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- Improved crossover credibility
- Gutsy turbo four
- Rear-seat space
- Good highway fuel economy
- Competitive price of entry
- Prices climb quickly with options
- Some cost-cutting in interior trim
- Driver assists cost extra
The 2016 BMW X1 is heavy on sport and light on utility -- a combination that's likely to please a number of buyers.
The redesigned 2016 BMW X1's greatest accomplishment might be looking pretty much like a crossover. To many observers, the previous model's weakest point was a distinct resemblance to a hatchback. By contrast, the new X1 emphasizes added height—it's almost two inches taller—with styling tricks like the placement of headlights and taillights in the top corners of the front and rear fascias. An extra inch of width and a track that's two inches wider also give the X1 a more aggressive stance.
The BMW X1 comes in just one trim level this year—xDrive 28i—and a single all-wheel drive powertrain with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. It makes 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission that has three drive modes and paddle shifters. According to BMW, it will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
A BMW should be fun to drive, and the X1 fulfills that mandate with a gutsy motor, quick steering, and agile handling. You won't mistake it for a 3-Series, but performance is excellent for a crossover.
There's plenty of room for four adults, with ample headroom all around and good legroom, especially with an optional reclining/sliding rear seat that has five inches of travel. Width still isn't a strong point, though, so you shouldn't think of this as a five-passenger car unless three of those passengers are children.
BMW responded to another complaint—limited cargo room—by upping volume whether the 40/20/40 rear seats are up (3 extra cubic feet) or down (7 more cubic feet). Space now maxes out at 58.7 cubic feet. This beats other compact crossovers that also emphasize style over utility, but falls far short of the space you'd find in a mainstream crossover like the Honda CR-V.
BMW defines the X1's segment narrowly, with a handful of upscale niche competitors like the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3. In reality, though, with a starting price in the mid-$30,000s, the X1 faces a startling array of premium competitors like the Acura RDX and Volvo XC60, and—perhaps—even highly optioned mainstream alternatives like the Ford Escape Titanium.
Some of those competitors might look more attractive when compared on a feature-for-feature basis. BMW builds the X1 to an aggressive price point and standard equipment tends to be sparse. When notable features on a base-spec upscale car include unremarkable amenities like power front seats and imitation leather, you know you'll be spending a least a few thousand dollars on options to bring it up to the luxury level.
With the right packages—Luxury, Premium, and Technology—an X1 can feel almost lavish. The Luxury package brings leather seats and wood or aluminum trim; you can add features like a panoramic roof and LED headlights with the Premium package; and the Technology package adds extras like navigation and a head-up display. BMW is adding an M Sport package later in the year with sport-tuned transmission and suspension, and sport seats.
It's possible to order options à la carte, too. Splurge on a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, or improve comfort and versatility with a sliding/reclining rear seat for just a few hundred dollars.
The IIHS has given the X1 top "Good" scores in every category except for the notoriously difficult small overlap crash rating, where it scored a concerning "Marginal" rating. Federal safety officials didn't test the last-generation X1 and they are unlikely to test this one.
While the X1 has plenty of available driver assists, they're optional. The Driver Assistance Plus package comes with lane departure warning; speed limit information; automatic high beams; frontal collision warning with pedestrian warning and city collision mitigation; and active cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Alternatively, a rearview camera, park distance control, and an assist to aid with parallel parking belong to the Driver Assistance package.
The X1 manages decent fuel economy figures after ditching the corporate inline-6. The turbocharged inline-4 manages 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined, according to the EPA. Those figures are hardly tops among its class, but they are improved over last generations.