Vehicle Comparisons

BMW X1 review

BMW X1 review

The X1, BMW's most compact SUV, has been quite a success in the UK, with nearly 40,000 examples of the second generation version finding British buyers. This MK3 model aims to build on that, being bigger, more muscular but more efficient.

This second generation sports utility vehicle's design has grown most notably in height - it's more than 53mm taller than its predecessor - which obviously helps to create more room inside. The seating position has been raised - by 36mm in the front and 64mm in the rear - and there's increased headroom, shoulder, elbow and knee room. Boot capacity has increased by 85-litres to a much more practical 505-litres. It can be upped to as much as 1,550-litres by folding down the standard 40:20:40 split rear seat.

The Munich maker promises that its baby SUV's ride and comfort has been 'noticeably' improved and its sporting credentials beefed up by the increased rigidity of the body and chassis. There's also a wide track, short overhangs and the usual 50:50 weight distribution.

Engine-wise, the mainstream range offers one petrol option and three diesel units, all of which are 2.0-litres. The sole xDrive20i petrol variant is powered by a 192bhp four cylinder unit that only comes mated to eight-speed Steptronic auto transmission. Most of the BMW X1 sales will be made further down the range with the lesser diesel variants. There's the choice of a 190bhp 4WD xDrive20d model. Or, if you can't stretch to that, a 150bhp 2WD sDrive18d diesel option.

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Honda HR-V review

Honda HR-V review

The second generation Honda HR-V aims to stake a strong claim for the Japanese brand among the best compact SUVs on the market. This time round, the Honda HR-V is more spacious and better equipped to take on the other compact crossover SUVs in the segment like Nissan's Juke and Renault's Captur. Buyers choose from either a 1.5 petrol unit or a 1.6 diesel, both sending drive to the front wheels. It looks good and deserves to do very well.

Honda has ditched any pretence that this HR-V is a go-anywhere vehicle, offering it solely in front-wheel drive guise. There's a choice of either petrol or diesel power, the former being a 130PS 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol, with the black pump-fuelled variant getting a 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC unit. Each drives through a six-speed manual transmission, although the petrol powerplant can be optioned with a CVT automatic, with a paddle-shift on some trims.

The HR-V features a low centre of gravity, with the driver's hip point more akin to a conventional hatch than a compact SUV. The crossover body is extremely rigid due to a high percentage of high-tensile steel, and this in turn helps isolate the suspension to do its job properly. With the Honda HR-V, the manufacturer has concentrated on refinement, optimising aerodynamics to reduce wind noise at speed. It also employs a highly efficient acoustic insulation package. Sound absorption measures in the inner wheel arches, floor carpet and underfloor cover combine to reduce cabin noise levels.

Honda reckons the MK2 model HR-V combines the 'personality of a coupe with the solid stance of an SUV' and they're not too far wrong. Think of it as a shrunken BMW X6 in appeal and you're not too far off the mark. The compact design is neat and interesting, with hidden rear door handles, deeply sculpted lower body panels and a CR-V-style front grille, headlamps and pointed taper at the rear side window line. The cabin features decent quality materials, with a soft-touch dash top accented with brushed chrome and piano black inlays.

Unlike its predecessor, this HR-V's quite spacious inside. A lower-profile fuel tank mounted under the front seats frees up the under-floor space beneath the rear seats, enabling the platform to accommodate Honda's 'Magic Seat' system. As well as splitting 60/40, the rear bench seat backs can fold forward as the seat base lowers to create a long, flat floor. The front and rear passenger seat backs can also fold forward to a horizontal position to accommodate longer items. The boot holds 453-litres with the rear seats in use, and 1,026-litres to the window line with the rear seats folded away.

The Honda HR-V looks an interesting addition to the compact crossover SUV line-up that's been thin on the right sort of niche models. Contrary to what some think, 'niche' needn't mean that the car sells in minuscule numbers. The Nissan Juke SUV was developed as a 'niche model' but it did what most manufacturers hope for and became mainstream. Much of the hard work in this sector has been done by cars like the Juke - and Honda's looking to capitalise with the HR-V.

Its styling is neat and despite the sloping roofline, practicality looks well up to par. It's certainly a good deal more affordable and edgier than a CR-V. Of course, Honda has been here before with the HR-V but has learned lessons from that first generation model. This time round, the brand has appreciated the need for real substance behind the style. With this in place, the Honda HR-V compact crossover SUV will continue to appeal even if something fresher and more fashionable comes along. Job done.

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Mercedes-Benz GLA review

Mercedes-Benz GLA review

Imagine a Mercedes A-Class hatch with a little extra practicality and a more adventurous outlook and you'll have this car in mind, the Mercedes GLA compact Crossover. It's the brand's answer to more premium offerings in the growing, fashion-conscious, compact SUV segment and has been engineered with the kind of thoroughness you'd expect from the Three-Pointed Star. Let's check out this compact crossover model in lightly revised form.

When it comes to drive traction and transmission, much will depend on engine choice. For the UK, the emphasis is firmly on a 2.1-litre diesel line-up that begins with the 2WD-only 136bhp GLA 200d. You'll need this variant if you want the choice of auto or manual transmission since it's an auto-only regime further up the range.

Should you wish for more performance than that - or want a GLA fitted with the Mercedes 4MATIC all-wheel drive set-up - you'll probably find yourself ending up in the variant I tried, the GLA 220d diesel. With 177 braked horses to call upon, this version has a useful extra turn of speed, dispatching the 62mph benchmark in 7.7 en route to 135mph, despite having the carry around the extra weight of 4WD hardwear that can send up to 50% of the engine's power to the rear wheels for improved cornering exit traction. The 211bhp GLA 250 petrol variant also takes the auto 4MATIC route and should feel pleasantly rapid, delivering 62mph in 6.6s on the way to 143mph.

Rather more than pleasantly rapid is the frankly certifiable GLA 45 AMG, a car that rocks up with 381bhp beneath its bonnet. Its 2.0-litre petrol engine and 4MATIC all wheel drive catapult you to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds.

Though Mercedes sees this GLA as part of its compact SUV portfolio, there's nothing very SUV about the way it looks. It's probably better to simply see this as an A-Class with an added dose of attitude, a role much closer to its comfort zone thanks to a raked-back windscreen and a front end that sports big air intakes, neat flutes in the bonnet and smart smeared-back headlights. Changes made to this revised model include modified bumpers, smarter alloy wheels and the option of full-LED headlights. As before, smart Mercedes GLA-specific touches include the way the stylists have teased out the wheel arches, adding muscularity to the look. And the sleek integration of the standard aluminium roof rails.

In summary, this is arguably the best compact crossover SUV that Mercedes makes. And amongst compact crossover cars, that makes it very significant indeed.

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