What’s interesting in this segment is that it’s become go-to place to shop for a new vehicle. Because of the lower price point, vehicles in the compact entry-level luxury crossovers are accessible to a very wide range of buyers. This brings in people both looking for brand recognition and those seeking to do things a little differently.
The usual suspects are the BMW X1, the subject of the review, and the Mercedes GLA not to mention the less-than-stellar yet popular Audi Q3. The Lexus NX and Infiniti QX30 are mid-pack in my opinion while the “others” are the recently introduced and impressive Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-PACE.
While I’m a huge fan of the latter two, a week with the new X1 has hoisted it to the top of the segment for all imaginable reasons. Those desiring a BMW will not be disappointed by the X1 as it provides high levels of overall quality and driving enjoyment. BMW pulled all kinds of tricks with the X1 and they make a world of a difference.
The first trick is making the latest generation of the “small” X1 look very much like the previous compact-midsize X3. I myself have confused the two on more than one occasion. Immediately, an X1 driver wins the “looks more expensive” competition over all of the others.
Completely revised for the 2016 model year, the X1 has that undeniable BMW face with its always handsome kidney grille. The CUV’s shape is now more SUV than raised station wagon as it once was. BMW’s efforts to make the X1 look rugged and substantial are evident in the added lower trim pieces, and wheel selection.
In other words, the X1 has grown up on the outside, and on the inside. The dashboard mimics what you’d find in a 3 or 5 Series minus the extra bells and whistles. The materials are top-drawer, from plastics, to wood and leathers. The top-mounted 8.8” touchscreen is large and easy to navigate. In the end, unlike some of the X1’s competitors, the cabin is just as upscale as you’d want it to be.
And it is roomy as well. BMW’s done another solid for its potential buyers by ensuring that four adults will be happy and comfortable for the short and long hauls. The rear bench is surprisingly spacious with loads of leg-, foot-, shoulder- and headroom. I can actually stretch somewhat in the rear thanks to the raised front seats.
The boot is very capable as it can hold up to 505 liters of gear. The immediate opening is wide and the interior bins on each side will allow a golf bag to easily slide in width-wise. Below the trunk’s floor is a large compartment that will hold a number of extra items.
Up front, the adjustable Sport seats, as part of either Premium packages, are as comfortable as they look. Finding a perfect driving position is easy and forward visibility is generally good.
At $40,600, the base 2018 BMW X1 ‘s price is on par with the other players in the segment. Adding a few options to the crossover rapidly increases the price. My tester, with the Premium Package Enhanced (power hatch, heated steering wheel, sunroof) and paint retails for just shy of $50,000. At this price, Apple CarPlay is not included however BMW has its own onboard connectivity functions. If you want the option, it’s an extra $750 over the $5,750 Premium package Enhanced…
As with most luxury vehicles, premiums are paid for access to the brand. Base equipment is still decent with LED headlights, the 8.8” touchscreen, power heated seats and all the usual kit one has come to expect.
The best X1 purchase is a metallic paint scheme with base leatherette (no one will know the difference), and the Premium Package Essential (below the Enhanced) for a total of just over $45,000.
The biggest trick up the X1’s sleeve is the way it drives. From the moment I left the dealership lot, I thought I was behind the wheel of a much larger vehicle. It’s the substantial weight and bolted down feeling from the controls that gives off this impression.
What’s remarkable really is that despite its X5-reminding heft, the X1 remains agile and nimble. The ride is lovely with plenty of wheel travel and damping but because this is a BMW, the X1 handles very well. It might be one of the best-behaving Bimmers I’ve driven in a long while.
Steering and the brake pedal are both heavy and responsive, as they are with the larger Xs. Power from the twin-power turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is plenty at 228-horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. BMW xDRIVE AWD system is standard and is mated to a properly efficient 8-speed automatic transmission.
As with most vehicles, the X1 has various drive modes however unlike other BMWs, the X1’s “normal” mode feels like the average “ECO” mode. Throttle response is dull but not terribly slow – I got the impression it was this way in the name of driving refinement. “Sport” mode liven things up, and unlike many others of this nature, is not too crazy for in-town driving. “ECO PRO” is best for crawling about in the city.
I’m still impressed with how much I enjoyed the X1. It perfectly embodies everything that’s great about BMW in a package that is right-sized and practical. For these reasons, and despite being a little older than the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-PACE, it’s just as good.