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BMW X1 2017 review: sDrive18d

The BMW X1 sDrive 18d lists for $50,600 which makes it the entry-point into the X1 line-up.
The BMW X1 is the smallest and most affordable BMW SUV you can buy. But does this mean it’s cheap and tiny, or maybe not a ‘real’ BMW?

The BMW X1 is the smallest and most affordable BMW SUV you can buy. But does this mean it’s cheap and tiny, or maybe not a ‘real’ BMW? Should you be sensible and spend the money on something bigger but with a badge that’s not as fancy? Should you pay for an all-wheel drive (AWD) one, when front-wheel drive (FWD) costs less? And what’s the point of diesel fuel?

I’m a dad with a small family, who has driven a squillion BMWs. I’m also a part-time brand snob and a full time cheap-skate. There’s nobody else better placed to tell you the answer to these questions.

We drove the BMW X1 sDrive 18d for a week and here’s what we learned.

BMW X Models 2017: X1 Sdrive 18D
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency4.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$29,900

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

The BMW X1 sDrive 18d lists for $50,600 which makes it the entry-point into the X1 line-up which tops out at $59,000. Still, the standard features list isn’t bad with LED headlights, auto parking, a 6.5-inch display with sat nav and rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, digital radio, five-speaker stereo and power tailgate.

Power tailgate is standard. Power tailgate is standard.

Is that good value? It is for a BMW, but you could buy a Mazda CX-5 which is larger and has similar standard features for about $10K less or a top-spec Akera CX-5 for the same price with far more standard features.

There’s also the Volkswagen Tiguan, which is about the same size as the CX-5 and for the same price as the X1 sDrive 18d you’ll get more standard features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which you won’t get on the Bimmer. The 6.5-inch screen is tiny when the norm is becoming 8.0-inch, too. 

Did you want me to compare it to a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V? I didn’t think so. But they’re bigger and better value. Yes, I know, but they aren’t BMWs.

The grand total for this car with its options was $58,590. The grand total for this car with its options was $58,590.

That’s the point here – you’re buying a BMW which comes with the heritage, reputation for outstanding driving dynamics and refinement of that German brand. Really, if you were going to compare the X1 with anything it’d be the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi’s Q3, a Mini Countryman or Infiniti QX30.

Our X1 sDrive 18d was a bit special, thanks to the $2300 'M Sport' package which brings 18-inch, two-colour, double-spoke light alloy wheels, glossy roof rails, cloth upholstery with the signature blue and red M stitching, sport front seats, aluminium trim, M-Sport aero kit, M leather steering wheel and adjustable dampers.

On top of the M Sport pack our car also had the $2700 'Comfort' package which adds proximity unlocking and power seats.

The panoramic sunroof isn’t standard either. That costs $1790. Oh, and the 'Mineral Grey' metallic paint is $1190.

The grand total is $58,590 before on-road costs.

What about a Subaru XV. It’s about the same size and far less expensive? Okay, I’ll shut up.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

An Australian, Calvin Luk, designed this second-gen X1. That’s something interesting you can tell people. It has tougher more angular styling than the first one, but still looks very much a part of the BMW X family, with those feline headlights, the famous kidney grille, those tail-lights and the upright profile, which is more brick than slick, but gives it a solid presence and stance.

Designed by an Australian, the X1 still very much looks a part of the BMW X family. Designed by an Australian, the X1 still very much looks a part of the BMW X family.

The X1’s dimensions are 4439mm long, 1821mm wide, and 1598mm high. The X3 is about the length of your foot (300mm) longer, about 70mm wider, and close to 80mm shorter in height. For comparison, a Mazda CX-5 is 4550mm long.

Audi’s Q2 is much smaller than the X1, we’re talking 250mm shorter. The Q3 is still a bit shorter at 4338mm long, but the Benz GLA SUV is almost the same length at 4424mm end-to-end.

Our X1, clad in its M Sport pack, stood out alongside more docile looking X1s in the shopping centre carpark thanks to that angry looking aero kit and wheels.

Our car had the M-Sport pack which lifts the interior to a much higher level. Our car had the M-Sport pack which lifts the interior to a much higher level.

Inside, the M-Sport package lifts the regular, fairly basic X1 sDrive18d’s interior to a much higher level. Those seats look amazing with the red and blue stitching, the steering wheel is very similar to the hi-po M2’s tiller, and there’s the fancier headlining, too. 

Do you need the M-sport package or any other interior package? Put it this way, I have a feeling you might be a little underwhelmed by the X1sDrive 18d’s cabin without it.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

This second-gen X1 is more spacious than the bigger BMW X3. Yes, you read that right. The smaller SUV has more room in it than the larger SUV. That’s because the X1 is based on the 2-Series Active Tourer which was cleverly designed to be a versatile sort of people mover. The X1 got the functionality benefits without the people movery looks of the 2 Series Active Tourer.

Get this: the X1 has more legroom and more headroom front and back than the X3. I won’t quote the actual specs because it’ll send you to sleep.

The X1 has more legroom and more headroom than the bigger X3... The X1 has more legroom and more headroom than the bigger X3...

But what you should know is that even at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my own driving position with about 40mm from my knees to the front seat back. Headroom is outstanding too – even with a sunroof which reduced the ceiling height.

There are four cupholders – two in the back and two up front – and bottle holders in all the doors. Cabin storage is good with a bucket under the armrest for keys and purses and wallets, and a decent-sized glove box.

The X1's boot is 505 litres. The X1's boot is 505 litres.

The X1’s boot is 505 litres (VDA) while the X3’s is 550 litres - that’s not much bigger. To show you just how impressive that is, take the Audi Q3 – it has a cargo capacity of only 460 litres, while the Merc GLA has just 421 litres of boot space.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The X1 sDrive 18d has a diesel engine (that’s what the d stands for), it’s a 110kW/330Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder and this car is FWD only (that’s what the s stands for – the AWD version is called the xDrive).

The X1 sDrive 18d's 2.0-litre turbo diesel (110kW/330Nm). The X1 sDrive 18d's 2.0-litre turbo diesel (110kW/330Nm).

An excellent eight-speed auto transmission shifts the gears for you.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

BMW says the X1 sDrive18d needs just 4.7L/100km of diesel under combined driving conditions, we stuck mainly to the city and saw 10.6L/100km. But keep in mind, that’s probably the upper end of worst case scenario for fuel usage – heavy peak-hour, CBD traffic, suburban hills and me at the wheel.

What’s the point of a diesel engine? It uses less fuel, and produces high torque. In other words you’ll get further than petrol on the same-sized tank, and the engine can haul bigger loads without sweating as much.

Diesel does have some enviro-nastiness attached to it. NOx emissions and diesel particulates are significant pollutants. Just saying, don’t consider yourself an environmental warrior by picking a diesel – that’s what hybrids and EVs are for.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The X1 is covered by BMW’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is 'condition based', meaning the car will actually let you know when it needs maintenance, but you can also opt for a five-year $1140 capped price servicing plan.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The BMW X1 has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but there’s not much in the way of advanced safety equipment, such as AEB, lane keeping assistance or rear cross traffic alert, in any grade . This is a gap in the X1’s defences which even many of the far less costly Japanese rivals have covered.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Okay, apart from the badge the other reason you should be buying a BMW is the driving dynamics – this is BMW’s schtick and while the X1 is no M3 it’s more fun and engaging to drive than more affordable SUVs in this same size class.

The ride is refined – it’s composed and comfortable. The handling is impressive, too. Corners which cause many other cars to generate tyre squeal, saw the X1 sDrive 18d grip while remaining flat and silent.

The diesel engine is relatively noisy, but you’ll only notice it with the door open or the window down – so the cabin is insulated well.

Steering is smooth and accurate, although an 11.4m turning circle is on the larger side.

Now, do you need AWD? No, but I’d recommend it if you can afford it. Here’s why. My test hill is steep, and the X1 sDrive 18d’s front wheels struggled to maintain grip under heavy acceleration when pulling away from a standstill. An AWD doesn’t have the same problem because the rear wheels, which have a lot of weight on them, help push without losing grip, while the fronts pull.

So, AWD isn’t vital but it can be a helpful safety addition.


The X1 sDrive 18d is practical and spacious, yet still engaging to drive. Value for money is great, but the quality and reputation that comes with the BMW brand makes this a special small SUV. 

Would you spend $50K on a small SUV, or half that on something with the same features, minus the fancy German badge?  

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Price and features6
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist


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