Friday – Volvo V40 Cross Country

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Planning to spend the festive season with distance relatives, who live up a muddy track in the middle of nowhere? Hmm, we’re not expecting a white Christmas but if we were, the V40 Cross Country would make a great companion.

A rival for the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, the Volvo is less in your face than the competition and more akin to a conventional hatchback. However, it’s been given plenty of butch styling cues to express its 4×4 abilities.

Our D4 model is loaded with an incredible list of safety features too, from a steering wheel that vibrates when you change carriageways without indicating, to a system that warns you of overtaking cars in your blind spot.

All these features, plus the Bluetooth sound system and sat nav, should give us plenty to talk about as we crisscross the country and Ireland over the next few weeks. More tomorrow…

 

Thursday – Choose Your Model Carefully!

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The X1 has just been collected and it turned out to be a lot better than I had expected. I say that because I couldn’t see the point of a premium brand mini SUV  – especially one without four-wheel drive like our test car.

Solid, classy, refined – but then you wouldn’t expect anything else from a BMW, would you? The X1 is another chip off the BMW block, although some of the plastics inside the cabin are a little below par for the German brand.

The X1 drives more like a hatchback than a sports utility vehicle, which will appeal to buyers who don’t want a high-seat position and ponderous body roll on cornering.

It’s very easy to live with and feels very safe too – no wonder it picked up a five-star NCAP rating. All X1s have six airbags, stability control and Cornering Brake Control.

I’m now wondering if I would actually opt for the xDrive, four-wheel drive model. The sDrive rear-wheel driver series we drove has exceptional fuel economy and feels surefooted enough.

That said, if you want something to cope with a snowy lane in winter, opt for the xDrive. Our test car might look like an off-roader but the sDrive is exactly the opposite! Choose your model carefully…

Monday – I Lied…

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Yes, it’s true, I did. And it wasn’t in a bad way. Just a little white lie because I couldn’t own up to my rufty-tufty X1 NOT being a four-wheel drive.

I was filling up in Oxfordshire this morning when a woman in a Toyota RAV4 asked me if I liked my new BMW. She was looking for a replacement for her SUV and thought the X1 looked the perfect solution.

She lived on a smallholding near Chipping Norton and needed ‘something 4×4 for the lower field’ – whatever that means. Anyway, she wanted to know what the X1 was like on a muddy track and I just couldn’t own up to driving a car that looked like a four-wheel drive but actually wasn’t.

I advised her to avoid the two-wheel drive version (which is true!) for her muddy exploits and suggested the 4×4 model would be very suitable, if a little more thirsty.

I also raved about the driving experience, the beautifully crafted interior and a decent-sized boot. Which was all true too…

Sunday – Model of Refinement

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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?

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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!