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Date: 20 November 2019   |   Author: Nat Barnes

The first transverse-engined X1 has reached its mid-life facelift, but its fleet appeal is about to get a boost.
Standard equipment:
Air conditioning, LED headlights, 8.8in dashboard display,
Petrol: 140hp 1.5, 190hp 2.0
Diesel : 150hp 2.0, 190hp 2.0
Equipment grades:
SE, Sport, xLine, MSport
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DCT auto, eight-speed automatic

You don't need us to tell you what a success SUVs have been in showrooms across all manufacturers.

However, perhaps the biggest surprise is how that success has included smaller SUVs like this BMW X1. If you thought that BMW's X3 and X5 had enjoyed plenty of popularity in showrooms across the world, it was actually this X1 that enjoyed the highest number of sales in BMW's X line-up last year. Clearly, small SUVs are big business.

Corporate appeal

If this latest facelifted X1 is anything to go by, that upward success curve shows little sign of falling either. This new X1 range is available with petrol and diesel engines as before, but crucially, from May 2020, also includes a new plug-in hybrid in the form of the 25e with just 40g/km emissions, a 31-mile electric-only range and, from April 2020, a temptingly low 10% BIK rating.

Historically, the X1 hasn't attracted as many business customers as its X3 larger brother (around 28% compared to the X3's 60%), but the forthcoming plug-in is sure to boost the X1's appeal as a company car. BMW's experiences with its 330e, 530e and 745e plug-in saloon models have left it in no doubt that this addition to the line-up next year will give the X1 a substantial boost in the corporate car parc, especially as the 31-mile electric-only range just sneaks it into a lower bracket with a 2% BIK saving.

For the moment, though, the three turbo diesel models will be the focus of appeal for business drivers - the 150bhp 18d in two-wheel drive and xDrive four-wheel drive forms, and the 190bhp 20d in xDrive only. The entry-level diesel has CO2 emissions from 113g/km (30% BIK) and 53.3mpg combined fuel economy, while the 20d xDrive achieves 123g/km and 55.4mpg respectively (32% BIK).

Grown-up feel

On the road, the X1 feels far more mature and refined than its position as the baby of BMW's X range suggests. The steering is sharp and direct, although it could do with a little less weight and a little more feel when the road turns twisty in the windscreen ahead of you. Road and wind noise are kept pretty well under wraps too, even at faster motorway speeds.

It is certainly an enjoyable car to drive, both when pressing on and also during more relaxed cruising, although it is by no means perfect. While good on smoother roads, the ride quality is left a little exposed with the larger optional wheel choices, especially so with the 19in optional wheels and the firmer suspension on the M Sport versions. It is not so bad that you will be on first name terms with your dentist, but it is certainly on the firmer side of comfortable and you are unlikely to want to select Sport mode on the switchable suspension that often.

Driving more enthusiastically also exposes the fact that at higher revs more engine noise starts to intrude into the cabin than is ideal, as well as some small vibrations coming through the throttle pedal.

Built to last

Those are the only real niggles, however, in what is an otherwise very impressive package. The interior build quality is immaculate, with the dark matt-finish wood trim looking especially smart. In fact, it is arguably here where the baby BMW really wins you over. The steering wheel has a nice thick rim, and the seats are supportive and comfortable, even if their lowest height position still feels a little high for our liking. There is lots of useful storage around the cabin, and a mix of both old USB-A and newer USB-C charging points (including two of the latter for rear passengers).

Talking of those in the back, space there is surprisingly good. There is enough head and legroom for one 6ft-tall adult to sit behind another in relative comfort with the sliding rear seat all the way back, while practicality hasn't been too compromised further rearward either. A 505-litre boot is slightly smaller than the Audi Q3, but larger than the Volvo XC40, while there are a pair of curry hooks, a side pocket and net, and there is an extra power outlet there should you need it. An electric tailgate is also standard on all models.

With its more imposing looks, good on-road manners and a healthy level of equipment, it is hard not to see the X1 cementing its position as BMW's bestselling X model. With the forthcoming plug-in hybrid, however, its past popularity with retail buyers is highly likely to be matched by more business drivers than ever before. The appeal of BMW's X range continues unabated.

BMW X1 xDrive 20d SE 

P11D: £34,330

Residual value: 36%

Depreciation: £21,955

Fuel: £7,140

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,592

Cost per mile: 52.8p

Fuel consumption: 50.4mpg

CO2 (BIK band): 123g/km (32%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £183/£366

Boot space: 505 litres

Engine size/power: 1,995cc/190hp


  • Interior space
  • Build quality
  • Refinement
  • Slightly fidgety ride
  • Wait for plug-in hybrid