Plug-in Hybrids are everywhere these days and so this creates some fierce competition. In the lowest tier of their product line, BMW and Volvo both deliver a car that looks very similar at first. But are they?

The BMW X1 xDrive25e and the Volvo XC40 T5 are both the smallest crossovers that each brand offers. They are both similarly sized and both are plug-in hybrids that promise 40-50 kms of electric range. They operate in an increasingly popular segment, so that called for a proper duo test: BMW X1 25e VS Volvo XC40 T5!

Size deception

At first sight. The BMW looks to be a much bigger car than the XC40 is, the big grille along with the big lower fascia gives off a very nice and sporty look to it.
The XC40 looks to be sitting a bit higher up. The car is classically Volvo with the hammer-shaped headlights and much smaller grille than the one from Bavaria.
However, to our surprise, the XC40 is the wider car of the two being 30 millimeters wider than the X1. In length, however, the X1 tops the XC40 by 22 mm.
This just shows how design can influence the impression of the size of a car.

Shock me like an electric eel

So both are plug-in hybrid cars but again they differ greatly from how they implement this.
The XC40 features a 1.5L 3-cylinder pumping out 180 hp alongside an 82 hp electric motor. Combined this gives an output of 262 hp, all going to the front wheels. The battery pack promises to deliver 50 km of range but in reality, you’ll get a maximum of 40 km if you use that regenerative braking very nicely.
The X1 uses a similar 1.5L three-cylinder which only produces 125 hp to the front wheels but has a bigger 95 hp electric motor that powers the rear wheels. So depending on which driving mode you’re in, the X1 is either FWD, RWD, or AWD. Pretty nifty.
Along with that, the X1 promises 57 km of electric range and we managed to consistently get 45 km out of it.

Driving characteristics: BMW X1 25e VS Volvo XC40 T5

Slapping a heavy battery into a crossover can spell disaster for handling, but BMW seems to have avoided that magically. Equipped with an M Sport chassis, the X1 eagerly entered, and exited corners. All while still being communicative in terms of steering, chassis response, and body roll. The latter is oddly absent in this car, making you wonder just how much time they spend on developing the suspension. Don’t get me wrong about it being too sporty, it’s just spot on. No hard hits when you drive over imperfections either. And then there’s the powertrain.
Often Ward and I had to look at the dashboard to see if the X1 switch from petrol to EV-mode. It’s smooth like butter. Smooth enough not to wake your sleeping baby, we bet. It feels refined from the moment you roll out on to the road. Push the X1 to its limits and the petrol and electric drivetrain will deliver rewarding acceleration, aided by BMW’s xDrive.

The XC40 is the quickest one here and it definitely moves quite fast. But that’s as far as it’ll go. The electric motor also seems to have a 2-speed gearbox to it which has an early 2000’s automated single-clutch gearbox speed to it.
The R-Design claims to have a sport chassis with sportier adjusted suspension but you won’t notice a thing about this. In fact, the driving feels quite disconnected. It’s very comfortable but by no means is it planted through corners. And the brakes might be the worst offenders of all in this car. They’re so badly calibrated that when you just want to have a little more braking, you’ll fly through the window. It kept bugging me and passengers often looked at me with questionable faces why I appeared to have slammed the brakes coming to a normal stop.

Interior comforts: BMW X1 25e VS Volvo XC40 T5

There’s no denying the X1 interior looks relatively aged, but that actually might be a good thing. Why? Look at newer models like the BMW 2 Series GC (review here), and quality seemingly dropped. Balance and quality dominate this interior though. This goes for both the design, usability, and quality. Open, touch or use any part of the interior and you’ll notice that they’re perfectly engineered. That translates into things like a rubber plack in the glove compartment to stop in contents from making noise. Another example of this is the way the back seats can fold perfectly upright at the flick of a switch, allowing big square objects to be transported. It’s not always the size that matters, but what you do with it.
M-branded details decorate this X1’s interior, with stitching, seats, and steering wheel to match. Everything just works and does so with a premium feel.

Now we’re just going to ignore the orange carpeting since the XC40 comes standard with black carpeting which looks way nicer. Glance past that and the dashboard of the XC40 looks stunning with the aluminum look vents, a nice vertical infotainments screen, and surprisingly little buttons to push. This does mean it takes a little longer to get used to and find all the features the XC40 has on offer.
It is however once you start looking lower than the dashboard that things start looking less nice. No, we’re still not talking about the orange carpets.
Okay, but if we must, the material choices of the carpets and finish of various elements around the car make you realize that there’s room for improvement. It’s not really the things that are in your view whilst driving but the finish should look equally great around the whole car.

Premium

You’re not premium by shouting that you are. We found the brands to portrait a similar level of refinement, but our tests showed that only one has truly mastered premium craftsmanship. Compare these two over the course of minutes and the differences show, compare them for nearly a week and the other feels like it’s tricked you into overpaying.

The X1 proves once again that the Germans are the ones who really know how to make a premium car, even when it’s an entry-level car.
You won’t notice this if you didn’t have them side by side but everything looks and feels better thought out than in the XC40. The Volvo still isn’t bad but starting at 47.880 € Belgian pricing compared to 46.150 € for the BMW it’s hard to justify where your money is actually going. Even when specced out with similar options where the BMW starts to become equally expensive. It still provides more electric autonomy and feels way better than the Volvo.

So it comes as no surprise that the BMW X1 xDrive25e is the winner of this battle.

BMW X1 25e VS Volvo XC40 T5