2015 BMW X1 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 4, 2015

The 2015 BMW X1 runs a little short on versatility, but it's big on style and enthusiasm.

The BMW X1 joined the brand's U.S. lineup just two years ago, though it's been a known quantity in Europe for much longer. At least conceptually, it seems like the perfect solution to nailing down style-savvy urbanites with an occasional hankering for off-pavement travel—no matter the continent. However, the X1 has a couple of serious handicaps: It's offered at a price that may cause even BMW shoppers to wince and it's not as space-efficient inside as some might expect.

Thanks to its taller ride height and available all-wheel drive, the 2015 BMW X1 might appeal to rugged types, or it may simply boost the confidence of snow belt dwellers. However, it's smaller than the mid-size X3 crossover, which should still be your go-to if you plan on putting adults in the back seat.

The X1 resides somewhere between hot hatchbacks and curt crossovers. At first glance you might think of a 3-Series wagon, mashed a little shorter and lifted a few inches in height. It has BMW's "Sport-Activity Vehicle" profile down pat, yet it's not all that convincing that this isn't a car; there's little in the way of design cues to suggest a pavement-free adventure could happen at any moment. The controls are right where existing BMW drivers expect them; but Any 3-Series driver will take command at the X1's wheel in an instant: the controls are just where BMW drivers expect them. For the rest of us, the very anatomical look is good, but the smattering of dissimilar controls isn't.

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Unless you need a vehicle that's almost quick enough to deserve the M badge, you'll be perfectly happy with either of the four-cylinder X1 models. Otherwise, we wouldn't describe many crossovers as eager, but the X1 really seems to earn it. All-wheel-drive X1 xDrive28i and rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i models move plenty quick with BMW's 2.0-liter turbo-4 under the hood. With direct injection and an 8-speed automatic, the base engine is the efficiency champ. A 300-hp turbo-6 underhood the X1 xDriveis, which runs up to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, is the class leader in having fun. Its mileage takes a tumble down to 21 mpg combined, according to the EPA, but we didn't mind much.

The sDrive28i gets precise-feeling electric power steering, while the 35i xDrive models have excellent, well-weighted hydraulic power steering, as well as excellent vehicle dynamics.

Refinement is one step down than the X3; there's a little more engine exhaust resonance than we'd like, a little road noise as well, and more body roll than you'll find in other vehicles with the sport package, but the X1 handles really well, even over terrible pavement surfaces.

Front-seat accommodations are fine for even tall adults; although a tight center console limits the storage bin, and only permits one front-seat cupholder on the console; instead of folding out, a second one hangs aside to knock passengers' knees. The driving position is one of the lower and more carlike among these kinds of vehicles. In back, the X1 is missing only a little legroom compared to the X3, but you're not going to fit three adults across. Cargo space is what's missing compared to its larger sibling; but those back seats recline and fold nearly flat.

The 2015 BMW X1 is respectable for safety, but its roster of safety options is nowhere near as impressive as that of BMW's larger vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the X1 top 'good' tests for frontal, side, and rear impact, as well as a 'good' score for roof strength—albeit with a potentially worrisome 'marginal' score in the new, more rigorous small overlap frontal test. A rearview camera is also missing from the standard-features list.

The X1 does offer a standard USB port; power features; automatic climate control; and HD radio. But a sticker price over $40,000 is easily within reach if you dip into the options list, which shows a panoramic glass roof; mobile-app connectivity; satellite radio; a cold-weather package; and Harmon Kardon audio.

7

2015 BMW X1

Styling

The 2015 BMW X1 looks more like a hatchback than a utility vehicle from most angles; it's at ease in all but its tall, abbreviated side profile.

In the land of rugged, truck-based SUVs and comfortable, car-based crossovers, the BMW X1 lands on the softer side of the aisle, both inside and out.

From a few feet away, the X1 interior looks suave and composed. If you've seen other recent BMW interiors--especially in the brand's smaller models--you'll find this one familiar; there's a muscular bulge swelling at the middle of the dash, effectively dividing the driver zone from the passenger zone. Contrasting trim and upholstery do help here, but some of the best-looking picks come at a premium.

The X1 is a tall wagon on the outside, with the barest minimum of references to the SUV world. There's a bulge at the grille, some roof rails, and a little more ground clearance than you'd get in a sport wagon. The sides are curved and glassy, with its only straight edge at its sills.

Altogether, that extra height forces some visual tricks, yet through skillful management of proportions the X1 ends up looking much like a hatchback from most angles, despite large glass areas, a stubby rear end, and a high nose.

BMW lets X1 buyers upgrade to xLine and Sport Line trim packages. The former is more rugged, with matte-metallic trim for the front and rear, as well as some interior leather and trim, plus satin roof rails and glossy Dark Copper trim. The Sport Line blacks out those exterior trim pieces and wears unique alloy wheels, and gets red and aluminum trim inside. An M Sport Line pushes that further, with an Anthracite headliner, Shadowline exterior trim, high-gloss roof rails, dark-crosshatch aluminum trim, and a special leather steering wheel and shift knob.

Step right into the X1 from another vehicle, and you might need a tutorial. In the most complex of cases, there's an iDrive controller, pushbutton start, steering-wheel audio and phone controls, and dual climate controls--all black in finish, all competing for attention against a black-gloss background.

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2015 BMW X1

Performance

The available six in the 35i does make the most of the tenacious grip and surprisingly tidy body control; but the base turbo four is plenty gutsy.

There are two and a half flavors of X1 on the market: excessive turbo-six AWD X1 xDrive35i, versatile, turbo-four AWD xDrive28i, and base turbo-four RWD sDrive28i.

If you're feeling sporty, the xDrive35i model will run from 0-60 mph in just 5.3 seconds to a top speed of 130 mph. However, we prefer the four-cylinder, especially with all-wheel drive, which can move from 0-60 is a surprising 6.2 seconds.

Expect BMW dynamic excellence here; you'll find very little body roll or dynamic misbehavior, and the X1 doesn't feel flustered being driven like a sport sedan, or by brittle, broken Michigan byroads. Skip the M Sport package and it's capable of soaking up all kinds of small imperfections without skittering over them in unimpressive ways.

Off paved roads, the X1 is surprisingly deft--more so, at least, than you might expect given its off-road performance. While it doesn't have the sort of wheel articulation you need for rutted trails, it has enough toughness and ground clearance for gravel roads or snowy driveways. 

With the four, the X1 feels perky and plenty strong, with 240 horsepower at 5000 rpm and peak torque of 260 pound-feet at 1250 rpm through 4800 rpm. It's coupled only with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift controls and stop/start.

A little perspective could help here: Just this base X1 is as fast to 60 mph as the first E30 M3.

The xDrive all-wheel drive system works with stability control to split torque front to rear (variable to 20:80, with an available Performance Control option); it requires the X1 to retain BMW's former hydraulic steering unit--while the rear-drive sDrive28i can be packaged with a more efficient electric power steering system, hence the gas-mileage differences.

While we haven't driven a rear-wheel-drive X1 and thus can't comment on its electric power steering, the hydraulic systems in the xDrive versions are excellent. It's not particularly quick, but it's a pleasure to wind and unwind. If there's one standout impression of the X1's performance, it's of fluidity at speed--not something that crossovers typically excel at.

The last X1 we fully tested, a X1 xDrive28i, came equipped with a Sport package including 18-inch wheels and tires, Servotronic variable-ratio steering, but without the M Sport Package and Performance Control. The package hasn't been as well-reviewed as we'd expected, with understeer a big complaint--as much at issue as the base X1's electric power steering. And the brakes pour out more pedal feel than the entire lineups of some automakers from half a world away.

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7

2015 BMW X1

Comfort & Quality

Cargo space is especially limited in the X1, as is back-seat space.

Be sure to consider how much space you'll need in a vehicle before you choose the 2015 BMW X1 over the larger BMW X3.

Cargo is what's most been compromised, clearly. With the fold-down options on the rear seatbacks, the cargo area is short and has less than 15 cubic feet with the rear seats up in place; although that expands to 47.7 cubic feet (preliminary specs). For perspective, that's far less cargo space than the Ford Escape, but more like a roomy hatchback.Two golf bags will fit in the space, however.

The X1 is sized more like the subcompact crossovers available today than the compacts that are familiar to more buyers. By rough comparison, it's more Escape, Countryman, and Evoque, than X3, GLK or Q5, with a suitably tall roofline that also makes it something of a last-generation BMW 3-Series wagon.

Inside, that comparison makes sense, because the X1's interior space measures up for most adults. Headroom is never really in question, and neither is elbow room. The center console isn't so wide that it claims too much space, but it does make solid contact with front-passenger legs on a regular basis.

The back seat does its best to overcome the short wheelbase span. It reclines for long-distance comfort and flips forward for cargo flexibility. Even when four adults are seated, there's enough legroom, but clearly not enough space for three across. For children, that's no problem.

It's from the center console back where you start noticing the X1's shorter cabin. Some difficult storage choices have obviously been made, as the USB port carves out a lump of its own from the bin that lies ahead of the shifter, leaving room for one cupholder behind the lever--which forces a second cupholder to hang precariously off the right side of the console. It's at times like these where you feel for a culture not raised on 64-ounce beverages--but front passengers who repeatedly bang their knees against the cupholder when getting in won't make these choices seem all that forgivable. Door pockets do help make up the difference for other items though.

With a rack of switches, knobs, and pushbuttons, each with their own haptics and intents, the instrument panel can appear a bit cluttered. The joystick shifter needs its own walk-through, too, unless you equate the "park" button with the "fire" button on a video game controller. The volume knob on the radio's small, and almost out of reach.

Across either of these versions, you do hear the engines a fair amount--a coarse thrum with the four-cylinder engine, or more of a bellowing note with the six; in either case, it's not the sweet note that was produced by BMW's former naturally aspirated sixes.

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2015 BMW X1

Safety

Bluetooth and a rearview camera continue to be options in the X1, as they're now included in far cheaper cars.

The BMW X1 comes with an adequate list of safety features, but it doesn't offer any of the brand's more expensive active safety technologies. Still, though, it rates well in crash tests, with exception to the updated small overlap frontal test.

The X1 has the mandatory airbags and stability control, and also offers a rearview camera and Bluetooth as options. In this price class, we think those items should be standard, but the German automakers as a group lag behind their Korean and American competition in that respect.

Visibility is good for the driver, even with the X1's relatively small rear hatch glass and tall headrests.

Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, or lane-departure warning systems aren't available either. That's technology we think has some limited application for safety, too. 

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't rated the BMW X1—and likely won't—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the X1 top 'good' tests for frontal, side, and rear impact, as well as a 'good' score for roof strength. But it earned a potentially worrisome 'marginal' score in the new, more rigorous small overlap frontal test—a test that simulates a collision with a pole or tree.

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2015 BMW X1

Features

You'll add likely add thousands to the price of the 2015 BMW X1 to get what you want, as the standard-features list isn't particularly generous.

While the X1 might currently be the most affordable BMW on the market, that can easily change as you begin to add on the options.

Other option packages include a safety setup with parking sensors and a rearview camera; a technology package with Bluetooth and audio streaming, operator-driven BMW Assist, and navigation with voice commands and real-time traffic; BMW Apps, a Bluetooth connection that also enables Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and other mobile Web services via smartphone; and a cold-weather package with a heated steering wheel and heated front seats.

Standard features are mostly good. Every X1 comes standard with power windows, locks, and heated mirrors; automatic climate control; LED taillights; AM/FM/HD radio with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary jack; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with multi-function controls; roof rails; and automatic headlights. The six-cylinder X1 adds on more features--standard power front seats, panoramic sunroof, variable-ratio power steering, adaptive headlights, and automatic high beams--which are available on the four-cylinder model as options.

All models can be fitted with satellite radio, a chrome package, and a Harmon Kardon surround-sound system.

If you're used to more advanced voice-control systems, you'll find the one associated with iDrive to be a bit muddled. In sampling a few destinations, we were able to drill down to a certain level of navigation--say, to local parks--by voice, when we were directed to the iDrive controller for further action. Systems such as MyFord Touch or Cadillac CUE allow more voice control to select on-screen options, but we're unaware of a similar mode on this BMW.

Enthusiasts should look long and hard at the M Sport package, which tightens up the X1's suspension and adds 18-inch wheels with staggered rear tires--or swaps out the package for 19-inch wheels. It includes sport seats and a sport steering wheel, a choice of interior trim, body add-ons, and on all-wheel-drive models, variable-torque-split xDrive.

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2015 BMW X1

Fuel Economy

Both of the engines in the 2015 BMW X1 are fuel-efficient; although in the 35i, mileage drops precipitously when you give in to temptation.

Despite its crossover styling, the X1 really functions more as a small wagon, and gets similar fuel economy ratings, too. In fact, two of the available models earn better than 25-mpg in combined conditions.

The X1 powered by BMW's turbocharged in-line six-cylinder isn't one of those models. It's rated at 18 miles per gallon city, and 27 miles per gallon highway, for a combined rating of 21 mpg. It doesn't offer stop/start; its six-speed automatic isn't designed to handle the mechanical stresses induced by the system.

The more efficient versions are the sDrive28i and xDrive28i models, which have the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The rear-drive X1 gets 24 miles per gallon city, and 34 miles per gallon highway, the agency reports, with a combined rating of 28 mpg; with all-wheel drive, the turbo-four X1 is scored at 22/33 mpg and 26 mpg combined.

Four-cylinder models come equipped with an ECO PRO function and stop/start. ECO PRO maps the X1's throttle and eight-speed automatic transmission shift points, as well as its climate-control settings, to help with small, discrete gains in fuel economy. Stop/start offers more measurable differences, and although the system can be unexpectedly jarring at times, it's smoother than the one we've observed in BMW's six-cylinder-powered cars.

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April 28, 2015
2015 BMW X1 AWD 4-Door xDrive28i

good price and quality ratio

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good car with plenty of power, fuel economy and enough space for sport and small family
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