The BMW X1 crossover is built on the front-wheel-drive Mini platform, which technically makes it a subcompact crossover, but it appears much bigger than that because of its height.
The X1 was redesigned for 2016, and for 2017 front-wheel-drive was offered in addition to all-wheel drive. For 2018, a rearview camera is added as standard equipment, and some optional packages have changed.
BMW X1 rivals might include the Acura RDX, Volvo, or a Ford Escape Titanium. More optimistically, BMW sees the X1 competing with the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3.
Handling is pleasant but uninspired; and with front-wheel drive it could be a small Ford or Kia. For a BMW, X1 is inexpensive. Interior materials, and the front-wheel-drive platform, reflect that.
The BMW X1 uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to a paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s really quick, maybe the best thing about it, with strong power for passing.
The 2018 BMW X1 rates an EPA-estimated 23/32 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined with front-wheel drive, one mile per gallon lower with xDrive all-wheel drive. The IIHS gives it its best rating, Top Safety Pick Plus.
The 2018 BMW X1 sDrive28i ($33,900) comes with front-wheel drive; X1 xDrive28i ($35,900) comes with all-wheel drive. Leatherette upholstery is standard. (All prices are MSRP and do not include $995 destination charge.)
X1 sDrive28i Convenience Tier ($36,400) includes SiriusXM, panoramic moonroof and other features, while Premium Tier ($39,700) adds navigation and active-safety features. The Luxury Package ($1550) upgrades to leather upholstery and premium trim materials.
With the twin-kidney grille, the X1 is clearly a BMW, and with its height and greenhouse it’s clearly a crossover, not a stylish BMW wagon.
The big nostrils of the grille are framed by cat’s eye headlamps, with icing-like sculpting that stretches down the sides of the car to the high taillamps. Dark cladding wraps around the rear and touches the low air intakes up front.
The dashboard looks smart, with its big round analog gauges, but the standard interior materials don’t meet the quality expected in a premium vehicle. The front seats are inadequate in thigh bolstering and thin on back support. We haven’t tried the sport seats.
The back seats are comfortable, however. There’s good headroom, thanks to the height, and generous legroom in the rear for a subcompact, although not enough width back there for three adults. The seats are easy to climb in and out of, thanks to wide door openings. There is an available rear seat that reclines and slides rearward by five inches. Forward, if cargo space is needed.
Cargo space is good for a subcompact crossover, a bit less than a compact. It’s 27.1 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 58.7 cubic feet with it down. That’s more than the Audi Q3 or Range Rover Evoque, but way less than a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
The low dashboard and fairly thin windshield pillars allows excellent visibility.
We like the optional wood trim and leather with contrasting stitching, and the head-up display, and the 8.8-inch touchscreen that’s mounted on top of the center console festooned with audio and climate buttons. The screen comes with a touchpad on the iDrive knob.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine, with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, accelerates from zero to sixty in 6.4 seconds. That’s very quick for the fast and quick by any standard. The X1 inspires confidence in traffic. It responds like a BMW when you put your foot down.
The speed-sensitive electric power steering is quick and well weighted, and although it’s lacking in BMW feel, but you can still run the X1 on twisty roads harder than rivals. The good brakes complement such conditions.
The X1 ride is comfortable as it is, even on standard 18-inch wheels with run-flat all-season tires; conventional all-season tires with a space-saver spare are available at no extra cost.
The Driving Dynamic Control modes are Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro, which change the sensitivity of the steering, throttle, and transmission. Not surprisingly, given the intent of the X1, we found a significant difference between the settings, as it’s supposed to be. Power is quite slow to arrive in Eco Pro, medium slow in Comfort, and quicker in Sport, or if you’re using manual control in the shift gate or the paddleshifters. In any mode other than Sport, the transmission resists shifting down during uphill acceleration.
BMW’s all-wheel drive xDrive uses a clutch and hydraulic pump system that can shift 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels in a small fraction of a second. Our seat time included some miles in the mountains on roads with rocks and mud from recent landslides. The X1’s good ground clearance was useful, however, on some gravelly spots, we lost some confidence along with lost traction. A Range Rover, Volvo, Audi, or Subaru exudes more confidence on gravel.
The BMW X1 is a sweet subcompact crossover SUV, with a strong powertrain, excellent safety, and good fuel mileage. Its base price is attractive, but the base car isn’t so much. It takes options and money to make the X1 excellent.
Sam Moses wrote this review, with staff reports by The Car Connection.