The BMW X1 is a crossover that’s called a subcompact because it’s built on the Mini platform, but given its height, no one would think of it as being sub-compact.
This second-generation X1 was launched as a 2016 model. New for 2017, X1 is available with front-wheel drive.
Besides the twin-kidney grille, there isn’t that much to differentiate the X1. The handling is pleasant enough, but not inspiring; from behind the wheel, especially with front-wheel drive, you might think you’re driving a Ford or Kia. The X1 is less costly than you might expect from BMW, and the interior materials reflect that.
BMW sees among its competitors the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3, but we’d add the Acura RDX, Volvo XC60, or even the Ford Escape Titanium to the list. Comparing the features of these vehicles to the X1, they look pretty good.
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 the car, with strong power for passing.
BMW engineering almost always brings good fuel mileage. The X1 rates an EPA-estimated 23/32 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined with front-wheel drive, one per gallon lower with xDrive all-wheel drive.
The IIHS gives it its best rating, Top Safety Pick Plus.
The 2017 BMW X1 sDrive28i ($32,800) comes with front-wheel drive, X1 xDrive28i ($34,800) comes with all-wheel drive. Leatherette upholstery comes standard.
The Luxury package ($1550) upgrades to leather seats and wood or aluminum trim. A Premium package ($3250) brings LED headlamps and panoramic roof. The Technology package ($2550) adds navigation and a head-up display. An M Sport package has a firmer suspension, quicker programming in the transmission, sport seats, and body tweaks.
Given its height and shape of the greenhouse, it looks like the crossover it is, and not a stylish BMW wagon. But the nose is pure BMW, with twin-kidney grille and cat’s eye headlamps, with icing-like sculpting on the sides and 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 look and feel cheaper than you expect in a premium vehicle. And the front seats are woefully inadequate in thigh bolstering and thin on back support. We haven’t tried the sport seats, but they have to be better than the base seats. The back seats might actually be more comfortable.
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. They’re easy to climb in and out of, thanks to wide door openings. You can opt for a rear seat that reclines and slides rearward by five inches.
Cargo space is good for a subcompact, but less than a compact crossover. 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.
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 low dashboard and fairly thin windshield pillars allows excellent visibility.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine, with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, accelerates from zero to sixty in 6.4 seconds, quick for its class.
The speed-sensitive electric power steering is quick and well weighted, while lacking in BMW feel, but you can still run the X1 on twisty roads harder than your everyday crossover. The good brakes complement such conditions. We haven’t tested the stiffer M Sport yet.
The ride is comfortable, 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 stubbornly 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.
The BMW X1 is a competent subcompact crossover SUV, with a strong powertrain, excellent safety, and good fuel mileage.
Sam Moses wrote this review, with staff reports by The Car Connection.