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BMW has put down a marker in a new niche which will soon feature the baby Range Rover.

The luxury compact SUV is a new concept aimed at banishing the blues for those who think off-roaders are politically incorrect.

Heavyweight manufacturers are also looking to cash in on the current trend for downsizing.

Enter the BMW X1 - a car of near Ford Focus proportions with the looks of a 4x4.

It is based on BMW's smallest model line up - the 1 Series - and joins the Bavarian car maker's X model collection which began with the X5, then the X3 and the sporty X6.

Unlike the other X models, which are four-wheel-drive, the X1 is available in rear-wheel-drive format as well as 4WD.

It also features an eco-friendly stop/start system on manual versions which bumps fuel economy up to 54.3mpg.

Only diesel engines are available and at the moment the cheapest version costs from £24,205.

That's for a 177bhp, two-wheel-drive two-litre. A less powerful model with 143bhp on tap and costing from £22,600 will be on sale before Christmas.

These two versions will also be available with all-wheel-drive which adds £1,300 to the price.

The flagship xDrive 23d with its twin turbo engine developing 204bhp is priced from £29,055 and is 4WD only.

On the X1 the heavy duty drive system makes use of the car's stability controls to make sure optimum traction goes to the right wheels at the right time.

It means the X1 is more of a soft-roader than anything else but good ground clearance enables it to tackle some pretty rough stuff.

Manual versions are fitted with hill descent control while the six-speed auto, which is standard on the xDrive 23d can be notched down manually. There are even paddle shifters for added convenience.

The X1 is absolutely sturdy, surprisingly big inside and handles in a solid and accurate fashion, as expected from any BMW.

Luggage space ranges from 420 to 1,350 litres with the rear seat splitting on a 40/20/40 basis offering plenty of flexibility.

All but the top range model have CO2 emissions less than 160g/km which is attractive to business users while the rear-wheel-drive variants are below 150g/km - the 143bhp engine rated at 136g/km.

Performance is on the sporty side, especially for a largish car, and that is going to add to the appeal.

The likes of Nissan and Honda, which also have SUVs around the same price bracket, just cannot compete with the feel of the BMW.

Those aspiring to move up to a car offering all-round ability with a touch of class will find the X1 quite compelling - but those moving down will expect more and will have to pay extra for features such as leather upholstery, sat nav, Bluetooth and wooden trim.

Having just tried the xDrive 23d across the Highlands of Scotland it is a genuinely impressive piece of kit.

But this particular model tipped the scale at more than £34,000 with its £5,175 worth of extras which included £1,400 for the sat nav and £1,575 for the design pack incorporating leather upholstery, wood trim, sports seats, black headlining and a two-tone instrument panel.

At the moment the closest competitor to the X1 is the VW Tiguan although Audi will be entering the fray soon with its Q3 and Mercedes may be considering a similar model.

The telling time comes in more than a year's time when the much awaited new Range Rover arrives on the scene.

source: ayrshirepost.net

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