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The Top Gear car review:BMW X1
For:Very economical, handles well, punchy 25d is fun
Against:Noisy, firm ride, still not as good as it should be
xDrive 20d Sport 5dr
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What we say:
Awkward looks haven't stopped it selling well. Now updates to make it faster, greener and prettier
What is it?
The BMW X1 is a car that doesn’t really know what it is. It’s higher than an estate, but not by much. It’s not high or robust enough to be a proper SUV. What is it, then, and why is it here? Well, it seems being an in-betweener is no barrier to success: since its launch almost three years ago, BMW’s sold over 300,000 of them and, to celebrate, it’s given the range a mild facelift and a sprightly new set of engines.
We still puzzle about the X1’s apparently indecisive design, but BMW has at least livened it up a bit with revised bumpers, more body-colour plastics, metal-look sections to the front and rear bumpers plus a more sparkly set of headlights. Interior quality has been improved, economy is up, there are even some new colours to ensure you’re noticed. If the old one sold so well, what’s the potential of this one?
Something the X1 has always done is drive nicely. Like any good BMW, it handles well, with good composure in corners and particularly fluid steering. Like many recent BMWs though, it also has a turbulent ride which, when combined with high levels of wind noise at speed, can make long trips more tiresome than you’d expect.
The revised range of engines are great (again like any good BMW). The diesels have all been updated and a new one added, the xDrive25d. This has a hearty 218bhp and gives muscular shove throughout the rev range, enhanced by the traction of that clever four-wheel drive system. Pity it’s also surprisingly grumbly, a complaint common to many other BMWs. There’s a bit of a theme developing here, no?
On the inside
Think of the X1 as a slightly higher-set regular hatchback inside. Levels of space are similar to a Golf or Focus and the practical layout is good for small families without spoiling them. Rather like equipment levels, for this is a premium product with SUV connotations and you thus have to pay accordingly.
For this facelifted one, BMW has improved both quality and finish, a complaint of the old one which saw the premium façade chipped away at. The centre console is more angled towards the driver and there are extra splashes of gloss black and aluminium accents. Subtle, but it does make it feel a bit posher.
Like, ahem, all BMWs, the X1 is very fuel efficient. Choose an sDrive model and you lose four-wheel traction (a rear-drive SUV spinning in the snow might look a bit silly, mind) but gain on mpg: the best is the EfficientDynamics which, at under 120g/km, is brilliantly thrifty. There are now more trim lines too, including a rather flash-looking xLine range-topper.