New & Used BMW X1: In Depth
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BMW's subcompact, rear-wheel-drive-based X1 takes on other luxury crossovers such as the Buick Encore, the Audi Q3, Acura RDX and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
For more details on the X1, including prices, options, and specifications, see our full review of the 2016 BMW X1.
The X1 had been on sale for three years in other markets by the time it arrived in the U.S. late in 2012. BMW's smallest crossover is based on the last-generation 3-Series wagon and borrows the xDrive all-wheel-drive system from that car as well. Because of this, it can be thought of a tallish 3-Series wagon. The U.S. is unique in that it is the only market to get a six-cylinder in addition to a four-cylinder X1. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the four-cylinder model, while the six is all-wheel-drive only, and all configurations use an eight-speed automatic transmission.
There's a lot of family resemblance to the larger X3 in the lines of the X1, but the overall look is tauter and the vehicle is noticeably more compact. Inside, as in any other BMW, the front seats and the overall cockpit are tailored to provide a good driving position. The driver faces a tiered, sculpted dash containing dual instrument dials and a central information screen. Most models have a display screen mounted in the center of the vehicle as well; audio and climate controls are located in the center stack, while the iDrive controller and a small gear selector--more like a joystick than the usual large lever--are on the console.
BMW has fitted the X1 with technology aimed at improving fuel economy—both an engine start-stop function and brake-energy regeneration. The start-stop system shuts off the engine when stopped in traffic or idling, restarting immediately when the driver begins to lift a foot off the brake. Brake-energy regeneration makes use of a clutched alternator to capture energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat in the brakes for use by the electrical system, power accessories and other functions; it functions when the vehicle is decelerating so as to avoid putting an extra load on the engine when power is needed.
The X1 uses the same cumbersome naming convention as BMW's other crossover models. The rear-drive sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i are propelled by a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the pricier xDrive35i uses a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. That latter model is unique to the U.S.—nowhere else does the X1 have the option of a six-cylinder engine—and it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
There have been very few changes to the X1 since its introduction. More of a special edition, the 2013 Powder Ride Edition offered integrated overhead ski storage and special exterior graphics, among other dress-ups. The next generation of the X1, which is expected around the 2016 model year, will most likely share a front-wheel-drive platform with the next-generation MINI Countryman. All-wheel drive will again be an option, but if you want a small BMW crossover that defaults to rear-wheel drive, the current model is the one to get.
While the larger X3 and X5 crossovers (as well as their X4 and X6 cousins) are built at the BMW plant in South Carolina, the X1 is imported from the company's Leipzig plant in Germany.