by Morgan Carter
BMW has dominated the crossover segment since it actually became a segment. And, despite growing competition, both internal and external, the X1 remains a firm contender within the subcompact market. Newer rivals like the Volvo XC40 and Cadillac XT4 are nipping at its heels, but the German SUV has a generation of extra experience to draw from, and it shows in the X1's refinement and well-tuned performance. While not the cheapest or most economical crossover, the BMW is still relatively affordable, and its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, delivers better performance than its rivals. You'd think that all the power and fun driving the X1 promises would come at a cost, but it still manages to supply ample passenger space and more cargo capacity than an SUV this small has any right to. Ride comfort is an area where the crossover could do with some improvement and, perhaps, its off-road capabilities. But, overall, the X1 is a pack-leader in the segment, and for good reason.
The German SUV received a minor facelift for 2020, although the rear got some attention too. The BMW grille is now larger than ever, keeping in line with the manufacturer's new design philosophy. The front and rear bumpers each received some attention, with larger rear exhausts now being the norm. The standard 6.5-inch infotainment display has been replaced by the previously optional 8.8-inch version, which now includes navigation. The eight-speed automatic transmission has also been re-tuned for improved performance. Further updates include a more aggressive aerodynamics package for the M Sport Package.
Riding on 18-inch wheels, the subcompact SUV enjoys a refreshed look for 2020. The traditional BMW dual-kidney grille has been enlarged to keep it in line with the rest of the manufacturer's line-up, and the front and rear bumpers have been redesigned to look bolder and more modern. Dual automatic halogen headlights rest just below the hood, and LED daytime running lights come standard. LED headlights are available and LED fog lights can also be installed within the lower bumper. The sleek rear fascia features a power liftgate, and two exhaust tips peek out from the undercarriage. The available M Sport Package sees a number of exterior finishes added to give the X1 a more striking appearance.
The X1 is BMW's smallest crossover and boasts very town-friendly dimensions. It is short in stature, with an overall length of 175.5 inches and a 105.1-inch wheelbase. Naturally, it stands taller than a sedan at 62.9 inches high, but it's still quite slim, with a width of 71.7 inches. Even a small SUV normally weighs quite a bit, but the X1 isn't overly heavy at 3,554 pounds. The optional all-wheel drivetrain does add around 160 pounds, bringing the maximum weight up to 3,713 lbs. This is on par with similar compact crossovers like the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The SUV has access to a pretty broad palette consisting of 13 colors. The standard solid colors are Jet Black and Alpine White. The metallic options are unlocked for a $550 surcharge and comprise Jucaro Beige, Mineral Grey, Mineral White, Glacier Silver, and Black Sapphire, while Mediterranean Blue, Misano Blue, and Sunset Orange add a splash of summer color, and Dark Olive and Sparkling Brown cover the more natural hues. Storm Bay Metallic is also available, but comes with a premium price tag of $1,200.
The German crossover performs extremely well, even when you take into account the prestige of its brand. The turbo four-cylinder engine doesn't want for power, with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft on tap. Combined with the SUV's relatively lower weight and smooth transmission, the powertrain allows the X1 to make the 0 to 60 mph sprint in a swift 6.6 seconds when equipped with front-wheel-drive. The all-wheel drivetrain shaves three-tenths of a second off this time, reducing it to 6.3 seconds. This is a bit faster than its other German rival, the Mercedes GLA 250, which advertises a 7.2-second time, but it's on par with the Volvo XC40.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine powers the BMW X1. Mated to a refined eight-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain delivers 228 hp and 258 lb-ft to the front wheels as standard, although all-wheel-drive is offered on the xDrive. While it may have a few more ponies than rivals like the Volvo XC40 or Mercedes-Benz GLA, the X1's torque is pretty standard, giving it similar acceleration times.
The SUV has more than enough pep in its step to get around town, and it is more than capable of passing or merging on the highway with a tap of your foot. The eight-speed automatic gearbox has been re-tuned for 2020, and the manufacturer claims it will deliver smoother shifts than ever before.
The BMW X1 feels like a two-for-one SUV. It is a capable daily driver that is well-purposed for running errands or hauling the family around town, but it is just as capable of delivering an exciting and spirited driving experience for those who need a bit more adventure in their lives. Young parents, or those still young at heart, will love this crossover for its playful yet competent handling.
The steering is light around town where busy intersections or packed parking lots will require quick maneuvering, and the SUV's smaller dimensions make it agile and easy to park. But once you pick up some speed on the highway, which doesn't take long thanks to the powerful engine, the wheel gains some welcome heft. What's even more welcome in a segment that traditionally favors compliance over engagement, is the feedback. The wheels are communicative and the X1 responds keenly, even when taking corners at daring speeds.
While it may be taller than a sedan, the X1 is light on its feet and leans gracefully, rather than rolling, into turns. Mid-corner bumps can detract from the excitement a little, though, as the suspension is a little stiffer than we expect from a crossover. This means that the ride will never be as smooth as you would experience in larger, more luxurious SUVs, but they don't offer the same playfulness as the X1, either. It's a sacrifice we are more than happy to make.
Another black mark against the otherwise exemplary vehicle is its inability to keep road noise at bay. However, this is not uncommon among subcompacts, so we don't hold it against the BMW.
Fuel economy is a strong point for many subcompact SUVs thanks to their lower weights and reasonable powertrains, and the BMW X1 follows this trend. Equipped with front-wheel-drive, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine can achieve 24/33/27 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, while the all-wheel drivetrain drops slightly in efficiency, getting only 23/31/26 mpg. While these figures are impressive, the X1 is still bested by its most direct competitor, the Merc GLA 250, which gets 24/34/28 mpg in its front-wheel-drive guise. However, both crossovers burn premium gasoline, making them significantly more expensive to run than more economical rivals. When full, the 16.1-gallon tank can see the BMW cover 434 miles between refuels.
The interior lives up to the expectations of discerning BMW enthusiasts. The combination of upscale materials and classic German style delivers a comfortable, attractive, and spacious cabin. And, despite the larger 8.8-inch infotainment screen and the abundance of features, the center stack doesn't feel overly cluttered. Everything is laid out with the driver's comfort in mind, and the rotary controls make it easy to operate most of the features. The lack of Android Auto in BMW vehicles is still slightly annoying, but there are ample standard and optional features, including Apple CarPlay. The standard seats are passable, but we expect more comfort from a premium brand, to be honest. Luckily, BMW allows for a fair degree of customization, even if it charges you an arm and a leg for it.
There is a surprising amount of passenger space inside the cabin of the subcompact crossover. Headroom is generous no matter where you're seated, and legroom up front is more than ample. Unsurprisingly, legroom in the back is a little more constricted, but average-sized adults should still fit comfortably. There are seating appointments for up to five, but no more than four adults should be crammed into the small SUV. The standard driving position is quite good, which is fortunate since only eight-way power front seats are offered. Visibility is also decent, although some large rear blind-spots do exist and there is no blind-spot monitoring. The standard seats are not the most comfortable, but they won't cause any serious harm over long drives. The available sport seats are definitely a must if you want to optimize comfort.
The seats are upholstered in Sensatec synthetic leather as standard, but you can upgrade to premium leather with the Luxury Package. The leatherette is available in either Black or dual-tone Oyster/Black. The genuine leather can be had in Mocha, Black with Blue highlights, or perforated Oyster or Black leather. Regardless of the material you opt for, you can be assured of high quality and expert craftsmanship that goes into the cabin. However, the X1 is the entry point into the SUV segment and does come a bit cheaper than the more premium models like the X3. As such, there are a few places where you might notice BMW has cut a corner or two. Still, the overall sense is one of sporty luxury. Already boasting plenty of soft-touch surfaces, the dash and door panels are also available in a number of trims, such as Fine-wood Oak Grain, Black High Gloss, and Brushed Aluminum.
Trunk space is abundant in the X1, with a cavernous 27.1 cubic feet available behind the rear seats. The power liftgate opens easily and is wide, allowing for excellent access to the area, no matter the size of your cargo. This standard capacity is more than enough space to do the day's shopping, take the kids to soccer practice, and do your afternoon yoga all in one trip. And if you need to help a friend move a coffee table or two, the rear seats can be folded down flat in a 40/20/40 split to open up 58.7 cubic feet of space. The Volvo XC40 only supplies 20.7 cubic feet of standard space, while the Merc GLA has a comparatively measly 17.2 cubes.
Small-item storage isn't nearly as impressive. The front and back cupholders are not easily accessible nor spacious, and there is a distinct lack of trays or bins around the center stack. The glove compartment is useable, if a bit low-budget compared to the rest of the cabin, but there is a much-welcome storage tray under the front seat. The door pockets are relatively wide, thankfully, and the center armrest cubby should keep your phone safe.
A fair number of features come standard on the SUV, even if it is just the entry-level model to the BMW range. You get push-button start free of charge, but if you want keyless entry, you will need to opt for one of the packages. Other standard features include cruise control, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, eight-way power front seats, several 12-volt power outlets, and front and rear parking sensors. BMW's Active Driving Assistant also comes equipped as standard and comprises forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. For an additional fee, the standard leatherette upholstery can be upgraded to premium leather, the bucket seats can be upgraded to sports seats, and heat functions can be added to the front row. A high-tech head-up display is also available.
The infotainment suite on the X1 was upgraded for 2020, with the old 6.5-inch monitor swapped out in favor of a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen, which was previously optional. Several rotary knobs are also available to control the features, which include AM/FM Radio, HD Radio, and navigation. You can connect your smartphone to the suite via the USB ports, Bluetooth, or Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto is not offered. All audio is channeled through the standard seven-speaker sound system, although a 12-speaker premium Harman Kardon sound system is offered, too. Other available features include SiriusXM, Wi-Fi hotspot functionality, and a wireless charging pad.
The crossover has not been rated by J.D. Power despite its steady popularity on the market, and it has only received a minor number of complaints. However, it has been recalled several times over the years, with three major recalls issued in 2019. These included the possibility that the gear rod tie may break, faulty taillights that may loosen unexpectedly, and insufficient impact absorption that could lead to increased injury in the event of a crash. BMW offers standard 50,000-mile/48-month limited and powertrain warranties, but free maintenance for the first three years is quite generous. Unlimited-mile roadside assistance is also offered for 48 months.
The NHTSA has fully crash-tested the X1, giving it an overall rating of five stars. Similarly, the IIHS gives the SUV an overall score of Good, along with a front crash prevention rating of Advanced.
The crossover comes equipped with a full array of safety features, both basic and advanced. It gets ABS brakes, stability control, hill descent control, and six airbags: front, front side, and side curtain. Advanced features comprise a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning. A head-up display and an automatic parking assistant can be added through the optional equipment.
The subcompact crossover segment is becoming increasingly competitive, with highly capable SUVs like the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40 vying for a place on the podium. However, BMW was one of the first manufacturers to venture into the fray and that boldness has borne fruit as the company now has a great deal of expertise, which is evidenced by the polished offering that is the X1. It's hard to fit everything you could want into a car while keeping it functional, affordable, and fun, but, somehow, the Germans seem to have done it.
The BMW X1 looks small but, once inside, you'll feel like Doctor Who. It is spacious and full of high-tech gadgets. A large infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, and a plethora of advanced driver-assistance features all come standard. And the trunk! An SUV this small has no business hauling as much as a full-size rival, but the X1 does it without batting an eye. True, some competitors like the Audi Q3 are more up-to-date and have better features, but they can't beat the X1 when it comes to utility.
And after cementing itself as a truly practical crossover, the BMW goes a step further and proves to be fun too. Even for a small SUV, the X1 handles well, and the steering is more engaging that we have come to expect from a segment that focuses on relaxed town driving. Taking corners and zipping down the highway shouldn't be this fun in a vehicle that seems to ooze comfortable suburban style, but we aren't complaining.
The BMW X1 isn't perfect, but then, what vehicle is? However, it comes closer than many rivals, even if they manage to best it in one or two categories. It is a well-rounded, upscale, capable subcompact crossover that should be near the top of your list when looking at the luxury segment.
The crossover is reasonably priced for the segment, with the front-wheel-drive sDrive28i starting at $35,200. If you need the extra traction of all-wheel-drive, you will need to pony up an extra $2,000 for the xDrive28i. However, if you want a fully-loaded X1, you may see the price climb as high as $45k, and several of the features offered are only on a trial basis - such as Apple CarPlay - and will require additional payments once expired. These prices are MSRP and don't include tax, registration, licensing, and BMW's destination charge of $995.
Two models comprise the X1 line-up for 2020: the sDrive28i and the xDrive28i. Both are powered by the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which develops 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. Rowing the gears for the powertrain is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The sDrive28i comes with front-wheel-drive, while the xDrive28i gets an all-wheel drivetrain.
Apart from the different drivetrains, the two models are identical and share the same list of features. Among these are 18-inch wheels, automatic halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a power liftgate. Inside the cabin, the seats are upholstered in leatherette with eight-way power front seats and driver-seat memory. Push-button start and automatic climate control are also included. An 8.8-inch touchscreen interface operates the infotainment, which comprises Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and HD Radio, all channeled through the seven-speaker sound system. The rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors are complemented by the Active Driving Assistant safety suite, which consists of forward collision alert, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.
While each model comes well equipped as standard, BMW still offers a variety of ways to customize your X1 crossover. Every package is available to both trims. The Convenience Package ($2,550) installs a panoramic moonroof and LED fog lights, while SiriusXM is added to the infotainment and lumbar support is added to the front seats. An auto-dimming rearview mirror is included, too. The Premium Package ($5,000) includes everything from the Convenience Package, along with a Navigation system Plus touchscreen with iDrive controller, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a head-up display. The Luxury Package ($1,550) upgrades the Sensatec leatherette to premium Dakota leather and offers some unique trim and accent choices for the interior.
If you're looking at luxury subcompacts, the $2,000 higher price tag of the xDrive28i should hardly discourage you, even if the all-wheel drivetrain does slightly lower fuel efficiency. It makes up for this in slightly better handling and an overall improvement in performance, shown by the 0.3-second quicker acceleration time. You get all the same upscale features as the base X1, but you may want to consider adding the Luxury Package for an even more premium interior. If money isn't an issue, then the Premium Package adds heated seats and LED headlights and fog lights, and a sunroof. You can cut back costs a little by getting the Convenience Package instead, if you don't mind losing out on the heated seats and upgraded infotainment suite.
The Audi Q3 received a full redesign in 2019, so it's naturally a little more up-to-date than the X1, with more comprehensive standard and available features, including Android Auto and a surround-view camera. It also has an engine that competes quite well with the X1's, developing the same 228 hp and 258 lb-ft, although the Q3 gets much worse fuel economy. However, when it comes to performance, the BMW is still king, with its powertrain and handling delivering a more athletic driving experience. It is also more spacious inside, with a larger trunk. With better fuel economy, a lower starting price, and better overall performance, the BMW X1 is the better deal.
The X3 is the midsize sibling to the X1, so it gets a more premium treatment to suit its stature. It gets LED headlights and fog lights, tri-zone climate control, reclining rear seats, and a 12-speaker sound system. It also gets a stronger 248-hp engine to help move its larger bulk. Its interior is spacious and it supplies slightly more cargo space than the X1, but it isn't quite as sporty as the smaller SUV on the road. It is a bit more rugged than the X1, with a towing rating of 4,400 lbs, making it more of a weekend getaway car. Strangely, it gets a smaller infotainment suite and still lacks Android Auto. The BMW X3 is, in many ways, just a larger version of the X1, and will suit the buyer who wants that. But if you don't really need the slightly higher cargo and passenger capacity, the X1 is the better deal.