Behind the Wheel Sampling the new 2016 BMW X1 F48 in 20d Sport and 25d xLine guises

The rise of the small SUV has seemingly been inexorable over the past few years, and while the first generation X1 claims to have been the first ‘premium’ vehicle in this segment it now faces some very stiff competition. Audi has muscled its way into the segment with its Q3 and despite the original E84 X1 maintaining strong sales right to the end of its life it’s the Audi that is now the best seller so the all-new X1 certainly has its work cut out for it.

This really is an all-new machine. Being based on an entirely different platform to the old car, with a brand-new engine line-up and a host of standard and optional equipment that previously wasn’t available to the X1 buyer. First impressions of the new car are pretty favourable to our eyes – it’s more cohesive and less gawky than the old model and while it might look larger that’s actually an optical illusion as it’s actually shorter than the E84. Being based on the UKL platform (so the same family as the MINI and the 2 Series Active Tourer) the new X1 has a transverselymounted engine which makes the bonnet of the new car an astonishing nine-inches shorter which allows the cabin to be set further forward which brings huge benefits to the interior accommodation on offer. Before we get into that though we should first have a look at the UK line-up, and as you’d expect these days it’s almost exclusively diesel, with the xDrive20i the sole petrol-engined model on offer. The three diesels are the 18d, 20d and 25d, and they all use the same 1995cc engine in different states of tune – 150, 190 and 231hp respectively. Four different trim options are available – SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport – although not all engine options can be had in all trim levels. The 18d can be ordered in all four trims, the 20i and 20d will be offered in three (not SE), while the 25d can only be bagged as an xLine or M Sport.

We’ll concentrate on the 20d Sport here though as it’s likely to be the best seller in the UK and while it’s currently only available with the eight-speed auto thesix-speed manual ‘box will be added in the next month or so. Sport trim adds such niceties as 18-inch alloys, black high-gloss interior trim with Coral red accents, cloth ‘Race’ upholstery, black high-gloss exterior trim and roof rails and Sport front seats to the already impressive SE list of kit that includes Business navigation, DAB, dual-zone climate-control, powered tailgate, rear PDC, a Sport multifunction steering wheel and a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat.

Whereas the old X1’s interior was okay, it was never anything to write home about but with the new car BMW has really upped its game. Inside, the X1 now really does feel premium and the X1’s interior really wouldn’t feel out of place in an X3. The dash is nicely designed and has a blend of 2 Series Active Tourer and more traditional BMW elements. Perhaps the only slightly odd item for those stepping in from another BMW is the auto shift lever which feels a little ‘un-BMW’, although it works well enough – just looks a little odd. The boot’s much bigger than the old model, offering 505 litres of space, although like the 2 Series Active Tourer that figure does include the under floor storage area which would necessitate the use of soft bags to fully utilise all the space.

There’s plenty of room in the back for passengers too, significantly more space than in the E84, and as an option further space can be freed up in the boot by speccing rear seats that slide forward and back. The old X1 was a little mean with its storage space but there are no such complaints with the new X1 – door pockets are commodious (front and rear) and there’s a decent amount of space under the centre armrest and in a storage cubby under the passenger’s front seat while behind the de rigueur cup holders there’s a little space that’s ideal for a mobile phone.

So inside it’s a big step forward, but will the new X1 stack up favourably against the old model when it comes to driving pleasure? The old X1 was always very good in this respect and while it might have been a junior SUV it was based on the 3 Series chassis so was always an entertaining steer. With 190hp this new car uses the latest B47 diesel engine which endows it with three per cent more power, a nine per cent improvement in fuel economy – now an impressive 55.4mpg – and an eight per cent reduction in CO² emissions. Vital stats are a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 137mph – more than enough for a family wagon you would imagine. And on the road that’s exactly how it feels, the 2.0-litre diesel proving more than man enough to haul the X1’s body around, and dare we say it, actually entertaining while it does so.

We haven’t yet had the opportunity to sample the front-wheel drive 18d sDrive version but in this xDrive model the platform’s front-wheel drive origins doesn’t betray itself. There’s no torque steer and the fourwheel drive setup clings on tenaciously in all conditions giving the car a very surefooted feeling even when really pressing on. Eventually its high ride height stops you from exploring the car’s limits further, but for what is ostensibly a family wagon it’s actually pretty enjoyable to hustle along quickly. The ride on the optional variable dampers is also pretty commendable and light years ahead of the E84 X1 20d to which we have access which runs SE suspension and 18-inch rims like our test car.

There’s very little not to like about the new X1 in fact – in 20d guise it’s plenty quick enough, rides and handles well and has a level of kit and a quality feeling you simply wouldn’t expect, especially if you’ve just stepped out of the old model. Dare we say it, but you might even consider an X1 over an X3 – it’s that good.

The 2.0-litre diesel is more than man enough to haul the X1’s body around, and dare we say it, actually entertaining while it does so.

Inside the F48 X1 is a big step up with excellent materials and a good level of fit and finish; rear seat passengers now have much more legroom and there’s better storage space, too.

 TECH DATA FILE BMW F48 X1 xDrive 20d Sport
ENGINE: Four-cylinder turbodiesel
CAPACITY: 1995cc
MAX POWER: 190hp at 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 295lb ft at 1750-2500rpm

0-62MPH: 7.6 seconds TOP SPEED: 137mph

ECONOMY: 58.9mpg

EMISSIONS:  127g/km

PRICE (OTR): £29,850

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