For its more compact models, BMW has plug-in hybrid technology based around a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an all-wheel drive powertrain - which is what features here with this X1 xDrive25e variant. As usual with a PHEV, the stats are quite compelling: a BiK taxation rating of just 10%, around 32 miles of all-electric driving range, up to 40g/km of CO2 and up to 166.2mpg on the combined cycle. But there's a price to pay for this kind of technology - and a few practicality compromises to make.
BMW has had plug-in tech for a car of this size for some time, launching it back in 2016 with its small MPV, the 225xe Active Tourer. Strangely, it took the Munich maker until 2020 to install the same powertrain into its much stronger-selling X1 crossover, creating the car we're going to look at here, the X1 xDrive25e. Fortunately for BMW, rivals have been equally tardy with introducing PHEV technology into the premium part of the compact SUV segment, this X1 xDive25e hitting the market at about the same time as plug-in versions of direct rivals like the Mercedes GLA and the Volvo XC40. How competitive can it be? Let's find out.
The X1 xDrive25e petrol/electric Plug-in hybrid uses the same powertrain we've already seen not only in BMW's 2 Series Active Tourer 225xe but also in the MINI Countryman PHEV. It mates a 124hp version of the '18i' model's 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels with an 95hp electric motor, which powers those at the rear and draws its energy from a rechargeable 9.7 kWh lithium-ion battery. This set-up works via a 6-spped torque converter auto gearbox and makes possible front, rear or four-wheel drive capability, depending on the chosen driving mode. Ah yes, modes; let's get to them. Three extra settings feature in the xDrive25e's 'Driving Performance Control' system - 'MAX eDRIVE' (which keeps progress all-electric), the 'AUTO eDRIVE' setting (which switches between power sources as necessary) and 'SAVE BATTERY' (which reserves your all-electric battery range until you particularly need it - say in urban motoring at the end of a motorway trip). If you can ignore this focus on frugality and use all of this Plug-in hybrid model's performance, you'll find that there's plenty of it thanks to a combined system output of 217hp and 385Nm of torque. 62mph from rest takes just 6.9s and top speed is 119mph. Keep the PHEV battery topped up and a WLTP-rated all-electric driving range of up to 32.3 is possible - though not if you push the limits of the 84mph all-electric top speed.
There's no exterior embellishment to identify the X1 xDrive25e as a PHEV model, though the eagle-eyed might notice the bespoke badging and the addition of an extra charging flap. This updated version of the second generation X1 has a larger front grille, which sees the two kidney-shaped intakes now meeting in the middle. The lights flanking this aperture are piercing full-LED beams. 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 bright work. As before, there's a slightly raised seating position that places you perfectly in front of a set of semi-digitalised dials. There are eDrive-specific displays in the instrument cluster and an eDrive button activates the PHEV 'AUTO eDrive', 'MAX eDrive' and 'SAVE BATTERY' modes. A couple of adults can sit comfortably on the back seat, but boot space has been compromised by the plug-in installation, falling by 55-litres over the standard car to 450-litres. Fold the 40:20:40-split rear bench and that capacity rises to 1,470-litres.
X1 xDrive25e pricing starts from around £38,000. That's about £1,200 more than you'd pay for an equivalently-specified X1 xDrive20d diesel. And, for reference, £1,500 more than you'd pay for the same plug-in powertrain in BMW's 2 Series Active Tourer MPV. This is reasonable value when you consider that a rival Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-in hybrid costs from around £41,000. The X1 xDrive25e is offered with 'Sport', 'xLine' and 'M Sport' trim levels, the latter taking the asking price to around £40,000. If you want a sportier body style, the same powertrain is also offered with the brand's X2 crossover model. Even base 'Sport' trim gives you quite a lot, with 18-inch Double-spoke alloy wheels, 'High-Gloss Shadowline' exterior trim, front inlets with a High-gloss black finisher and front bumper under-body protection. Inside, 'Sport' trim gets you sports seats, contrast stitching on the dash, LED ambient lighting and upholstery that's a smart combination of 'Anthracite' cloth and 'Sensatec' man-made leather. Top 'M Sport' trim stands out from the others thanks to 18-inch 'M light alloy Double-spoke' wheels, a 'Dark Shadow' finish for the bumpers and 'High-Gloss Shadowline' exterior trim that extends to the roof rails. There's also a standard 'M aerodynamic bodystyle' kit which includes enlarged front air intakes and a body-coloured finish for things like the underbody protection plate and the wheel arch trims.
To recap the info we gave you in our 'Driving Experience' section, this variant mates the sDrive18i model's 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels with a 95hp electric motor, which powers those at the rear and draws its energy from a rechargeable 9.7 kWh lithium-ion battery placed beneath the rear seat. You'll need 2.4 hours to recharge the car from 16A power socket (or twice that from a conventional domestic plug) but ideally, you'd have a BMW i Wallbox installed in your garage, which can knock an hour off that figure and which can be programmed into off-peak electricity rates. When fully charged, the xDrive25xe has a WLTP-rated all-electric range of up to 32.3 miles before the little petrol engine cuts in, meaning that short urban trips can be completed with zero local emissions. That's if you select the 'MAX eDRIVE' option from this variant's bespoke 'Drive Performance Control' system that'll keep the car in milk float mode. More typically, you'll be using the set-up's 'AUTO eDRIVE' setting, which switches between power sources as necessary. And there's also a 'SAVE BATTERY' option, which reserves your all-electric battery range until you particularly need it - say in urban motoring at the end of a motorway trip. As for the xDrive25e variant's quoted efficiency figures, well as with any plug-in hybrid, you need to take these with something of a pinch of salt, but for the record, they're quoted at up to 166.2mpg for the WLTP-rated combined cycle and up to 40g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. The BiK taxation rating is 10%: for comparison, an X1 xDrive20d diesel is rated at 33%. We'll finish with insurance. The xDrive25e is rated at group 30.
BMW missed a trick here: they could have been selling this plug-in X1 model years before they did. Now, it must takes it chances against key rivals from Mercedes and Volvo. Still, it remains a very competitive package in that company. As with any plug-in model, fuel savings alone won't justify the premium pricing; but adding in the BiK tax reductions might be enough to make you take a second look at an X1 xDrive25e, even with its £40,000 price tag. Did we ever think we'd be paying this much for a mainstream X1 model? Possibly not, but then did we ever think a decade ago that we'd have the chance to buy a petrol-powered one that could also offer an all-electric driving range of up to 32 miles? Right here, right now, plug-in tech makes more sense for more people, more of the time than full-EV ownership. In the future, that'll probably change. Just now though, cars like this are on-trend and increasingly, make more sense than a comparable diesel, provided they're used in the right way.