Used tow car: BMW X1
Small SUVS are all the rage these days, but were still a novelty when the X1 made its debut. Euan Doig takes a closer look
It might not be the most comfortable of companions, but this small SUV does offer economy and performance
SOMETIMES SUCCESS comes about by being able to react quickly to changing trends. That’s what happened with BMW and the X1. Back in 2009, the small crossover market was just starting to take off, but it clearly represented a sea-change in buyers’ tastes. Small hatchbacks were out, disregarded in favour of small SUVS with their loftier driving positions and associated feeling of security, which is why people were flocking to cars such as the Nissan Qashqai. BMW wanted a piece of the action, and in the process to steal a march on rivals, so the X1 was born. The X1 was based on the 3 Series saloon of the time, and was launched with only the one engine – a 2.0-litre turbodiesel – in three states of tune. The lesser-powered models, badged 18d, generated 143bhp and 236lb ft of torque, then the 20d models had 177bhp and 258lb ft. Finally, the twin-turbo 23d model topped the range with 204bhp and 295lb ft. However, where the two lower-powered models were available with two-wheel drive (sdrive) and four-wheel drive (xdrive), the top-of-the-range version was four-wheel-drive only. In addition, the 123d was launched solely with an automatic gearbox, whereas the others had manuals as standard. The 123d was offered with a manual from the middle of 2010. All models came with BMW’S full suite of Efficient Dynamics technology, designed to enhance efficiency, and if buyers specified either of the two sat-nav systems offered, they would benefit from the idrive infotainment set-up. In 2011 the xdrive 20d Efficient Dynamics model was launched, and the following year BMW released an economical sdrive 16d version that could do 57.6mpg, plus the first petrolpowered X1, the 20i model, which also came with twoor four-wheel drive.
BMW was quick off the mark with its X1; the rival Audi Q3 wouldn’t appear until 2011, Mercedes didn’t get the GLA out until 2014, and Jaguar has only recently launched the E-pace. All versions of the X1 drove pretty well, with their emphasis
most definitely on driver enjoyment instead of comfort. However, whether this was a wise course for a familyorientated SUV is more open to question, because road tests of the day almost universally decried the X1’s stiff suspension and jiggly ride. Still, all models are pretty quiet on the move. We’d steer clear of both the sdrive 16d and the petrol 20i models. Neither of these will have the necessary low-rev torque to cope with a heavy trailer, so you’ll have to work them extra hard. Not only will this have a commensurately disastrous effect on your economy figures, you’ll also end up feeling more stressed than you need be. Tow car fans will undoubtedly be drawn to the four-wheeldrive versions. These offer plenty of extra traction on slippery surfaces, with only a minor increase in costs for fuel. In addition, the X1 remains stable when towing and stops very quickly indeed. Only a slightly intrusive stability control system detracts from its manners. Either the 18d or 20d engine will prove perfectly adequate for towing, but we’d go for the slightly stronger 20d. Space in the rear is ( just) acceptable, but the 450-litre boot may struggle to carry all of your holiday gear. Once the rear seats are folded down this becomes a decent 1350 litres. All models have air-con and alloy wheels. Higher-spec models come with dual-zone climate control, leather trim and better audio. Models with sat-nav and idrive are worth seeking out.
The X1 has been subject to four recalls. The first concerned the power steering, which could fail. The steering will still operate, albeit with significantly more effort from the driver. Second, a faulty electrical connection can cause the vehicle to fail to start or, in extreme cases, cut out while on the move. The third recall concerned the clutch cover, which could become loose and noisy before causing a loss of drive. The final recall was the most serious, because some screws could break inside the engine, causing an internal oil leak and activating the vehicle’s emergency mode. As always, ensure that all of these remedies have been performed before you part with your cash. Also, when on the forecourt, listen to the engine of any diesel model you’re looking at. If you can hear a ticking, knocking or rattling noise, it could be a sign that the timing chain is on the way out. Either get the dealer to replace it or use it to negotiate a suitable sum off the price.
As long as your towing needs are relatively light, the BMW X1 makes a reasonable vehicle. It isn’t the most comfortable of companions but the xdrive 20d SE model offers the best combination of power, traction, economy and equipment – any other model requires a sacrifice on one area or another. w
The X1 puts driver enjoyment before passenger comfort
Most of the diesel engines are good but we’d go for the 20d
Even entry-level SE trim gets decent kit. The rear seats and boot don’t offer much space