The second-generation BMW X1 arrived last year, with a look inspired by the larger X3. The range comprises SE, Sport, xLine and M Sport models, and power comes from the same engine line-up as the 1 Series hatchback. It’s thexDrive2od model we test here with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. It costs£32,890 in Sport trim, undercutting the top-spec QX30 by nearly £500.
BMW’S original X1 was no looker, with a mixed-up design that was part-crossover and part-1 Series. In comparison, the second-generation model is far more cohesive, and has a look that’s pure crossover compared with the hatch-like shapes of its rivals here. In some ways it’s like a shrunkenX3, with a two-box design familiar BMW styling cues and larger dimensions than the Infiniti or Mercedes.
The large grille is flanked by round headlamps with a daytime running light signature that’s pure BMW, while the black cladding low down on the front bumper signals the car’s crossover potential.
Further back, there’s a rising waistline and a narrow glass area, and the plastic cladding extends over the wheelarches and along the bottoms of the doors. Behind the rear doors, there’s BMW’s traditional kink in the window line, while a large pair of tail-lights sits across the back of the car. Our Sport version features 18-inch alloy wheels that look smarter than the small 17-inch wheels on SE models, and they help give theX1 neat proportions.
Climb inside, and theX1’s cabin layout will be familiar to any BMW owner. That means you get a driver-focused dashboard, buttons that feature simple pictograms with minimal lettering and a high-resolution multimedia screen on top of the dash. You navigate through it using BMW’s standard-fit i Drive control wheel, which is an intuitive system to use, while shortcut buttons around the controller make finding the most commonly used functions easier and quicker.
Build quality is first-rate, but the orange-lit climate displays look a bit dated when compared with the full-colour instruments of theX1’s rivals. Its material quality is ahead of both other cars’, though.
While theX1 has a slightly smaller engine capacity than the QX30 or GLA, its i9obhp power output is more than either rival can muster. And with 400Nm of torque, the BMW has greater pulling power, too; it’s capable of hauling a two-tonne payload if you add a tow bar.
We managed o-6omph in 7.8 seconds, and the eight-speed automatic box delivers fast shifts between gears, no matter whether you let the electronics take control or do so yourself using the steering wheel-mounted paddles. In-gear response was reasonable, although you have to wait for the wave of torque to kick in at i,75orpm, where the other cars are already pulling hard from i,400rpm. However, even with this lag, the X1’s extra power meant it was the fastest model in all of our tests.
Where the BMW really stands out is with the way it drives. It’s not especially light, but there’s a finesse and alertness to the car that neither competitor here can match. Although there’s body roll, the SUV feels more agile through corners, and it responds to direction changes well. Push hard and the car can get a little ragged as the dampers struggle to contain the movements of the tall body. Mid-corner bumps can also cause some kickback through the steering. In fact, theX1 feels more like a MINI, which is no surprise, given that it shares its platform with the Clubman.
This handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, either, because while the X1 is on the firm side, it manages to iron out all but the biggest bumps in the surface. In town, the higher driving position means you get a better view of the road than in either rival, while the light steering and responsive engine make easy work of city driving.
The latest X1 sits on the same platform as the 2 Series Active Tourer and MINI Clubman. As those cars have been on sale for a while, any bugs will have been ironed out before production of this model started last year.
Euro NCAP gave the X1 a five-star safety rating last year, and it compares favourably with its rivals here on safety kit. While it has only six airbags to the seven of the QX30 and GLA, its percentage scores for adult and child protection are on par, plus cornering brake control and an advanced stability control system keep an electronic eye on the car.
Although Infiniti’s personal service has yet to be evaluated via the Driver Power survey, BMW’s dealers certainly have been put under scrutiny. The manufacturer ranked a middling 15th out of the 32 firms covered by our 2016 poll.
Running costs 4.2/5
OUR X1 xDrive2od Sport costs £32,890, which is marginally less than the Tech-spec QX30 and nearly £1,000 less than the GLA in Sport Premium trim.
It doesn’t have quite as much equipment as the Infiniti, and leather is a pricey option, although overall you wouldn’t feel short-changed
Buy on finance and the X1 will work out a little more expensive than the QX30 on a monthly basis; the initial deposit will be higher, too, because BMW doesn’t offer any type of contribution towards your initial payment.
Company car buyers will be quids ia because the lower list price and 129g/km emissions make theX1 the best-value business option, although if you really want to cut your tax costs, the front-wheel- drive sDrive18d will be the model to go for. BMW’s excellent five-year Service Inclusive package is available on theX1 for £475, which is half the price of Mercedes’ three-year maintenance plan.
THE squared off-bodywork gives the BMW a space advantage here. There’s a sos-litre boot – 24 litres bigger than the GLA’s and75 litres up on the QX30S – while folding the back seats increases capacity to 1,550 litres. Even better, the rear seats fold 40:20:40, plus the bench slides back and forth by up to 130mm.
Access to the back seats is the best of this trio thanks to the wide doors, while the higher roof line means headroom isn’t compromised, even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof.
Again, the X1’s large dimensions mean there’s better storage up front, with twin cup-holders, a reasonable armrest bia good door pockets and a decently sized and shaped glovebox.
HEAD TO HEAD
These three cars show the sheer breadth of bodystyles you can get in the class. The X1 is almost SUV-sized, while the QX30 is far more of a raised hatchback. The GLA falls between these two with a larger boot than Infiniti, but cabin space is still on the small side. In reality, the BMW us the most SUV-like of the trio.
The relationship between the QX30 and GLA is obvious inside. The Infiniti has the same cliamte controls, window switches and single column stalk, while their keys are similar, too. The X1 shares its platform with the MINI Clubman, but both cars have their own distinct look.
Infiniti makes a big deal about its personalised customer service. But we’ve yet to recieve enough responses for the brand to appear in our Driver Power survey, so we can’t see if this is reflected in owners’ views – and whether the dealers perform better than the BMW and Mercedes networks.