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(Pocket-lint) - BMW already has an X1 on the road. So what's special about this year's model, now in its second-generation 2015 form? Well, it's been redesigned from the ground up and wants to go off-road more than ever.

Whereas the original X1 was built on the basic chassis of a 3-Series BMW, the new X1 has been crafted specifically with four-wheel drive in mind, or xDrive as BMW likes to call it. The original X1 has sold over 730,000 units already so it's certainly not unpopular – it's just in 2015 there's time to invest a little more love into the line to compete with its near competitors like the Audi Q7.

The end result is an X1 that's higher, more spacious and better-looking overall. But that's all meaningless if it doesn't drive well. So wanting to know how the second-generation SUV feel on- and off-road we took various models from the line-up for a spin.

BMW X1 2015 preview: Design do-over

The second-generation X1 is clearly every bit a BMW by design: just look at those kidney-shaped front grilles and iconic headlights.

The result isn't just a nip and tuck on the exterior, however, it makes up for a more specious interior. Despite the 2015 X1 shrinking by 15mm in length compared to the original, it's wider by 23mm and raised by 53mm. Which sounds small, but the result is an extra couple of inches of legroom in the rear as well as additional head height. Passenger climate control is also standard now for added comfort all round plus plenty of Isofix points for child seats in the rear.

The driving position is also more commanding. And while the X1 definitely has the feel of a large SUV about it when you're looking over the dash, it's still slim enough to take on tighter roads, or navigate through cities comfortably.

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The boot is large for the size, offering 505-litres – adding 85-litres more capacity than its predecessor, and making it larger than that of the X3.

These SUVs now come with automatic tailgates and there's a sliding rear bench option to increase boot space by 105-litres. Electric folding rear seats are standard and result in 1,550-litres of space. But with folding rear seats we don't really get the appeal of paying extra for a sliding rear bench.

Drivers looking to shift things can cram in 2.1-metre-long items if they opt for the folding front passenger seat. So, essentially, this is an estate competitor and with over 2-metres of length it should mean renting a van for those Ikea trips is no longer needed.

The interior feels really premium too, with a sweeping dash that reminds us of the all-electric BMW i8 supercar. Internal lighting, that cool screen jutting out from the dash, and myriad controls on the steering wheel make for a cockpit-like control experience.

BMW X1 2015 first drive: Built for off-road

BMW went back to the drawing board with the second-generation X1 so it could handle more of what people want to throw at it or, more aptly, throw it at. The xDrive system is more than just four-wheel drive, intelligently taking the thinking out of off-roading.

That increased ride height means that clearance is now good enough to take on some seriously steep inclines and declines without scuffing or getting stuck. We took the X1 on an off-road course that pushed it beyond anything most people will ever encounter. We even got the car at a side-on angle of 20-degrees which felt unnaturally far over, yet it clung on comfortably.

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With the gearing set to off-road the intelligent sensors work to make light work of steep climbs or descents without the wheels slipping. We were worried about not touching the brakes while pointing (what felt like) straight downwards but the car intelligently eased us down a steep decline. The same applied when climbing, so even if power was removed the car held ready to push onwards again.

BMW might be aiming at the more capable off-road competition with the X1 and it's certainly created a machine that can offer above and beyond the needs of most off-road driving fans. Although, we suspect, it'll be bought by few of those in reality; instead, as with so many SUVs, it's a spacious and quick-paced family vehicle.

BMW X1 2015 preview: On-road driving

There are plenty of options for the X1 but the two models we drove were the xDrive20d and xDrive25d. Each car offers four-wheel drive and features a 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo engine so overtaking at speed isn't an issue.

Essentially the second-gen X1 has balance in mind: there's enough oomph to get you hurtling along, but it's also efficient enough not to cost you too badly in terms of tax or consumption. We achieved around 35mpg driving the cars in Sport Mode – by which we mean with no regard for fuel saving. BMW says the X20d can manage 58.9mpg with some more considered driving (while the x18d pushes that to 68.9mpg) – so it's arguably more efficient than the Mercedes GLA200 CDI (although we were managing 40mpg in that when tested).

The car took care of delivering power to however many wheels required it, meaning excellent cornering and superb grip, despite the car's height. At one point we were cornering over loose pebbles and yet noticed no slip at all, even when pressing the accelerator down.

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BMW X1 2015 first drive: Intelligent systems and infotainment

As standard the sat nav and iDrive control system is included in the X1 2015. If you opt for the pro-level sat nav it comes with an 8.8-inch screen instead of the standard 6.5-inch one. And it looks very smart indeed.

Other smart driving extras are also available, including intelligent cruise control, driving assistant for auto-braking, parking assist, Bluetooth audio streaming, live traffic information and wireless navigation updates. A head-up display (HUD) is also an option with varying height display options to suit each driver.

Features like eCall, which gets through to call the service centre using the car's in-built 4G multi-network SIM, is a nice safety feature. Should air bag activation be detected it will automatically contact the emergency services and use the sound system to talk directly should you be unconscious, for example. It also gives the car's GPS location, while seatbelt sensors will tell the emergency services where the occupants were and the speed of the accident. It's all very clever stuff.

BMW X1 2015 preview: Variants available

We've driven two variants of the X1, but there will be a total of 15 variants due to Sport, xLine and M Sport options.

Sport means 18-inch alloys, sport seats and black trims around the vehicle for that extra lick of attractiveness. The xLine package retains the 18-inch alloys, but is all about off-road styling: aluminium underplate, roof and side rails, plus full leather seats with contrast stitching, heated seats and LED front headlights. M Sport adds more aggressive styling, larger air intakes, a shadow line on the rear, plus M Sport seats, LED headlights, heated seats and a lower suspension setup.

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Otherwise the division is three-fold for diesel options, with the petrol variant xDrive20i (192bhp) due in the UK. The entry-level X1 2015 is the 18d (150bhp), the only two-wheel drive option (with the xDrive four-wheel drive variant due later in the year) which is aimed at the corportate market thanks to the 109g CO2 emissions mark. The xDrive20d (190bhp) sits in the middle, while the xDrive25d (231bhp) is the top-of-the-line power machine.

Pricing starts at £26,000 for the sDrive18d SE and jumps to £27,500 for the four-wheel drive xDrive version. The xDrive20d with Sport trim starts at £29,850 while the xDrive25d with xLine trim starts at £35,150. Finally the petrol xDrive20i with Sport trim starts at £30,300.

First Impressions

No longer is opting for a smaller SUV synonymous with losing off-road abilities or space. The second-generation BMW X1 offers more boot space than its larger X3 sibling and better off-road capabilities than its predecessor.

While more extras than the original model come as standard, there are still plenty more that you'll still need to shell out for if you want the complete package. The xDrive25d we drove, for example, ended up at nearly £50,000 with a batch of extras added on.

For families, adventurers or those who enjoy having room in their vehicle to move large items, the X1 really is ideal. It treads that fine line between outdoor extreme vehicle and spacious yet city-friendly four-by-four.

Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 25 September 2015.