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BMW X1 SUV (2009 - 2012) review

Read the BMW 1 Series car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.

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Words by: Auto Trader

Last updated on 14 November 2014 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


The BMW X1 4x4 offers the comfort and security of a bigger SUV, without the environmental concerns associated with such machinery.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickQuality ride
  • tickImpressive running costs
  • tickExcellent practicality

At a glance:

How good does it look?

Slotting in between the BMW 3 Series Touring and the BMW X3, some may be confused by the looks of the BMW X1 4×4. It’s not really designed to tackle off-road obstacles in the same way as a Land Rover Freelander, but it does offer the raised seating position and image of an SUV. And, while it’s not as hunkered down as a saloon, big wheels do give it a sporting stance.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's the interior like?

BMW interiors are very traditional, and there’s no change here. Owners of other models in the line-up will instantly recognise the classic dials, chunky steering wheel and supportive seats. The interior feels built to last, with attractive plastics on show, and more functional materials lower in the cabin and out of sight.
Expert rating: 3/5

How practical is it?

Thanks to its extra height there’s good headroom in the front and rear of the X1. Only tall passengers will find the rear legroom restrictive. The boot is a useful 420 litres in size, only 60 litres less than the larger BMW X3. Fold the rear seats and 1,350 litres becomes available. Being slightly narrower than a 3 Series, we found the X1 easy to manoeuvre around town, where its extra ground clearance gives peace of mind when negotiating speed bumps and curbs.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's it like to drive?

The BMW X1 is very much road-biased. For most customers this will make perfect sense – why compromise handling for the very rare off-roading they’re likely to do. All ‘Sdrive’ X1s are rear-wheel drive only, while ‘Xdrive’ versions get four-wheel drive. Handling feels sharp and well-balanced, with the rear-wheel drive X1 we tested proving itself very competent and enjoyable to drive. The manual six-speed gearbox takes a bit of getting used to, but feels positive and slick. The X1 is fitted with non-runflat tyres, contributing towards the quality of the ride, which is pleasingly supple, soaking up bumps and road imperfections well.
Expert rating: 4/5

How powerful is it?

All versions of the BMW X1 accelerate to 60mph in ten seconds or less, placing it firmly at the performance end of the SUV spectrum. Three diesel engines are available, starting with the entry-level X1 18d has plenty of power for most drivers with 143bhp on tap. The ‘Sdrive’ version hits 62mph in 9.6 seconds, while the heavier ‘Xdrive’ takes 10.1. The X1 20d has 177bhp and takes just over eight seconds to the same benchmark. Topping the range is the ‘Xdrive’ X1 23d, a twin-turbo two-litre diesel with 204bhp, giving it a 7.3 second 0-62mph time.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much will it cost me?

The BMW X1 is impressively economical and clean given its size and performance. With economy ranging from 54.3mpg to 44.8mpg from the least to the most powerful engine, there’s not even much penalty when choosing the top model. ‘Sdrive’ cars have the lowest emissions of between 136 and 139g/km of CO2, while the four-wheel drive models emit between 150 and 167g/km of CO2. BMW’s stop and start system is fitted to all manual X1s, cutting the engine when the vehicle comes to a halt.
Expert rating: 4/5

How reliable is it?

BMW has an excellent reputation for build quality, and the X1 shouldn’t tarnish this. The engines and many other components are shared with other models and have proved reliable.
Expert rating: 4/5

How safe is it?

With a five-star EuroNCAP crash test result, the BMW X1 is one of the safest cars in its class. Front, side and curtain airbags are standard, as are seatbelt pretensioners and ISOFIX child seat mounting positions.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much equipment do I get?

All X1s are offered in SE specification and come fitted with a single CD-player, two-zone climate control, split-folding rear seat, front foglights, 17-inch alloy wheels, central locking and a trip computer. A £510 comfort package adds enhanced interior lighting, Park Distance Control (PDC), automatic wipers and headlights and auto-dimming mirror. For £1,705 the design package brings Oyster Nevada leather interior, wood trim, front armrest, dark headlining and front sports seats. An automatic gearbox costs £1,400 and sat-nav is available from £1,430.
Expert rating: 3/5

Why buy?

Once you grasp what the BMW X1 is all about, it’s a very impressive car. Great engines and handling make it an exciting SUV to drive, while the ride is good and economy is impressive. Just don’t expect it to conquer a muddy slope.
Expert rating: 4/5

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