by Roger Biermann
The X1 is BMW's entry-level subcompact luxury SUV which was first introduced in 2016 and was designed to take on popular rivals like the Volvo XC40 as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Considering that it is the cheapest SUV in the BMW range at a starting price of only $34,950, it is well-equipped and has a comfortable and functional interior. There are only two trims available, the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i, and the front-wheel-drive sDrive28i, both powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Although BMW has carved out a niche for engaging driving and comfortable cruising, the X1 isn't particularly strong in either, focusing more on being an entry-point to the family crossover ranks, and showing just how far BMW has fallen from the days when sheer driving pleasure was the order of the day.
There have been many upgrades for 2019, including the addition of onboard navigation with voice control. The safety features have also been markedly improved, with the addition of forward collision warning, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, as well as front and rear parking sensors, now standard. Apple CarPlay has also been added, but only with a one-year subscription, after which it requires an annual fee. A mid-life refresh is coming for the 2020 model, so for now, the X1 remains visually unchanged.
The styling of the X1 is quite conservative but still mirrors many of the design elements found in the rest of the BMW SUV range. The front is dominated by the kidney grille which is proportionate to the rest of the car, unlike the over-zealous installation on the X7. The upswept LED headlights are stylish without being overly aggressive, and the round fog lights add a sporty touch. The side profile is enhanced by the creases running the length of the body, and with both the 18-inch and 19-inch wheel options, the stance of the X1 is bold and assertive. At the rear end of the X1, the chunky tail-light clusters are a nice touch, as are the twin-exit exhausts.
The size of the X1 is similar to other cars in the subcompact luxury SUV category. With a length of 175.4 inches and riding on a 105.1-inch wheelbase, the X1 is longer than both the Merc GLA and the XC40 but has a slightly shorter wheelbase. Standing at 62.9 inches tall, with a width of 71.7 inches, the X1 and GLA offer similar dimensions. Both X1 trims have a ground clearance of 7.2 inches, which is a median between the 5.3 inches of the GLA and the 8.3 inches of the XC40. The base model sDrive28i weights in at 3,543 lbs, while the top-end xDrive28i tips the scales at 3,697 lbs, which is on the heavier side for this segment.
The X1 is available in a multitude of colors, including metallic and non-metallic finishes. Atlantic Grey, Brilliant Effect, Sparkling Storm and Platinum Silver have been discontinued from the 2018 model, while Sunset Orange, Estoril Blue, and Dark Olive have been added to the 2019 range. The two non-metallic finishes are Alpine White and Jet Black and come at no extra cost. The metallic colors, which include Sparkling Brown, Mineral White, and Mediterranean Blue among others, come at a price of $550.
Both models use the same 228 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The only mechanical difference between them is that the xDrive28 is all-wheel-drive enabled, while the sDrive28i is configured as a front-wheel-drive derivative.
Thanks to its smaller stature, the powertrain offers sufficient oomph on tap for most driving scenarios, and the X1 rarely feels underpowered. There is adequate torque on takeoff that matches some smaller sedans out there. According to BMW, the xDrive28i has a respectable 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds, while the sDrive28i manages the dash in 6.6 seconds. Not only does the X1 have superb performance, especially as an entry-level SUV, but thanks to the turbo, it also offers great efficiency. In comparison, the GLA 250 from Mercedes makes 208 hp and has a tendency to feel lethargic - the X1 manages take-off adeptly without hesitation between traffic lights, although passing maneuvers sometimes have a slight delay from hitting the pedal to feeling the power kicking in.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine shared by both X1 models puts out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. While that might not sound like much for this segment, on the small X1 it is more than sufficient and pushes the car around with gumption. Even on highways, there's no lack of responsiveness and passing cars is a breeze, once you get past the initial point of inertia.
The engine can only perform as well as the transmission, which - in this case - is a smooth and silky eight-speed automatic - although not the same ZF unit found in rear-wheel-drive based vehicles. The transmission feels quick and precise, reading throttle inputs and making split-second decisions that suit the required gear to a tee.
Considering how good the X1 is in its standard guise, it's a bit of a disappointment that they don't offer a high-performance model to compete with the Mercedes-AMG GLA. Purists may complain about the lack of a manual option, but the automatic performs well enough; there's also a sport transmission available as part of the M Sport Package for the more performance-inclined driver.
Compared to many rival SUVs, the X1 feels agile and boasts an almost car-like handling ability which contrasts with the often-lumbering feel of SUVs. Cornering is precise and makes the X1 very easy to drive. Because BMW focuses on sporty driving experience, the ride can feel a bit firm at times - and with a foundation shared with a number of Mini products, it's easy to see why it handes with such verve. On most surfaces, it's hardly noticeable, but bumpy roads make themselves known quite loudly. There's also the option to upgrade to the M Sport suspension as part of the M-sport package, which should smooth things out a bit and give better body control.
The electronically assisted power-steering can feel somewhat numb, but for an entry-level SUV, it's to be expected. Many BMW fans are up in arms about the German manufacturer's decision to make front-wheel drive vehicles, and subsequently, complain of torque steer and the degradation of the driving dynamics. On the X1 the difference can hardly be felt; still, for those looking for some semblance of added driver involvement, an all-wheel-drive version is available. Overall, the X1 feels more like a large hatchback than an SUV and manages to get the right balance of performance and handling to be quite pleasant to pilot.
Both models achieve similar gas mileage due to having the same powertrain. Affected only by drivetrain changes, the difference is negligible: the sDrive28i manages EPA estimates of 23/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined, while the xDrive28i drops by one mile per gallon on each cycle, offering estimates of 22/31/25 mpg. Both models are equipped with a 16.1-gallon fuel tank, and based on the combined ratings the xDrive28i can travel approximately 402 miles before needing to top up at the pumps, while the sDrive28i can manage 16 miles more. Although the Volvo XC40 offers slightly improved fuel efficiency, it's not by much. The GLA 250 in entry-level guise offers more impressive figures, at 24/33/27 mpg, from an engine that produces the same amount of torque, albeit with slightly less power.
The interior of the X1 might not be as luxurious as many of the other models in the BMW range, but it still feels well-built and solid. The dashboard has the usual soft-touch materials as well as aluminum inserts, but it offers clean lines and good ergonomics that make it appealing. The addition of high-quality wood and aluminum trims for both the doors and dashboard do wonders to alleviate the look of an affordable crossover and give it a classy feel. The multi-function steering wheel feels good in hand, with intuitively placed buttons; all controls are user-friendly and logically placed. For a sub-compact SUV, there's adequate space and comfort for both front and rear passengers, on either the Dakota leather or synthetic leather seats.
The X1 can comfortably seat four, with five being a bit of a squeeze; kids will definitely suit better in the rear, especially with three across. Still, BMW has done wonders to use the available space wisely and the X1 never feels as small as it, by rights, should. The front passengers have ample space with 41.9 inches of headroom and 40.4 inches of legroom. The rear passengers get 39.4 inches of headroom, but only 37 inches of legroom. The X1 is one of the class leaders when it comes to space, and it easily beats its Mercedes rival - most notably by ten inches in the back for legroom.
Due to its cheaper price, the materials used in the X1 aren't in the same league as some of its BMW stablemates. However, the soft-touch dashboard as well the aluminum-look trim on the steering wheel and dashboard still feel modern and don't look too bad. To add a touch of class, BMW offers interior trims in a variety of finishes. Some, like Aluminum Hexagon with Pearl Chrome Accent, Black High-Gloss with Pearl, and Fine-Wood Oak Grain with Pearl, come at no extra cost. Others, such as the Fine-Wood Fineline with Pearl and Brushed Aluminum with Pearl are available at an additional $350.
Imitation leather in either Oyster or Black comes as standard for seating, with the option to upgrade to Dakota leather in Mocha, Oyster, Black, or Black with Blue highlights. The optional leather-enhancements are priced at $1,450.
Subcompact SUVs aren't renowned for their cargo space, but the X1 still has enough to be a daily driver or family carrier. With all the seats in place, the X1 has 27.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which can be increased to 58.7 cubic feet by dropping the rear seats. This is ample for vacation luggage, or even a child's bicycle; it is also substantially more than what main competitors offer. The maximum payload is 899 lbs, which - for a small SUV - is pretty decent.
In addition to the main cargo area, the X1 has various compartments to store smaller items in the cabin. There's a deep glove box as well as lower and upper storage boxes on the center console. Both front and rear doors have pockets, and so do both of the front seatbacks. There are also cupholders for both front and rear passengers.
The X1 has adequate standard features for an entry-level car, as well as many optional packages and add-on features. Some of the standard features include an eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, heated mirrors, keyless entry, a rearview camera, cruise control, and keyless ignition. To enhance the X1, some of the optional standalone features include a heated driver's seat and steering wheel, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control with Active Driving Assistant, as well as sliding and reclining rear seats. With the addition of optional packages, a sunroof, ambient interior lighting, adjustable lumbar support, power sunshades, LED lighting, and a head-up display is also available. Now standard for 2019 is a range of driver assists including forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, parking sensors, and automatic high beams.
BMW offers a very basic infotainment unit for the X1 compared to other models; the standard infotainment unit has a 6.5-inch display with BMW's iDrive system, which is simple and intuitive to use. It also comes standard with seven speakers (which can be upgraded to a Harman Kardon 12-speaker surround sound system), Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM radio, and a USB input port. Apple Carplay is available, but only with a one-year trial subscription, after which an annual fee of $80 needs to be paid. Android Auto isn't available at all. SiriusXM satellite radio with one year's subscription, an 8.8-inch infotainment display, onboard navigation, and wireless charging are also available as optional upgrades.
Unfortunately, the 2019 X1 has had two recalls. The first recall was due to the B-pillar not absorbing enough impact and could cause harm in the event of an accident; a relatively severe oversight in terms of design. The other recall related to faulty hardware which could cause the attachment brackets of the taillight housing to crack, leading to the possible detachment from the vehicle.
Both the basic warranty and powertrain warranty are valid for four years/50,000 miles, while there's a 12-year/unlimited-mile warranty for perforation and corrosion. The roadside assistance runs for four years/unlimited mileage, and for maintenance, BMW Ultimate Care provides for three years/36,000 miles.
The NHTSA has given the 2019 X1 a full score of five stars. The IIHS has also given the X1 their best possible rating of Good in most categories. Front crash prevention systems only received middling scores of Advanced, though.
The X1 has numerous standard safety features, but it lacks many of the advanced driver aids found on rivals. Standard safety features include stability control, traction control, four-wheel ABS, emergency brake preparation, tire pressure monitoring, lane departure warning, and emergency brake assist. It also has six airbags, including front and rear head airbags, and side curtain airbags. Adaptive cruise control is available as an optional extra, but blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and other driver aids are totally unavailable.
The X1 is the cheapest BMW in the range of crossovers, but that doesn't mean it's a bad car. It provides excellent value for money and a great combination of performance and features. The single engine in the lineup is vigorous enough for most driving conditions and the handling is agile and car-like, combining to create a fun-to-drive small SUV. The interior is comfortable and spacious, with excellent cargo capacity for its class; the interior also has a premium feel to it. With numerous optional extras, as well as a variety of add-on packages to choose from, a certain level of customization is available. As with all vehicles though, there are a few drawbacks. The styling is on the conservative side, and there can be excessive wind and road noise at higher speeds. BMW also seems to be penny-pinching by only offering Apple CarPlay with a one-year subscription, and seeing over many crucial driver aids as only optional affairs, if present at all. Despite the drawbacks, the X1 is a solid performer and fares well amongst competitors; it's a great choice as far as subcompact premium SUVs go.
The entry-level X1, in the front-wheel-drive SDrive 28i guise, has a starting MSRP of $34,950 while the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i has a price tag of $36,950. Both have an added destination fee of $995, as well as licensing, taxes, and registration fees.
The X1 range is comprised of the front-wheel-drive sDrive28i and the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i. Both are powered by a 228 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with main differences being the drivetrain.
Apart from the powertrain, both share the same standard features which include heated mirrors, a rearview camera, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, and climate control. The infotainment system consists of a 6.5-inch display connected to BMW's iDrive system. It also has AM/FM Radio, a USB input port, Bluetooth connectivity, and seven speakers. Apple Carplay also comes standard, but only with a one-year subscription.
There are a number of packages available to change the look and drive of the X1, as well as to add more features. The legendary M Sport Package, at an MSRP of $4,650, adds exclusive M-themed bi-color alloy wheels, as well as power-folding mirrors, sports seats, M steering with paddle shifters, an aerodynamic kit, four-way power-adjustable lumbar support, a sunroof, and ambient lighting.
The Premium Package costs $2,450 and equips the X1 with a heated steering wheel, LED headlights, an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, a head-up display, and onboard navigation.
For $1,550, the Luxury Package upgrades the interior to Dakota leather upholstery, with Fine-wood Oak Grain and Pearl Chrome accent trim on the dashboard and doors.
Another option is the Convenience Package which, at $2,500, adds power-folding mirrors, power sunshade, sunroof, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a universal garage-door opener, ambient lighting, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio with one year's subscription.
In addition to the packages, there are also standalone options such as wireless charging available for $500, heated front seats and steering wheel at $550, and adaptive cruise control with an Active Driving Assistant at $1,000.
Both the sDrive28i and the xDrive28i share the same features and engine and are only differentiated by their drivetrains. The sDrive28i is the front-wheel-drive variant and costs $34,950, while the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i is slightly more expensive at $36,950.
Opting for the sDrive28i is a good choice, as it remains a brilliant daily driver, ideal for city driving where the lack of all-wheel-drive capabilities isn't all that noticeable. For those living in areas prone to snow, ice or other road conditions that may require more efficient handling (or those planning to go off-road with this little SUV), the xDrive28i is the better option. With both derivatives offering excellent value for money, either choice will be a good one.
The GLA is the Mercedes' answer to the X1 in the subcompact SUV class, also available in front or all-wheel-drive and with similar power outputs at 208 hp, 20 less than the BMW. It's slightly cheaper too, priced from $33,950 compared to $34,950 for the sDrive28i. Both have interiors that are handsome and functional, although a bit more basic than their respective brand counterparts. The GLA's, in particular, feels cheaper than what one might expect from a Mercedes. The BMW is more spacious than the Merc, both in terms of passenger volume and trunk space, and with more power it's not surprising it performs better too. It's also the more fun to drive of the pair, and the eight-speed automatic in the BMW is more intuitive. The GLA offers some features like both Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and a Wi-Fi hotspot as standard; some optional driver aids like blind-spot monitoring, a surround camera, and a self-parking system are also available, all of which are excluded from the X1 entirely. For everyday driving the X1 is better than the GLA, and while there is no performance-oriented variant to compare to the 375 hp GLA 45 AMG, this will likely go unchallenged.
Volvo's resurgence as a major player in the luxury segment continues with the XC40. Recent Volvo vehicles have top-notch interiors, and the XC40 is no different. It boasts a classy cabin space characterized by Volvo's trademark clean lines and simple practicality. The tablet-like nine-inch screen dominates the dashboard and has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The XC40 also comes in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, with the entry-level 187 hp T4 starting at $33,200. The top of the range 248 hp T5 inscription has a starting sticker price of $39,750, compared to the 228 hp xDrive28i at $36,950.
The X1 is marginally more spacious than the XC40, but the entry-level sDrive28i is much more exciting to drive than the equivalent XC40 T4. However, the XC40 has more technology and safety features available, as well as more models to choose from. The Volvo also has more distinctive styling than the X1. While both are great cars, the XC40 is the better option due to being better equipped and offering more all-round value for money.