BMW X1 xDrive20d SE17 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    BMW wanted to produce a car for 4x4 owners with a conscience; it has, and it ain't bad

    ONCE THEY WERE the ‘must-have’ for any aspiring professional but now, across the whole of Europe, large 4x4s are frowned upon as the decadent lifestyle of the late Nineties has been replaced by a more frugal approach to motoring. That, plus of course a more planet-friendly understanding of what damage such gas-guzzling monsters were — are — causing to the environment.

    Such a shift in attitude threatened to hit manufacturers such as BMW who gorged on the success of the excellent X5 when it was launched in 1999. But as the anti-4x4 crusade grew, the German giant introduced the X3; the half-measure solution though, combined with the car’s unflattering looks, didn’t deliver the solution BMW had been hoping for.

    The evolution has continued, and now we have the X1. It’s the compact SAV (sports activity vehicle) for the new decade which combines the necessary low emissions, good fuel economy, a confident high driving position and plenty of rear-seat space. Built at BMW’s plant in Leipzig, the X1 has been three years in development at a cost of millions.

    Sharing the same floorpan as the hugely-successful 3-series, both cars also have the same wheelbase but what primarily sets the X1 apart — in addition to its height — is that it’s available not just with 2WD, but 4WD. The permanent four-wheel-drive system, cleverly, can apportion power entirely to the front or rear.

    In sharing much of its DNA with the 3-series, the X1 is something of a crossover vehicle. It's also the first of BMW's X models (X5, X3 and X6 being the others) to be offered with an option that powers only its rear wheels. I drove both the 2WD and 4WD models.

    It retains the sharp changes of direction and superb roadholding you'd expect from a Beemer

    Stick with the two-wheel-drive

    First up was the — now take a deep breath! — X1 xDrive20d six-speed manual. That, in simple terms and translating BMW’s contrived language, is an X1 with four-wheel drive (rear-drive cars are sDrive) and the 2.0-litre diesel engine churning out 174bhp.

    As with the rest of the current generation of BMWs, the X1 comes with the company’s EfficientDynamics and as a result it returns 48.7mpg on the combined cycle, with a CO2 output of 153g/km. But unless you live up in the hills and have to negotiate dirt tracks which turn slippery after an extended downpour, I’d stick with the two-wheel-drive version and save a few bob. Not only is it cheaper, but it feels swifter on the road and returns better figures: 53.3mpg and 139g/km.

    BMW, which has always enjoyed being labelled as “the driver’s car”, hasn’t disappointed with the X1. Having said that, running on its standard run-flat tyres the car has a tendency to deliver the odd knock and jolt back into the cabin as it negotiates the often knobbly streets found in our smaller towns and villages.

    Get the car up to speed though — and by that I mean anything above 30mph — and the X1 improves dramatically and loses any tendency of being over-firm. While the X1 instantly becomes far more forgiving, it retains the sharp changes of direction and superb roadholding qualities, with little body roll, you'd expect from a Beemer. With its hydraulically-assisted and well-weighted steering, it might even convince you to take the meandering country roads rather than the A9.

    Ample room for five

    Inside the X1’s cabin, which has all the usual high-quality surfaces and finishes, you’ll be excused for questioning whether you’re in a petrol-powered car rather than the diesel, such is the level of soundproofing. Sure the oilburner sounds rather tractor-like if you stand next to it outside, but ease yourself cabin, close the door and the noise disappears. And it stays that way on start-up, acceleration and cruising on the motorway.

    It’s also pretty spacious with ample room for five adults. There’s bags of head and legroom and if you fold the rear seats down the loadbay is cavernous. Even with the rear seats in place you can comfortable fit two- or three sets of golf clubs. You can even take advantage of the X1’s 40:20:40 set-up, which means you can fold the centre seat down for long items and still have rear-seat passengers sitting either side quite comfortably.

    If you’ve got wider items to carry, you can fold two seats down, or even just one: it’s a very flexible arrangement. BMW’s philosophy relating to the X1 is simple; it should be all things to all men and women — a 'downsized' 4x4 with a conscience and car-like handling to boot. Many people thought it was too good to be true: well it isn’t. It’s true.

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £24,905 / £26,795
    Engine / Power: 1998cc / 141bhp
    How fast?: 0-60 mph 9.0secs, Max 128mph
    How big/heavy?: H1545mm W2006mm L4454mm / 1685kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 53.3mpg / CO2 139g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 24 /
    Alternatives: Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V, Nissan Quasqai

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