Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Every X1 engine is 2.0 litres in capacity. The petrol engines, badged 18i and 20i, are available with two-wheel drive only (sDrive in BMW-speak). The entry-level 18d diesel is available with a choice of two or four-wheel drive (xDrive), while the 20d is four-wheel drive only. We reckon the sDrive18d is the pick of the range because its performance is more than punchy enough to make the more expensive 20d seem unnecessary.
We'd avoid the 189bhp 20i petrol; the effortless manner in which the diesel engines deliver their power feels more appropriate in a car like this. We are yet to try the entry-level 18i, though, and that engine could be a good bet for low-mileage private buyers.
We haven't tried the plug-in hybrid xDrive25e yet, either, but it looks great on paper and can be driven on electric power alone for up to 34 miles, according to WLTP tests. It’s also the fastest model in the X1 lineup.
Suspension and ride comfort
The X1's suspension is stiffer than is the norm for small SUVs and sometime feels unsettled over really rough roads, but this is at least in keeping with BMW’s traditionally sporting character.
Naturally, the X1's ride is at its most soothing on the smallest wheels, as fitted to SE trim models, but it's still acceptable on larger-wheeled variants. We'd advise avoiding the run-flat tyres, though, because their stiff sidewalls don't help comfort.
Adaptive suspension is optional. You can make it firmer at the touch of a button to improve cornering, or you can soften it for added comfort. However, while the different modes do make a noticeable difference, even the softest setting still delivers a fairly firm ride.
In front-wheel drive X1s, you can occasionally feel the steering wheel writhing in your hands when you accelerate quickly – a phenomenon known as torque steer. Otherwise, whether you opt for two or four-wheel drive, the steering is weighty and precise, making it easy to place the X1 on the road. It's no hot hatch but there's a reasonable amount of feedback through the wheel.
Meanwhile, the relatively stiff suspension ensures that there’s very little body roll when cornering. All in all, the X1 is very stable at all speeds and is more fun to drive than its main rivals, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mercedes GLA.
Noise and vibration
There’s some wind noise on the motorway, although not enough to bother you too much. More of a worry is the amount of road roar the X1's tyres generate; the noise is loud enough at 70mph to force you and your passengers to speak in raised voices. The diesel engines can sound a bit gruff under hard acceleration, but they’re quiet at a steady cruise and transmit little vibration through the controls.
The shift action of the manual gearbox is a little stiffer than we'd like and isn't as slick as the Volkswagen Tiguan's. An eight-speed automatic 'box is optional with all engines and is standard on 20i models. It's one of the best automatic gearboxes in this class but adds a fair bit to the price.