Sunday – Model of Refinement


The X1 sits just a couple of inches higher than a 1 Series hatchback and it drives more car-like than SUV too. The steering is well weighted and precise (although some might find it heavy) – the brakes offer lots of feel and are reassuringly firm on the pedal.

I’ve been trying to find the X1’s Achilles Heel but I’m struggling to be honest. I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a BMW and the X1 is cut from the same cloth.

Everything inside the cabin is tasteful and beautifully laid out. Refinements to the rotary-controlled iDrive system mean there is no longer much need to reach for the handbook when you want to adjust the entertainment or sat nav system either.

For a small car with raised suspension, it’s remarkably comfortable. The seats are manually adjusted but with a bit of playing round you will find the perfect driving position, which leaves plenty of room for two passengers in the back as well.

Of course, all those extras fitted to our test car are expensive in a BMW – so choose you model and spec it up carefully. I can recommend the panoramic sunroof though.



Friday – X Marks The Spot?


It’s no surprise that BMW decided to cash in on the runaway success of the X3 and X5 with a smaller, beefed up version of the 1 Series. X1 has been around for four years now, although it hasn’t lived up to the acclaim of its bigger siblings.

The X1 on my driveway this morning is the entry level version. As you might expect for a car costing almost £24,000, it oozes BMW quality from every angle. The key problem with this mini SUV is that it just doesn’t quite look the part, like an X3 or X5.

The smaller dimensions don’t allow the designers much room for creativity and, consequently, the X1 doesn’t sit as squat and robust on the road as an SUV should. There’s an awful lot of bonnet but not much cabin, which means the X1 looks a little front heavy and awkward.

The goods news is that inside, the X1 is a masterclass in premium brand quality. From the ‘X’ embossed seats to the matt wood trim on the dashboard, it feels like a very classy vehicle indeed. And this is just the SE trim!

Sunday – Comfortable Cruiser


Jeremy With the safety car out at Silverstone, the British Grand Prix has been running at ‘road car’ speeds. Not sure I’d want to be out there in the V40 though – mainly because even in R-Design trim, the Volvo lacks a little precision going hard into a corner.

Unfortunately, as much as I like the look of the Volvo, the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 are both much better drivers cars. That’s a situation confirmed by the V40’s rather soggy clutch that doesn’t really encourage you to push the V40 along on a twisty A-road.

The ride itself is on the soft side – which makes the V40 a more comfortable long distance cruiser than a spirited drive. If you are buying a V40 to sit on the motorway all day, that is definitely the right call because it has a big car feel and a very quiet cabin.




Friday – Sweden vs Germany


Jeremy There’s something endearing, likeable and rather ‘safe’ about the V40. Stepping into the cabin this morning was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. The last Volvo I owned was an 340, back in the 1980s. It was my father’s choice – he was paying – as the one car even I couldn’t get hurt in.

I traded the 340 in for an Alfa Romeo as quickly as possible and quickly regretted it. My student grant didn’t extend to major rust treatment on a monthly basis… Had that first flirtation with Volvo been a secondhand V40, I would probably still be driving it now.

V40 is the replacement model for the S40 and V50 and it needs to be good to beat the best of German. Well, it certainly has a more distinct look than a VW Golf, or the exceptional Audi A3. It probably holds it own about the BMW 1 Series too, although I have to say, I think the new Mercedes A-class might be the winner for best design.

From the rear, the V40 in R-Design trim looks amazing. The twin tailpipes and small rear screen tick lots of boxes. Nose on, it’s on a par with the German competition. Which begs the question, is the V40 good enough to tempt Audi/BMW/VW drivers away from their normal car purchase?

That could well come down to the driving experience and I shall give my verdict on that tomorrow…