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 The standard 6.5-inch infotainment display has been replaced by the previously optional 8.8-inch version, which now includes navigation.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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
The most popular competitors of 2020 BMW X1: