Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
240 HP / 260 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time:
6.3 Seconds
Top Speed:
127 MPH (limited)
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,726 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
25 / 56 CU FT
MPG:
22 City / 33 HWY
Base Price:
$33,245
A Tasty Bit Of Old School For The New School



Against the backdrop of fervent hand-wringing from brand purists, BMW is on the cusp of finally offering front-wheel-drive vehicles. While that's a shock to the constitution, many are pointing to the company's fine-handling Mini offerings as an article of faith that it can get this drivetrain paradigm shift right. That may be true, but there's an even more important lesson that Mini has taught the decision-makers in Munich: how to make real money on small cars.

Before Mini came along, BMW – along with seemingly every other premium European automaker – never really figured out how to coax big dollars out of American wallets without developing cars that had large footprints, at least those other than sports cars. While the automaker really got rolling in America on the strength of little bantamweights like the 2002, it veered away from small cars sometime in the '80s. BMW subsequently crashed and burned with the cut-and-shut 318ti built off its E36 3 Series and, good as it is, the 1 Series hasn't given the company meaty volume or profits, either. Among other brands, the Audi A3 has never rung up big numbers, and the less said about the painful sales figures of the Volvo C30, the better. But Mini has beat the odds, blazing a more affordable and evidently compelling trail. As of late, the company's Countryman softroader has been a massive hit worldwide. No surprise then that BMW has reconsidered bringing over its smallest softroader, the X1, to the US.

The X1 originally went on sale in Europe in 2010, and after a solid launch on its home continent, the little crossover was introduced in small-car-friendly Canada for 2012, only going on sale here in the US fresh off a minor facelift for 2013. To be clear, the X1 shares no design DNA with the even-smaller Countryman. Their engineers don't even use the same washroom – whereas the Mini is based on a front-drive chassis, the X1's architecture is a variant of the aforementioned rear-wheel-drive 1 Series, itself derived from the old E90 3 Series. Exactly none of this is bad news.
2013 BMW X1 side view2013 BMW X1 front view2013 BMW X1 rear view

It's 4.4 inches shorter in length than a Mazda3 five-door and only a couple of inches taller.

Available in both rear- and all-wheel-drive formulas, the Stateside X1 is powered by BMW's torque-rich N20 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or the company's 3.0-liter N55 six-cylinder – the latter being an engine you can't even get in Germany (Deutschlanders, take heart – you have an array of lovely diesels verboten to us Yanks). In the case of our N20-powered sDrive28i tester, that amounts to 240 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque from 1,250 to 4,800 rpm. If that's not enough, the N55 returns 300 horses at 5,800 rpm and as many pound-feet from 1,200 to 5,000 rpm, but it's only available with AWD. In either case, that's a lot of sausage stuffed into a small casing.

How small? At 176.5 inches long, 70.8 inches wide and just 60.8 inches tall, the X1 is a spicy little hot link of a thing. Yet because of the aesthetic similarities to its much larger X3 and X5 brethren, it's hard to see how the X1 measures up on the road in isolation, let alone on your computer screen. To help put those figures in perspective, note that the X1 is a full six inches shorter than the current 3 Series and only four-and-a-half inches taller, yet it's only fractionally narrower and has a similar wheelbase. More to the point, it's actually significantly shorter in both length and height than another notable tweener, the Infiniti EX37, which stretches a whopping 5.8 inches longer and stands an inch taller. Using a more common yardstick, it's 4.4 inches shorter in length than a Mazda3 five-door and only a couple of inches taller. If all of that reads to you like the X1 looks more like five-door hatchback or a little sportswagon than a conventional crossover, you're picking up what we're putting down.

2013 BMW X1 headlight2013 BMW X1 wheel2013 BMW X1 taillight2013 BMW X1 exhaust tips

If you've experienced the aforementioned Infiniti, you're probably figuring that the X1 has a cramped cocoon of a cabin, with next to no rear seat room and negligible cargo capacity. Yet somehow, that isn't the case – BMW's wizards have imbued this vehicle with perfectly generous front seat room, surprisingly decent second-row quarters and 25 cubic feet of cargo space (56 cu-ft with the 40/20/40 split seats folded). If you're expecting solid second-row long-haul comfort from a footprint this small, you'll want to issue yourself a reality check, but overall it's a space-efficient design. It's for this reason, smart packaging, that we can see the X1 selling in the sort of volumes that the otherwise perfectly attractive EX37 could never dream of.

The overall aesthetic is a bit bull-nosed and not entirely attractive.

Aesthetically, the X1's look is standard-issue modern BMW, which is to say its visage is dominated by wide, oversized kidney grilles and swept-back dual-element headlamps. With minimal bumper protrusion, the overall aesthetic is a bit bull-nosed and not entirely attractive. The profile reveals a high-waisted look, with a shallow greenhouse and slightly asymmetric wheel arches subtly outlined in flat black plastic to project a subtle off-road-ready look. The rear glass is also fairly small and steeply raked, reinforcing the almost hatchback-like appearance.

The cabin itself is also stereotypically BMW, which is to say it contains materials of generally high quality logically screwed together in a somewhat solemn fashion. That's particularly true in our tester's black color scheme, an aura mitigated only by our Sport Line tester's contrasting red stitching on the seats, door panels and steering wheel. There's really no escaping BMW's fiddly e-gearshift lever these days, but everything else – including this latest generation of iDrive – is pretty straightforward. Seats are firm yet supportive and the dials are all business and easy to read. Being thirsty Americans, we can't help but note that the center console has but one cupholder – if your front seat passengers want their own drink, they'll have to plug in the auxiliary receptacle that intrudes on their legroom, just as it does in the Z4.

2013 BMW X1 interior2013 BMW X1 front seats2013 BMW X1 rear seats2013 BMW X1 rear cargo area

The X1 is essentially a brand-new three-year-old car.

If we don't love BMW's gearshift, at least it's connected to a nice piece of work, ZF's increasingly omnipresent eight-speed automatic, a transmission that provides a wide ratio spread while being well tuned here for both smooth acceleration and quick responses. While the gearbox will try to get into the tall gears quickly under partial throttle for improved fuel economy, there isn't the occasionally delayed hunt-and-peck delivery we experienced in early second-generation X3s. Even without a manual transmission available, the X1 is fun to run through the cogs with the +/- gate, but a set of BMW's wheel-mounted paddles would go a long way toward increasing driver engagement. Official estimates call for 0-60 in 6.3 seconds in this xDrive28i model – the rear-drive model being a tenth quicker. The xDrive35i is a full second quicker to 60 despite an automatic with two fewer ratios, but both qualify as unusually rapid for the compact utility class – we'd save our money and go with the four banger.

The X1's other driver inputs – throttle, brakes and steering – are also positive touchpoints. The pedals are well placed and brake feel is very good. There's pleasing heft and accuracy to the steering wheel, too, and it emanates something approaching actual feedback. That's at least partially because the X1 is essentially a brand-new three-year-old car, meaning it still relies on hydraulic power steering instead of the electric units increasingly employed to save fuel. Heck, there's even a proper pull-it-your-damned-self handbrake. Being based on an older architecture has its benefits – just ask your mother.

2013 BMW X1 engine

With stiff damping, a short wheelbase and hard-soled runflats (225/45/18 all-season Pirelli Cinturato P7 radials), the X1 offers an atypically firm ride for a CUV, but it never feels nervous or jiggly – there's far less headtoss than in something like a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. If you hit a pothole or thwack a jagged freeway expansion joint, the tires' short and stiff sidewalls can make you think you've just fragged an alloy, but otherwise the springy bits are nicely calibrated.

Handling is closer to that of a hot hatch than the crossover archetype.

Unsurprisingly, handling is closer to that of a hot hatch than the crossover archetype. At over 3,700 pounds, the xDrive28i is not quite light on its feet, but with an almost-ideal 50.6 / 49.4 percent weight distribution, accurate steering and good-sized contact patches at all four corners, it is at once more fluid and engaging to drive than its rivals on winding roads. If you want to kick some weight to the curb, save some money and get even closer to hot hatch territory, there's the sDrive28i, but sadly it picks up electric power steering in the transition to rear-wheel drive.

Fuel economy is about where you'd expect for a vehicle offering this kind of performance – our xDrive28i carries EPA figures of 22 miles per gallon city, 33 highway and 28 combined – and there's a decently sized 16.6-gallon tank to ensure that you aren't stopping for premium fuel all the time. For green-minded city slickers, there's a standard start/stop feature on four-cylinder models, but after experiencing its occasionally rude machinations, we got in the habit of turning it off every time we got in the car. A dealer tech can disable it on a more permanent basis.

2013 BMW X1 rear 3/4 view

Through March, BMW has sold more of the X1 in North America than the 1 Series, 6 Series and Z4 combined.

Speaking of dealer items, it's best not to give in to your salesman's coaxing when it comes time to speccing out your X1. The xDrive28i starts at a reasonable-sounding $32,350 (plus $895 for destination), but in true BMW fashion, it's only too easy to bloat the bottom line. Exhibit A? Our tester's Ultimate Package that ropes together a bunch of option groups (salient points: panoramic roof, navigation, keyless entry and pushbutton start, power seats, etc.) to the groan-inducing tune of $6,650. The car also featured the Sport Line package (handsome 18-inch wheels, leather-clad sport seats and black trimmings) for $1,900, a $1,200 lighting group (Xenons with auto high-beams plus ambient lighting), $700 cold weather pack (heated front seats and wheel, headlamp washers), a $250 Servotronic variable-rate steering system and $550 for Mineral White Metallic paint, among other items. Total MSRP as delivered? $45,095. Our take? Less is more – we'd be tempted to take the Sport and Lighting groups and call it a day, but we fear that the $2,500 tech package with nav and voice command is a necessity for most buyers because – rather ridiculously – it's the only way you can get Bluetooth and USB connectivity unless you want to go the aftermarket route.

Through March, BMW has sold over 5,400 copies of the X1 in North America – more than the 1 Series, 6 Series and Z4 combined. More importantly, it's not far behind the much better-established X3, which suggests that the company is on to a good thing. Perhaps the X1 is selling just because it's the most affordable new vehicle you can buy with a Roundel on the hood, or maybe it's just by dint of its membership in a white-hot segment, but we'd rather not be that cynical. We prefer to think that the X1 is finding an audience because in many ways, it's a holdout that reminds buyers of the driving virtues held dear by BMWs of yore while still being a pretty useful little package. Either way, the idea of more small Bavarians inundating our shores suddenly sounds like a pretty appealing prospect.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 147 Comments
      canuckcharlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      \"Through March, BMW has sold more of the X1 in North America than the 1 Series, 6 Series and Z4 combined.\" Not a fan of small ute/crossover but that just goes to show car manufacturers can\'t just cater to enthusiasts...volume sales like these are where the money is at.
      sinistro79
      • 1 Year Ago
      Soon, all consumers will be left with is the name. BMW needs to stick to its performance history above all else if they want to survive. R&D needs to go into living up to their "ultimate driving machine" slogan. Without that, the brand would just become as ordinary as the rest of the fwd cars on the market.
        Chris Paukert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @sinistro79
        Sinistro79, BMW is definitely walking a tightrope here, no question. I've been left pretty cold by some of their recent performance offerings (M6, a bit less so the M5). It's tough to preserve your core brand ethos when adding more and more model lines that are inherently further and further away from one's founding brief (CUVs intrinsically not handling as well as something like a wagon or hatchback by their very nature). Yet it's also hard to argue with increased sales and profits that BMW is raking in as a result, which should help make future sports cars and such possible going forward, as it has with rival Porsche (though I think Stuttgart has admittedly done a much better job of preserving their "drivers first" mission). That said, the X1 is probably the best-driving small CUV on our market, and it has more than a bit of the old-school BMW charm, in part because it's more of an older model at heart.
        Stefan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @sinistro79
        Disagree completely. In fact you're just plain wrong based on sales data. As a BMW enthusiast, I agree with you in the sense that you've identified what they SHOULD do. And that it is, indeed, a shadow of its former self. But to suggest they need to do this for survival is simply incorrect. They are selling more vehicles than ever before. When we used to love BMWs, it's when they were slightly less accessible (less intervention, less weight, less refinement, more dangerous [RWD], no xdrive, etc. etc.). They've built the cars for the masses now. Anyone can own a BMW now! They are quiet, easy to drive, overly safe, etc.
      Dvanos
      • 1 Year Ago
      I thinks it's ok(coming from a BMW Fan) but it's too small and pricey.
      XJ Yamaha
      • 1 Year Ago
      Impressive numbers. Hard to piss and whine about higher gear transmissions when a vehicle with these specs can get over 20 city and over 30 highway in AWD form using 8 speeds.
      MichaelW
      • 1 Year Ago
      I never really considered the X1 until I went to the dealer to look at the new 3 series. The X1 looks much better in person than in photos. I ended up getting an X1 with the 3.0 turbo engine because it was around $4k cheaper (1!!) than an equivalent 3 series with the 4cyl turbo. The X1 has surprisingly great handling and very few cars can match its acceleration with the 6cyl turbo (edmunds tested 0-60in 5.1 secs). I'm not interested in an X5 or X3 because I don't want an suv. The X1 is a sport wagon with an inch or two of increased ground clearance, plain and simple. It's also extremely practical if youre not regularily shuttling around 6 footers in the back seat. You have to be familiar with it in REAL LIFE and go through BMW's pricing system before you dismiss it.
        mikeybyte1
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MichaelW
        I agree. The car is very low. More jacked up wagon than small CUV.
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Europe gets like 30 powertrain combos for every new vehicle,the U.S. is lucky to get 2. I blame the overly-complicated/expensive certification process. It forces the automakers to pick the least common dominator and force it down everyone's throats.
        Stefan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Indeed. You can partially blame this on the fact that most Americans can't drive and require automatic transmissions. If that's your only process, then BMW can significantly simply the assembly process (hence why we have the N55+6sp from previous gen, and N20+8sp from new, no additional permutations).
        Rich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        Besides the N20, N52, and N55 with manual, auto, and DCT variants... yes, besides those we have two we only have 7 more.
      RL to RL
      • 1 Year Ago
      Surprising decent rear room? If you have people who are less than 5'5" yeah sure. Anyone taller is going to feel like getting tortured back there. Obviously you're high...
        MikeInNC
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RL to RL
        Not quite true. I took three people to lunch last week. One is 6'-3" and sat in the back and was just fine. It wouldn't be comfortable for along trip but for anything less than a few hours, it wasn't bad at all from his assessment.
        RL to RL
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RL to RL
        To the person who downranked me. Stop being a fanboy and go sit in it. I'd take the X3 over the X1 any day.
          MikeInNC
          • 1 Year Ago
          @RL to RL
          I didn't down rank you but an X3 is an additional eight thousand dollars. That's enough to sway an opinion for sure. I bought on reality, not on paper and although I also prefer the look of the X3, I didn't need the extra size, worse gas mileage and another eight grand in debt.
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      I miss the BMW of old.
        Stefan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        My parents own an X1 and I have to say, this BMW is MUCH more similar to the BMWs of old than the new crap they are turning out.
          jason32379
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Stefan
          I drove one and I really like it, actually. It's more versatile than a standard 3-series but still handles well. The price point is nice too. I'm looking at possibly getting an sdrive28i with only a few options.
          BG
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Stefan
          Interesting observation. Except in the US market, it only comes with an automatic transmission, so it has been dumbed down to the suburbanite / women market, unlike the BMWs of old.
      Helix
      • 1 Year Ago
      Utterly forgettable in every way.
      MikeInNC
      • 1 Year Ago
      After a month or so of comparing and test driving, we just took delivery of an X1 sDrive28i with the M Sport package and that's it. The USB and iPod connection were included in the base. We thought we had to add it but evidently it's included in the standard package now. We have a deal with work where we get it at invoice so, I was out the door for about 33.5k (+ tax..etc). I needed a small wagon/CUV, whatever that got good mileage, could fit four people for lunch and also hold my road bike in the back. I happily found out that the bike fits with the front wheel still on the bike (just turn the wheel a bit). Very happy with the car. More polished interior than the competitors (although I do like the GTI interior) and the engine is quite good. Since it's a turbo, a chip is good for close to 40 horses. It replaced an Infiniti G37. Very happy with the purchase.
        Rich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MikeInNC
        HAHAHA he compared a BMW to a GTi, NOBODY WINS!
          MikeInNC
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Rich
          Hey Rich, have you ever looked at VW/Audi interiors (or read a major magazine review)? Despite VW reliability issues of the past, their interiors are some of the best. Think about it. The Corvette, despite costing tens of thousands more than the average car has ALWAYS suffered from a cheap interior until this recent model (and I haven't seen it yet so, I'm going on reviews at this point). Also, take a look at Subaru. Tons of people love them but their interiors are rarely noteworthy. Some might even say homely. But I recognize they make a decent overall product even though I'm not really a fan.
      dude
      • 1 Year Ago
      The RDX looks better
        MichaelW
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        looks are subjective... but the RDX is essentially a honda civic while the x1 is essentially a bmw 3-series which rules out the RDX for me at least
          MichaelW
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MichaelW
          The RDX is based off a CR-V which is based off a honda civic platform. The X1 is based off the 1 series which is based off the prev. gen 3-series platform. What's so confusing? A caranddriver review stated that interior nose levels were outstanding and on par with other BMWs and I find it more than acceptable. The interior of the car has too many hard plastics but the fit and finish is upto bmw standards.
          clquake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MichaelW
          Can and Driver is wrong about the noise level. There's almost no sound deadening material. I test drove several X1's and 3 series (wagons included), and who ever wrote the C&D piece needs to have their hearing checked.
          clquake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @MichaelW
          Based off doesn't mean it is. Everything is different, it doesn't actually share anything with a Civic. It's one thing if it was a Civic wagon, however, since they changed everything about it, nothing interchanges. It barely has anything to do with the CRV.
        Matt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        It's also heavier and woefully less fuel-efficient. And amazingly, more expensive. X1 is a turd in many ways, but still leads the segment right now. GLK diesel or a stripped Q5 would probably be my pick though.
        RetrogradE
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        Are you high?
      Vien Huynh
      • 1 Year Ago
      Saw it on the road... it look pretty bad.... imho.
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