £1400) will leave the dash looking oddly bare.

BMW offers the in all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. But both fleets and drivers should only consider the rear-drive versions unless they venture off-road on a regular basis. The reasons the rear-drive model is the better bet is that firstly it's a great drive and secondly the 4x4 version is slower, less efficient and more expensive. Despite this, BMW still expects the 4x4 version to account for 46% of sales.

BMW is offering the X1 with an all-diesel engine line-up. At launch there will be two 2.0-litre offerings, a 177PS badged 20 and a 204PS car badged 23. At the end of the year an 18-badged 143PS 2.0-litre engine will be added. To differentiate between two and four-wheel drive the cars will be badged Sdrive and Xdrive respectively.

The 177PS car we drove had a far greater level of ride comfort than we've come to expect in BMWs, this is thanks in part to the fitting of standard tyres, rather than stiff run-flats. They will also be cheaper for fleets to replace than run-flats, a move that has to be welcomed.

While the engine is responsive and powerful, it's also a touch, but not excessively, on the noisy side both at start and at motorway speeds. However, its not something that would put any potential user-chooser off the car. Of far greater interest to user-choosers will be the X1's low 139g/km CO2 figure and high 53mpg fuel consumption will appeal.

Fleet running costs of 47.8p a mile will impress business car managers even more thanks to a 46% residual value, according to KwikCarcost. This beats the equivalent Nissan Qashqai as well as the similarly priced Saab 9-3X.

All this means BMW looks like it's onto another winning formula for those looking for an alternative vehicle to the fleet norm without increasing costs.

BMW X1 2.0d S-drive 177PS SE 5dr manual
P11D price£24,030
Model price range£22,660-£29,055
Fuel consumption53.3mpg
CO2 (tax) 139g/km (18%)
BIK 20/40% per month£72/£144
Service intervalvariable
Insurancegroup 16
Boot space (min/max)420/1350 litres
Engine size/power1995cc/177PS
Top speed/0-60mph127mph/8.1secs
On sale October 2009
VerdictA great, cost effective,
alternative to the fleet norm