Good to drive if you can put up with the bumpy low-speed ride
Issues with driver comfort and not quite as plush as other BMWs
No worries here, including good performance in crash tests
Not a brilliant record to date
Only really big enough for four and their luggage
Even basic models have all you'll need
Whichever engine you choose (there are four diesels and no petrols), the X1 is lively enough for most buyer's needs, accelerating quickly in any gear - which makes the super-quick 25d rather unnecessary. Coupled with the car's good grip and body control this would make the X1 a keen driver's SUV, but the steering is inconsistently weighted which undermines your confidence on faster turns. It feels a touch jittery on the motorway, too, which isn't ideal. As is often the case with BMWs, the ride is unsettled, too, especially on the firmer M Sport cars. On the plus side, the cabin is generally quiet; the only noticeable noise comes from the engines, which can be a bit gruff under hard acceleration.
Though BMW makes much of the X1 as a versatile SUV for sporty types, the truth is it's little more than a slightly beefed-up small hatchback, at an inflated price. Headroom is generous but otherwise the amount of passenger space is nothing special, and the centre rear passenger has to contend with a big hump in the floor which houses some of the car's mechanics. Even the boot isn't that big, though it's a good shape. Meanwhile, the cabin disappoints, too - it feels solid enough but the plastics lack the dense, soft-touch feel of other BMWs. It's quite hard for the driver to get comfortable in the X1, due to the inaccurate seat adjusters and, in manual cars, the offset position of the pedals. You don't sit as high as you do in some SUVs, either, but all-round vision is still good. All models get BMW's intuitive iDrive, which allows you to operate each of the car's various operating systems from a single main dial on the centre console. We'd stick with entry-level SE cars as they've plenty of other kit, too, including dual-zone climate-control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and electric windows front and rear. Other trims get sportier or more rugged-looking styling.
The cabin feels solid enough but there are reliability worries with the X1 - owners scored the car as below average in the last JD Power Customer Satisfaction survey. There should be fewer concerns when it comes to safety: every X1 gets electronic aids including stability control, while xDrive cars come with four-wheel-drive. Airbag provision includes 'bags for the rear windows, and the X1 achieved the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, with 87% for adult safety and an impressive 85% for children.
The X1 may be marketed as a lifestyle SUV, but in reality it's not much more practical than a small family car. It's also very expensive for a car of this size, and you won't make up for it when you sell on, as the X1's retained values are only mediocre. At least the running costs for two-wheel-drive models are phenomenally low, thanks to excellent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.