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If you like the idea of a four-wheel drive BMW but want something more efficient than an X3, X5 or X6, the new X1 may be the solution.

The X1 is BMW’s smallest four-wheel drive offering, although the five-seater with its 1,350-litre boot space promises almost as much space as an X3. This packaging is mated to excellent handling and the impressive levels of economy of EfficientDynamics, including Auto Start-Stop.

The X1 isn’t the size of a 1 Series, it’s based instead on the underpinnings of the four-wheel drive 3 Series (which isn’t on sale in the UK). Having said that, it’s available in either four-wheel drive (xDrive) or, for the first time in a BMW X product, just two-wheel drive (sDrive). Two-wheel drive obviously means rear-wheel drive, but even the four-wheel drive version has a 70-30 rearward bias, although 100% of power can go to either the front or rear if required.

Power comes from a choice of three engines – all diesel – this decision being based on the very diesel-oriented sales of other four-wheel drive BMWs. The (two-wheel drive) BMW X1 sDrive18d SE achieves 54.3mpg and 136g/km CO2. In comparison the four-wheel drive version drops to 49.6mpg and 150g/km CO2.

Even the least economical model, the X1 xDrive23d SE, still manages 44.8mpg and 167g/km CO2.

The sDrive18d and the xDrive18d feature the four-cylinder 1,995cc engine which produces 143hp and equates to a zero to 62mph time of 9.6 seconds and a top speed of 124mph for the rear-wheel drive X1 sDrive18d SE.

The sDrive20d SE and xDrive20d SE have the same 1,995cc engine but with 177hp, which means improved performance figures with zero to 62mph in 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 127mph.

The xDrive23d SE is offered only as a four-wheel drive variant and has twin-turbocharger technology. This International Engine of the Year category winner provides 204hp and acceleration to 62mph in just 7.3 seconds.

Most BMW X1s come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. However, buyers of the xDrive23d have a six-speed Sport automatic gearbox with gear change paddles next to the steering wheel.

Auto Start-Stop technology is available on all manual transmission cars. The BMW X1 also has the full suite of EfficientDynmamics technologies including Brake Energy Regeneration, optimised aerodynamics, optimum shift indicator and on-demand use of ancillary units.

The BMW X1 goes on sale in the UK on 24 October 2009 with the sDrive18d and xDrive18d variants following in December.

The range starts at £22,660 for the X1 sDrive18d SE, rising to £29,055 for the BMW X1 xDrive23d SE.