BMW’s reward for turning the X1’s engine through 90deg is readily apparent inside the new car. The mechanical change was part of a process that has transformed the X1 from being one of the least practical crossovers of its size into one of the most.
Although you sit 30mm higher in the front than in the old car, and higher still in the rear, there’s abundant head room and generous leg room in the front row.
Further back, our test car’s optional sliding rear seats made for good passenger space, so in both rows the X1 offers more room than our class-leading crossover, the popular Qashqai. Both of the BMW’s premium-brand rivals, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3, are less spacious.
The X1’s boot is big, too. It isn’t desperately wide, but it’s long and deep and bordered by back seats that fold 40/20/40 and lie completely flat for the utmost load-carrying flexibility.
A folding front passenger seatback is also available as an option. So, at the second time of asking, it seems that the X1 actually delivers the enhanced practicality its crossover status implies.
The cabin also does justice to a premium-brand badge with its pleasing material quality, which, again, is something you’d never have said of its predecessor. From shoulder level right down to the door bin and transmission tunnel mouldings, and from the column stalks to the bonnet release, the X1’s cabin plastics look and feel solid, smooth and well finished.
The soft-touch surfaces up top, juxtaposed skilfully with textured aluminium and satin chrome inlays, conjure an expensive ambience, the oyster and black leathers of our test car playing an equal part in that effect. The leather-upholstered bar bracketing the centre console and gear selector in favour of the driver, meanwhile, is at once typical of a BMW and very easy on the eye, and the red ambient lighting of the cockpit adds an even more upmarket note after dark.
There’s a generous amount of storage in both rows, with good-sized cubbies at the foot of the centre stack and under the centre armrest, and bottle holders in the door cubbies big enough for one-litre bottles.
Assuming that BMW’s characteristic sense of reserve in the styling of its interiors is to your taste, the X1’s cabin is a difficult one to find fault with. We’d prefer that second-row passengers had more than one 12V socket as a means to charge their various electronic devices and also dare say that some parents might miss a third set of Isofix child seat anchorages for the rear row’s middle seat. But neither concern is sufficient to stop the X1 getting a perfect score here.