BMW has refreshed the appearance of its smallest SUV, enhanced the interior ambience, added tempting new trim levels to the range and raised the bar for its four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine. The X1 is better than ever - if not as accomplished as the 3 Series Touring it undercuts.
In the Metal:
If you like the X1 we'd urge you splash out on one of the new-look lines, as they transform the shape into something a little more interesting. All versions receive new headlights, mirrors and bumpers front and rear, though the colour treatment of the latter - and the chunky side sills - depends on the version you go for. Pictured is the xLine variant with silver exterior detailing and 18-inch alloys.
Inside, the updates amount to classier materials and better quality; though the Audi Q3 has it licked unless you spend a good deal more on leather etc in the X1. It's as spacious as ever though, with a surfeit of headroom in the rear. We do like the colour schemes that make up the xLine and Sport models so take a good long look at the options list.
The visual updates are quite minor really and the X1 needs a daring colour and larger wheels to make an impact. Likewise, the interior needs options to look its best.
BMW hasn't made any significant changes to the chassis of the X1, other than to offer four-wheel drive with more engines. So it's relatively firm on the road as ever. That does make for great body control, stability and real composure no matter how fast you drive, but we suspect many buyers would give up some of that in return for less bounciness on rough tarmac. The steering is quite heavy at speed as well and lacking feel of any description. Not that you'll be looking to breach the limits of grip for the fun of it on a dry road.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox works well though. It's smooth and quick in equal measure and the Sport mode really brings the engine alive without the need to hit the redline too often. That's especially true in the new '25d' model. Replacing the '23d', this version's twin-turbocharged diesel engine produces impressive numbers - in particular the 450Nm of torque. It's not especially quiet, but it pushes the X1 along with real conviction. It doesn't run out of grunt at the top end either, which is where it differentiates itself from the single turbo models.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing starts at €35,160 for the sDrive18d SE and rises to €49,010 for the M Sport version of the xDrive25d we tested. In between are Sport and xLine editions, plus the highly efficient sDrive20d EfficientDynamics model, which sits in Band A. That amounts to a considerable saving from the equivalent BMW 3 Series Touring - though that in itself is about to be superseded with a new model. For clarity, 'sDrive' means two-wheel drive (the rear wheels are driven), while 'xDrive' denotes four-wheel drive.
On the day of the launch we averaged 7.9 litres/100km (35.7mpg) over about three hours of very mixed driving - most of it quite quick, including a spell at 200km/h on the autobahn.
We pressed BMW's spokespeople for further news on the 'X' models, especially the forthcoming BMW X4, but little was said other than it will look stunning when it arrives at the end of 2013. When asked about X4M or X1M variants we were told a definite no, but that M Performance versions are already being looked at - with petrol power. If it makes it to production that could mean a BMW X1 with the 1 Series M Coupé's charismatic 340hp twin-turbocharged engine under the bonnet and four-wheel drive. Sounds like fun to us.
The updates that make up the new model year BMW X1 are worthwhile, though the visual makeover is a little too subtle for our liking. Go for one of the new variants and it does begin to make sense, with tasteful and interesting colour schemes. The automatic gearbox is a cracker and the 25d engine an impressive all-rounder. The X1 remains good value against the 3 Series Touring, though that car is considerably more polished.