One in every ten BMWs sold is an X1 and that figure's set to rise as the compact SUV segment continues to grow. This improved version of the 'F48'-series MK2 model aims to capitalise on this sector's popularity, providing potential Qashqai-class buyers with a premium-badged option that's now an even classier choice. Efficiency, practicality and cabin quality are all strongpoints. So will this revitalised X1 continue to hit this segment's sweet spot? We tried an xDrive20d variant in order to find out.
Today, it's hard to imagine a BMW line-up without an X Series range of performance-minded SUV models. The Bavarian brand calls these 'SAV's or 'Sports Activity Vehicles' and these days, they account for over a fifth of the company's worldwide sales, with the starting point of the line-up the model we're going to look at here - a substantially improved version of the 'F48'-series second generation X1. This car has sold in its hundreds of thousands; in 2018 alone, almost 280,000 X1 models found new owners, which made this car the segment's sales leader. But the Bavarian maker is well aware that the competition is gaining ground. Hence the need for a significant package of X1 changes to keep pace, creating the car we're going to look at here. It's smarter inside and out and better connected too. Sounds promising. Let's check out this rejuvenated X1 in xDrive20d form.
You don't primarily buy a compact SUV of this kind to throw it about, though if you do so here, you'll actually find that this car is slightly more interesting to drive than most of its class counterparts. Why? Well because all the key elements are in place for a decent driving experience: namely a low centre of gravity, a wide track, optimised weight, a stiff body structure and, as you'd expect from a BMW, near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution. Don't get us wrong; this car isn't one you'd take out and drive just for the fun of it, but if you do have to push on in this BMW, there's a bit more to the experience than is the case with most rivals. As before, the engine you choose will dictate whether your X1 is available in either front-driven 'sDrive' guise or all-wheel-driven 'xDrive' form. The 4x4 'xDrive' layout gives you just enough on-demand traction for icy days and muddy tracks. We tried the xDrive20d diesel version, which uses the brand's 2.0-litre Twin-Power diesel unit in a 190hp state of tune, which boosts torque to 400Nm. This variant has a significantly higher braked towing capacity than other models in the range, rated at 2.0-tonnes. The 'xDrive20d' gets from rest to 62mph in 7.4s en route to 136mph and uses a standard 8-speed automatic gearbox. Whatever engine you choose in your X1, you'll find it designed to work with a standard vehicle dynamics system that these days is very familiar to BMW drivers, 'Drive Performance Control', the rocker switch for which you'll find down by the gearstick.
If you happen to be familiar with the original version of this MK2 model, the first thing you'll notice is this improved model's larger grille, which sees the two kidney-shaped intakes now meeting in the middle. The lights flanking this aperture are different too, piercing full-LED beams featuring for the first time. Things have also been spruced up lower down, the previous rather bland arrangement (circular fog lamps and blanked-off corner outlets) replaced by a more confident intake design with smaller rectangular LED fog lamps. And up-front in the cabin? Well this is the part of the X1 that we think will really sell this car to potential buyers. Look around and the high quality layered fascia curves around the interior in a symmetrical wave garnished with textured aluminium, satin chrome inlays and carefully-chosen splashes of brightwork. As before, there's a slightly raised seating position that places you perfectly in front of a set of semi-digitalised dials. The changes made as part of the facelift package are really of the detail kind - things like new upholstery options and the addition of contrast stitching on the instrument panel. Of more significance is the adoption of a larger central media screen for the iDrive infotainment system, being 8.8-inches as standard, with a larger 10.25-inch 'BMW Navigation Plus' touchscreen display available at extra cost. The rear seat is enhanced by the availability of a sliding rear bench which offers 130mm of back-and-forth adjustment - though you have to pay extra for it. Out back, there's a 508-litre boot.
X1 pricing starts from around £29,000, but for the xDrive20d we tested, you'll need from around £35,000. There are four trim levels - 'SE', 'Sport', 'xLine' and 'M Sport', each one with its own unique styling and equipment package. With this more powerful model, you have to have the xDrive 4x4 set-up. And you also have to have auto transmission - a torque converter 'Sport' auto 'box. Even the thriftiest 'SE' trim level gives you plenty of kit. To be specific, 17-inch V-Spoke alloy wheels, LED headlamps, LED front fog lights, an automatic tailgate, roof rails, Park Distance Control front and rear parking sensors, heated power mirrors, an alarm, auto headlamps and wipers and a chrome-finished exhaust pipe. Inside, the 40:20:40 split-folding rear backrest is standard-fit, plus there are niceties like two-zone automatic air conditioning, cruise control with a speed limiter and a 'Sport' multifunction leather-trimmed steering wheel. In addition, there's the 'Drive Performance Control' system that, via 'ECO PRO', 'Comfort' and 'Sport' modes, allows you to alter throttle response, steering feel and, on an auto model, gearchange timing, all of it better suiting the way you want to drive. You'll want to know about infotainment too. All X1 models come with the usual BMW iDrive system that in standard form now features an 8-inch colour screen, your access point for Bluetooth with audio streaming, Navigation and a decent quality six-speaker DAB stereo.
If you're looking at the 190hp xDrive 20d derivative, then you can expect up to 50.4mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and up to 123g/km of NEDC-rated CO2. Or, to put it another way, you can expect to be able to go around ten miles further on every gallon that you would in a directly comparable Audi Q3 40 TDI and put out 23g/km less CO2. What else? Well as usual with a BMW, there's a condition-based service indicator on the dash to advise you when your car needs a garage visit, but new to me was the clever 'TeleServices' feature that comes as part of the BMW 'ConnectedDrive' services you can access through the iDrive infotainment system. Via this, before each service appointment is due, your X1 can put in a 'TeleServices' call to your nominated BMW service centre, complete with detailed information on vehicle condition. On to the warranty package. BMW offers a warranty that lasts for three years, no matter how many miles you complete. As for residual values, well industry specialists CAP reckon these will be very strong indeed. Depending on specification, after three years of use, your X1 should still be worth just over 50% of what you originally paid for it. You'll struggle to find a class rival that can better that. We'll finish with insurance. The xDrive20d is rated at group 28 or 29.
And in summary? Well we can see why this X1 is the best selling contender of its kind. The brand might continue to prefer not to call this an 'SUV' but the truth is that amongst compact models, this X1 continues to epitomise the kind of car that term now defines in today's market. It delivers all the key elements needed from a modern fashion-led compact family crossover, especially in this xDrive20d form. But it also has an essential dose of that BMW 'want one' factor that's done so much for the Munich maker's sales. You'll need to be convinced of that to choose one, but if you are, you'll find this Bavarian model difficult to ignore in this over-crowded sector. The X Factor? You might well think this car has it.