New & Used BMW X1: In Depth
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The BMW X1 is the least expensive crossover in the German automaker's wide-ranging lineup. This subcompact utility vehicle is unrelated to the similarly sized MINI Countryman, as it is based on a rear-drive architecture. Competition comes from other small luxury crossover vehicles like the Buick Encore, the Audi Q3, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
For more details on the X1, including prices, options, and specifications, see our full review of the 2015 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 its xDrive all-wheel-drive system from that car as well. 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 family resemblance to the larger X3 in the lines of the X1, but they're tauter and the entire vehicle is more compact. Inside, as in any other BMW, the front seats and the overall cockpit are all about the driving position. Behind the wheel, the driver is faced with a tiered, sculpted dash containing dual instrument dials and an information screen in front of the left seat. Most models have a display screen mounted in the center of the dash 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 a start-stop engine 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 as to avoid putting an extra load on the engine.
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; although for a 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.