Review: BMW X1 (2009 – 2015)

Rating:

Compact off-roader available with two or four-wheel drive. Car-like to drive. Economical diesel engine with various power outputs. Usefully large boot.

M Sport models on bigger wheels have stiff ride.

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BMW X1 (2009 – 2015): At A Glance

The BMW X1 is the smallest model in the X line-up and - as BMW is proud to claim - was the first premium compact SUV on sale in the UK before the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque. Don't be fooled by the pictures, the X1 is actually a lot more compact than it first appears plus it's priced pretty keenly too, making it an alternative to the likes of the Ford Kuga.

It is actually shorter than a BMW 3 Series Touring so parking isn't a problem, plus it drives well too with impressive handling and - unusually on a small BMW - a very forgiving ride. But where the X1 makes the most sense is in running costs.

It's available with xDrive four-wheel drive as you'd expect but there are also two-wheel drive version - badged sDrive - which unusually are rear-wheel drive rather than front. This means they still handle well in the BMW tradition, but fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are low. All X1s are powered by the same 2.0-litre diesel engine but in differing power outputs. The most frugal is the sDrive18d which is capable of averaging 54.3mpg while choosing the xDrive version still sees economy of 49.6mpg.

The top model is the twin-turbo xDrive23d with 204bhp but for most people the sDrive20d is the best blend of punchy performance and economy. On the road the X1 is comfortable and composed, tackling rough ground or long distance motorway cruises with equal aplomb, while passenger room for those in the back is impressively spacious.

BMW X1 2007 Road Test and Video

What does a BMW X1 (2009 – 2015) cost?

List Price from £38,935
Buy new from £34,133
Contract hire from £273.19 per month
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BMW X1 (2009 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4454–4477 mm
Width 1798–2058 mm
Height 1545–1567 mm
Wheelbase 2760 mm

Full specifications

It may be the smallest model in the X line-up, but it's not hard to see that the X1 is based on the BMW 3 Series Touring, with a very similar interior layout. What's surprising is that some of the plastics, most notably around the gear lever, don't feel very BMW-like and are quite hard. Thankfully, the rest of the cabin has the usual high-quality feel you'd expect from the German firm with soft-touch plastics and a well-built air to everything.

It's functional and easy to get to grips with, so although it's not as luxurious as the interior of the BMW X5, (there's a standard handbrake rather than an electric parking brake for example) it still works well and feels a cut above many alternatives at this price. The driving position is good - slightly raised compared to a normal saloon, giving a good view out - but not as elevated as a full-size 4x4. The X1 isn't as big or as high as it looks and sat alongside a BMW 3 Series you'll realise it's actually quite compact which makes it easy to park.

As you'd want from an offroader, the X1 is very practical. There's a standard hatchback opening and a 420-litre boot with a wide load floor. The rear seats fold fully down to open up the total area of 1350 litres which can carry a large amount of kit from bicycles to big bits of furniture. Those back seats are very comfortable too, with more leg and headroom than you'd expect to find in a car of this size.

Equipment from launch (October 2009):

SE is the only equipment level and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels with non-runflat tyres, rear parking sensors, two-zone air conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking, front foglights, a multi-function leather steering wheel, engine start/stop button, reach and rake adjustable steering, a CD stereo with an auxiliary input, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) which includes traction control, ABS and cornering brake control plus rear Isofix child seat mounts. The xDrive18d and xDrive20d models get Hill Descent Control while the xDrive23d model comes with different alloy wheels, six-speed automatic gearbox, an automatically dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting and chrome exterior trim.

Child seats that fit a BMW X1 (2009 – 2015)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the BMW X1 (2009 – 2015) like to drive?

The X1 only comes as a diesel in the UK and despite the different badges, all use the same 2.0-litre engine, but in different power outputs. The most economical is the sDrive18d which has 143bhp on tap along with 320Nm of torque but still average 54.3mpg with low CO2 emissions of 136g/km, meaning annual car tax is very reasonable.

The reason this model is impressively efficient is that it's two-wheel drive - signified by the sDrive badge. Unusually it's actually rear-wheel drive, whereas all other two-wheel drive off-roaders like this are front-wheel drive, so it retains that excellent handling feel you expect of a BMW. All X1s come with an engine start/stop function too as part of the Efficient Dynamics fuel saving technology.

The four-wheel drive models are badged xDrive and the extra traction is very useful if you live in rural area where winter roads are rarely gritted and mud and ice can be a problem. Choosing a four-wheel drive mode doesn't mean getting stung by big increases in fuel consumption though - the xDrive18d is only slightly slower from 0-62mpg than the sDrive but you'd never notice in everyday driving, while economy is still 49.6mpg.

The most popular model is the sDrive20d with 177bhp which manages the 0-62mph sprint in 8.1 seconds and pulls very strongly in-gear for easy overtaking and motorway driving. It's still very economical with an average figure of 53.3mpg and works well with the standard six-speed manual gearbox, although this can feel a little springy and isn't particularly slick, especially if you try and change gear quickly.

The top of the range diesel is the xDrive23d which is fitted with twin turbos which helps boost maximum power to 204bhp along with 400Nm of torque. It originally came exclusively with a six-speed Sport automatic gearbox complete with paddle shifts on the back of the steering wheel. It's a decent gearbox and changes very smoothly but most people will probably prefer the six-speed manual version which was introduced in July 2010.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine that powers the X1 is quite noisy on start-up but is quiet enough on the move and barely noticeable at 70mph with the rev counter showing 2000rpm. Driving the X1 feels pretty much like getting behind the wheel of a 3 Series Touring. It's composed and reassuring while there's plenty of grip in tight corners. Body roll is slightly more evident than a 3 Series, which is inevitable given the higher centre of gravity, but perhaps the biggest surprise is the excellent ride quality - something unexpected in a small BMW.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
sDrive 16d 58 mpg 11.5 s 128 g/km
sDrive 18d 54–58 mpg 9.6 s 128–136 g/km
sDrive 18d Automatic 57 mpg 9.9 s 132 g/km
sDrive 20d 53–58 mpg 7.8–8.1 s 129–139 g/km
sDrive 20d Automatic 48–57 mpg 7.9–8.3 s 132–155 g/km
sDrive 20d EfficientDynamics 63 mpg 8.3 s 119 g/km
sDrive 20i 40–41 mpg 7.4 s 162–165 g/km
sDrive 20i Automatic 42–42 mpg 7.7 s 157–160 g/km
xDrive 18d 50–51 mpg 9.9–10.1 s 144–150 g/km
xDrive 18d Automatic 52 mpg 10.1 s 143 g/km
xDrive 20d 49–51 mpg 8.1–8.4 s 145–153 g/km
xDrive 20d Automatic 46–52 mpg 8.1–8.6 s 143–164 g/km
xDrive 20i 37–38 mpg 7.8 s 176–179 g/km
xDrive 20i Automatic 39–40 mpg 7.9 s 167–170 g/km
xDrive 23d 47 mpg 7.3 s 158 g/km
xDrive 23d Automatic 45 mpg 7.3 s 167 g/km
xDrive 25d 48 mpg 6.8 s 154 g/km
xDrive 25d Automatic 51 mpg 6.8 s 145 g/km

Real MPG average for a BMW X1 (2009 – 2015)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

84%

Real MPG

27–64 mpg

MPGs submitted

418

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the BMW X1 (2009 – 2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Can I mix different tyre brands front and back on a 4x4?

I have a 2011 BMW X1 xDrive on run flats. I don’t mind the harsh ride but they are Pirelli P7 and seem to lack grip in winter. It has 255/40 R18 95V on the back and 225/45 R18 91V front. I expect to need new replace rears this year (rather costly) and would like cross climates but not to change all four at once as the fronts have a lot of tread to go. Can I get suitable run flats and phase the rear and fronts?
You can't mix tyres with cold weather tyres and you definitely can't mix tyres with an automatic 4WD system. You can't get Cross Climate ZPs anyway. It's probably a matter of succumbing to the BMW winter package system whereby you pay the dealer a couple of grand for a set of winter tyres on rims (preferably smaller rims with deeper profile tyres), then swap back to summers in April.
Answered by Honest John
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