When the BMW X1 was introduced in October 2009, the manufacturer wanted us to believe that it was taking the bold step of pioneering a new segment, that of the baby SUV crossover. In fact, what it provided us with was a baby BMW SUV that was in essence a premature replacement for the first-generation X3.

Then, when the bigger, second-gen X3 came on stream in 2010, the X1 stood alone as the Munich manufacturer’s entry-level model in this area of the market. 

In many ways the X1 is a test of how small an SUV can be while being considered premium. BMW plays on the 1-series lineage – what with the ‘1’, and the fact that it’s even built on the same production line as the 1-series coupé and convertible in BMW’s plant in Leipzig.

The 1-series link is, however, a bit of a misnomer. The previous-generation 3-series saloon also rolled down this production line and it’s the 3-series, rather than the 1-series, with which the X1 shares more in common.

This car had three years in development at a cost of millions. Since the X1 was launched, the soft-roader market has grown, so although it is meant to offer a more premium feel than Honda or Toyota’s soft-roaders, it is also in competition with the VW Tiguan, Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque.

Top 5 Compact SUVs

  • A huge improvement over the old model and now among the class leaders

    BMW X3

    1
  • The new Land Rover Discovery Sport is the successor to the Freelander

    Land Rover Discovery Sport

    2
  • The Swede's XC60 compact SUV is a rival for Range Rover's Evoque

    Volvo XC60

    3
  • The Q5 is Audi's response to the Land Rover Freelander 2, BMW X3 and Volvo SC60

    Audi Q5

    4
  • Kia's seven-seat Sorento SUV is now in its third generation

    Kia Sorento

    5

First drives

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