There’s a Forum thread elsewhere on this website’s which asks, perhaps not unreasonably: ‘What is the point of the BMW X1?’

The consensus seems to be that, unsurprisingly for a modern BMW, the new soft-roader is a bit of a munter.

Read Matt's first drive of the BMW X1

See the hi-res picture gallery

Last week I went to drive it. And although to my eyes it gets no better looking in the metal, it and the X3 fail - like the hairs that sprout in increasing number and length from my nostrils these days – to shock me as they once did. I fear I have become conditioned.

Is it pointless, though? Certainly, on the surface X1 seems to operate within the confines of a very small niche.

BMW would like us to think of it as a 1-Series Gone Large, and so makes a play of the fact the engines are common to the 1. And although the metalwork of its floor is actually shared with a 3-Series, the X1’s cabin is built down to a price so that it doesn’t step on the X3’s toes.

But does it do enough?

If you get down to the minutiae, as you, I, company engineers and marketers do: yeah. The X3 is bigger, and finished to a higher standard inside. It’s been a while since I drove one but I also seem to remember it’s more refined, and drives a little better than an X1 too.

But will the casual punter notice so much difference?

Will a hard plastic here compared to a soft one there be a deal-breaker? In whose world is a 4454mm-long car too short, but a 4569mm one just right: especially when only 35mm of the difference is in the cabin? An X1 can even out-tow the X3 by 200kg.

The biggest difference between the two, though? I make it about four-grand on their list prices.

So maybe the question isn’t ‘what’s the point of the X1?’. But ‘what’s the point of the X3?’

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