Punchy electric version, plenty of interior space, people-carrier vibes
Coarse petrol engine, occasionally dopey gearbox, some confusing touchscreen displays
What is it?
But for once we’re going to suggest that growth is a good thing. The first generation of X1 looked somewhat awkward, BMW design language applied to a car not really possessing the correct proportions. The second-gen car offered a big improvement, but now this Mk3 is a genuinely good-looking car. Y’know, as SUVs go. Perhaps there’s a hint of Skoda Kodiaq to its rear three-quarters, but that’s clearly not intended as criticism. Especially given some of the consternation caused by recent BMW designs. This toes the line much better.
What’s beneath the skin?
It launches with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions. Which seems quite a tall order for its production line in Regensburg – where the legendary E30 3 Series was born – which has been primed to handle all four powertrains in whichever order they happen to whirr robotically through the factory. Crikey.
While it’ll give the factory bosses a headache, it’ll ease those in BMW’s financial offices; keeping all four powertrains on the same line helps make X1 production flexible to market demand, which will surely fluctuate – perhaps wildly – as different countries (and their car buyers) try to get a handle on energy prices, upcoming emissions regulations and how to somehow balance the two. For now, BMW predicts 41 per cent of X1s sold worldwide will be pure petrol and 31 per cent pure electric, with the remainder split pretty evenly between PHEV and diesel.
Speaking of sales, the X1 is a popular old thing, nearly three million of them finding homes since its 2009 launch. Like before, this third-gen car will share its architecture and engines with the next Mini Countryman.
What are those engines, then?
The X1 launches on British shores with six powertrain choices. Kicking things off at a mite of £36,000 is the sDrive18d, which translates roughly as ‘slowish front-driven diesel’, though 148bhp and 8.9 seconds to 62mph aren’t exactly terrible. And its claimed 55mpg is the very opposite of terrible. Above that sits the 208bhp xDrive23d, offering similar fuel economy claims despite adding four-wheel-drive to the bargain.
The first pure petrol option is xDrive-only – in the shape of the 215bhp, circa-40mpg xDrive23i – while both plug-in hybrids, the 25e and 30e, are also 4WD. Both claim up to 55 miles of electric-only range and the most powerful offers 322bhp and a hot hatch-like 5.7-second 0-62mph time.
Performance which is matched by the iX1 xDrive30, your sole electric choice. It uses a motor at each axle – pairing 309bhp peak output with a 64.7kWh battery – and while it favours the front motor for economy, it can accelerate with the vivaciousness of the best EVs when both put down their power. BMW claims up to 272 miles from a charge and prices start at £52,000.
Those 23i and 23d models get 48V mild-hybrid tech with a 19bhp boost activated in an amusing push-to-pass manner via the left steering wheel paddle. All models, whatever their power or price (iX1 excluded), use a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s a move indicative of the whole car; the X1 would rather you didn’t think of it as the token entry-level crossover it might once have been, so it’s matured both physically and technologically to hammer the point home.
What's the verdict?
To recommend a BMW because it’s one of the roomiest, most practical cars in its class feels like a slightly disappointing state of affairs. But it’s the X1’s large, up-to-the-minute cabin that gives it a greater calling card than its chassis or powertrains, even if it happens to be neat and tidy to drive. The iX1 is the pick of the bunch for now thanks to its swish and accomplished electric powertrain. Without it, the broader X1 range might have struggled to stick its head above the crowded pack of small SUVs on offer.