The 2016 BMW X1 has been redesigned, and to many it’s a relief, because it now looks like the crossover it is, not a hatchback. The all-new X1 Sports Activity Vehicle has grown two inches taller and one inch wider, on a track that’s two inches wider, and an length that’s a touch shorter. The headlights are in the top corners of the front fascia, and taillights in the top corners of the rear fascia, adding to the unhatchback-like look.
The only model, the all-wheel-drive BMW X1 xDrive 28i, uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and a strong 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, and there are three drive modes: Comfort, Sport and Eco. It can go from zero to 60 in a sprightly 6.3 seconds, and gets 22 miles per gallon City and 32 mpg Highway. Mostly, it’s fun to drive, with a sweet engine and handling that’s quick and nimble. Not many crossovers offer that.
What’s more, four adults will be happy inside. Technically, it seats five, but three of them would need to be kids.
It’s hard to say what cars the X1 competes against. You might say a fully loaded Honda CR-V or Ford Escape, both much less fun to drive, more likely the Audi Q3 or the Range Rover Evoque. Maybe the Acura RDX or Volvo XC60.
In order to keep the X1’s price in the Honda/Ford neighborhood, the X1 is relatively slim in standard features, for a BMW. For example leather isn’t standard, nor is navigation or a rearview camera.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t rated the 2016 X1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t tested the X1 at all, because it’s not a high-volume model.
The BMW X1 xDrive28i ($34,800) comes standard with leatherette upholstery. Packages, Luxury, Premium, Technology add features. Options include panoramic roof, LED headlamps, head-up display, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio. An M Sport package includes tuned transmission and suspension, racier seats.
Being taller and wider, without being longer, makes the X1 stand up tall, and the headlight and taillight placement adds to the visual perception. It’s downright aggressive, compared to what it used to be.
There’s good headroom and legroom all around, for four adults. Three adults in the back seat would run out of shoulder room, as they would in any compact crossover. Back to the upside, there’s a stand-alone optional rear seat that reclines and slides five inches.
The new X1 offers quite a lot more cargo room than before, for a max volume of 58.7 cubic feet, with the 40/20/40 rear seat folded. If you need more than that, you gotta go with a box, like the CR-V. If you want more style, it’s the Range Rover Evoque, where cargo space is a laugh, hardly the priority.
The base interior is smart, with expensive-feeling seats. The optional 8.8-inch touchscreen rides on a centerstack with real buttons, thank you, for audio and climate control.
The BMW X1 is fun to drive, plain and simple. We got a good test drive on mountain roads, strewn with large and small rocks from recent rains. We had opportunities to test the quickness of the steering, stopping ability, traction, stability control, and ground clearance. At the end of the drive, we were still having fun.
The speed-sensitive steering is not only quick but communicative, the braking is solid and progressive, and the handling and balance will get you through corners like very few crossovers can.
The 8-speed automatic transmission seems to be programmed to lug rather than downshift up hills; but that’s in Comfort mode. Switch to Sport and it wakes up.
The X1 comes standard with 18-inch run-flat all-season tires, but you can opt for conventional all-season tires with a space-saver spare. The ride is sometimes more firm with run-flat tires.
If you could ever find a base X1, you’d get an overflowing bowl of excellent performance for a competitive price. If you look at what a BMW is dynamically all about, powertrain, handling, brakes, comfort, balance, the X1 has it all. Hard to find another compact crossover that’ll do what the X1 can.