The BMW X1 was designed with several purposes in mind: to replace the first-generation X3, retain 3-series Touring owners and steal a march on the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque. Overall, it is an odd SUV that offers a good drive but poor cabin finishings, and is best as a rear-drive rather than 4WD. That’s a combination of merits and shortcomings that add up to a car with attributes that stand out in some areas, but not enough to fight with the very best in class.
The X1 is rewarding to drive, and for that we must score it highly. The ride and handling is impressively composed, while it is a lovely (and economical) car to cruise along in. But is it has also clearly been built to keep costs down, and the premium badge makes the grumbly engine and some iffy cabin materials harder to forgive, especially when the key rivals manage to deliver in all these areas. There are parts of the X1 where it’s hard to not wonder whether the company accountants won the battle rather than the engineers, and that’s not becoming of a company with the reputation and heritage of BMW.
Those who choose an X1 hoping to enjoy a BMW driving experience will be satisfied – just. Buyers looking for premium feel may be better served by better-value offerings from supposedly lesser brands or one of the newer premium alternatives from the Munich firm’s rivals.