From £36,6207
The new X4 makes a more usable proposition for British roads than the larger X6, but this SUV lacks all-round ability

Our Verdict

BMW X4
We suspect the reason for the BMW X4's creation is because of the Porsche Macan

The X6 is a showroom hit. Does its smaller brother deserve to be?

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    BMW X4 UK first drive review

    The new X4 makes a more usable proposition for British roads than the larger X6, but this SUV lacks all-round ability
24 July 2014

What is it?

The new BMW X4 - driven for the first time in the UK, and with a diesel engine upfront rather than the petrol lump previously made available to us.

Much about BMW’s latest we already know; this is an X6 clone with its cheeks sucked in to fit the smaller platform currently found beneath the X3. The body swap makes the car slightly longer and a fair bit lower, and sacrifices a modicum of practicality in the good name of SUV sporting pretension. 

Almost everything of consequence is carried over from the X3, although its higher status in the lineup means the two-wheel-drive sDrive18d entry-level version gets culled.

Instead, the X4’s are all-wheel-drive as standard and the range kicks off with the xDrive20d SE at £36,595 - a £3600 premium over the equivalent X3, which is consistent across the board. 

That four-cylinder car comes with a manual six-speed gearbox as standard, but expect BMW’s eight-speed auto to be a popular option (it’s standard with the 3.0-litre motor).

Trim choice splits the X4 into SE, xLine and M Sport, with the straight-six 255bhp 30d and 308bhp 35d filling out the oil burner-only engine selection. We drove the former, albeit in range-topping format. 

Aside from the cosmetic alterations, the X4 gets you a chassis tweak and the toys to go with it - including Performance Control, Variable Sport Steering, and, in the case of our test car, the even firmer M Sport suspension.

To help justify its positioning, the new model gets bigger 18-inch wheels as standard over the X3, as well as the convenience of a 40-20-40 split rear seat. Heated front seats, parking sensors, automatic tailgate and BMW’s Business Media pack are also among the default kit. 

What's it like?

As we suspected on our first glance overseas, the X4 is less likely to attract the teeth-gnashing consternation that greeted its big brother.

The X6 had the obnoxious on-road presence of a chromed whale carcass; smaller dimensions (i.e. the ability to fit snugly into a British parking space and the outside lane) make the new car’s still overtly posturing appearance more tolerable. 

Inside, the roofline’s coupe-ish swan-dive has a predictable impact. All 5’8” of yours truly fits fine in the back, but even with the ceiling emphatically scooped out, it appears likely that Autocar’s collection of six-footers can, at the very least, expect to have their hairline tickled.

It’s a similar story in the boot, where 50 litres of seat-up capacity - not to mention clearance for especially big, longer items - has been lost. That still leaves a hearty 500-litres of pleasingly high loading, square and flat floor space - but the inevitable practicality demerit stands. 

Upfront, of course, the driver wouldn’t recognise any compromise. Headroom here is massively plentiful, and although one wonders how BMW has managed to squeeze a clutch pedal into the cramped, offset area underfoot, the driving position is otherwise satisfying (aided by a 20mm drop in hip point compared to the X3). 

Being lower to the road is a prominent X4 theme; a 36mm reduction in height has brought the centre of gravity down, and the retuned chassis is obviously primed to take advantage of that. This it does in now familiar style, spurning the dynamic handicap of being still comparatively tall with the kind of bemusing nimbleness one associates with an NBA point guard.

Changes of direction, always grip-happy and torque-trimmed, are ruthlessly gouged from the road surface - especially in Sport mode, where the dampers disregard pliability entirely for jowl-quivering levels of tautness. 

Teamed with the steady fizz of BMW’s straight-six, and the xDrive30d makes for a consummate hot hatch botherer. The unfortunate thing is that it somewhat struggles to be much of anything else.

Despite defaulting on start-up to its softest Comfort setting, the X4 (admittedly in M Sport garb with 19-inch wheels) never truly relaxes on its springs.

There’s a slight irritability about the ride around town; not significant enough to jostle you needlessly - but short of the plush civility one would hope for in an upmarket SUV, and certainly at odds with the low-speed amiability being dispensed by the drivetrain. 

Around this central niggle, others orbit. There’s rather a lot of wind noise at motorway speed, and a wee bit too much engine noise below it. Heave it onto the scales, and you’ll discover the X4 still weighs the best part of two tonnes - so expect its claimed 47.9mpg to be difficult to eke out while deploying anything more than a slither of its potential.

Also, some of the switchgear and polished trim plastic used in the taller dash architecture isn’t of the same standard as those used in the 3-Series - unforgivable in a car which starts and then ascends at a much steeper cost rate.

Should I buy one?

It’s conceivable that you might want to, and likely for the same reason people plucked up the courage to buy the X6.

As the conveyor of a sassier image, the sleeker X4 arguably prevails. And if that’s to be the main tent-pole of its appeal, then the single-mindedness of the M Sport’s ride and handling need not be a hinderance - nor even the premium that applies to it. 

But we prefer a bit more roundedness to our sporty SUVs, and recent additions to the canon - not least the Porsche Macan S Diesel - have shown the breadth of ability that can be shoehorned into a good-looking body.

Having that presence in the price bracket makes it likely that most X4 buyers will look to shop below £40k, thereby taking advantage of the xDrive20d’s lower running costs. On this evidence, and with the cheaper trim levels feasibly more agreeable to drive, we’re inclined to aim our recommendation in the same direction. 

BMW xDrive30d M Sport

Price £46,395 0-62mph 5.8secs Top speed 145mph Economy 47.9mpg CO2 156g/km Kerbweight 1895kg Engine 2993cc, six-cylinder, diesel Power 255bhp at 4000rpm Torque 413lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox Eight-speed automatic 

Join the debate

Comments
16

25 July 2014

Why would anyone choose an X4 over a X3? The X3 has it licked in every department.

25 July 2014
Autocar wrote:

The X6 had the obnoxious on-road presence of a chromed whale carcass

So true and this isnt any better, its just in a smaller portion. Hideous, overpriced and coming to a school run near you soon. Its a Nissan Juke in a posh frock, and suddenly makes the Evoque looks like a cheaper better option..

25 July 2014

But they are ugly -uggers no style whatsoever, that is besides the ugly style hey but that is i.m.o. they sell well.

25 July 2014

Yes because the X3 does what it was designed for so brilliantly. I have the 30d and while it may be ugly it does all I ask from it. I'm not in a position to have a Cayman plus a family caravan lugger on my drive so I'll stick with 40mpg, 4wd, 255hp and 6s 0-60 thanks.

26 July 2014
Cleverzippy1 wrote:

Yes because the X3 does what it was designed for so brilliantly. I have the 30d and while it may be ugly it does all I ask from it. I'm not in a position to have a Cayman plus a family caravan lugger on my drive so I'll stick with 40mpg, 4wd, 255hp and 6s 0-60 thanks.

Yes because a 0-60 in 6 seconds is so relevant in the real world, there are far better vehicles out there for towing a caravan around, a Skoda Superb Estate Outdoor 170DSG 4x4 for instance at £29k, and still leave you over £10k to buy a toy for the weekend.. Or is it a badge thing?

25 July 2014

That interior fills me with a feeling of gloom - it's like a 90s German executive boardroom.

25 July 2014

This car is so conflicted I struggle to understand the thought process of anyone who buys it. It's an SUV only less practical. It's a 4 door saloon only doesn't drive as well. It's a coupe but is uglier and weighs 2 tonnes. It's got raised ground clearance but stupid MSport suspension and wheels to counteract the higher centre of gravity. Oh and to cap it all off, it reminds me of the Pontiac Aztek!

26 July 2014

I'd say the X3 is a better all round proposition than the X4. That said, you can tell the reviewer had already made up his mind he was going to dislike the X4 conceptually no matter how good or not the car is (same with the X6 - cue the X6 reference in the article as having "the obnoxious on-road presence of a chromed whale carcass"). Never mind that the X4 is probably far better built and will run rings round the beloved Evoque dynamically.

26 July 2014

I actually quite like it...much more stylish than BMW's other lumpy X models and Dowdi's Q cars. Just wish BMW GB would give us a choice of decent petrol engines so that those of us who are not concerned with outright fuel economy or emissions bands can enjoy these cars as the BMW engineers intended.

26 July 2014

So BMW now has a smaller cod-piece for the insecure badge-aware. And they'll buy it.

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