From empty nesters to college students, everyone seems to be giving subcompact crossovers a fresh look these days. More and more automakers are expanding their portfolios to create entries into the segment for U.S. customers, creating additional competition for the models that have been around for a generation or two already.
Enter the BMW X1. Already in its second year since a remodel, the X1 is showing signs of age. Having driven nearly every other subcompact SUV for sale in the U.S. in the last year, I tasked myself with giving the 2018 X1 a thorough weeklong test drive.
BMW delivered a 2018 BMW X1 xDrive28i for me to experience. That model’s starting MSRP is $35,900 but to it BMW had added a lengthy list of accessories including a Sunset Orange paint job ($550); Canberra Beige Dakota Leather seats ($1,450); Convenience Package with power-folding mirrors, a universal garage door opener, keyless entry, panoramic moonroof, lumbar support, ambient lighting, and a one-year SiriusXM subscription ($2,500); heated steering wheel ($550), LED headlights with cornering ($950), park distance control ($800), Apple CarPlay ($300), and navigation ($950). The X1 has a $995 destination charge as well bringing the grand total of the subcompact SUV to $44,945.
It’s easy to just say that the BMW X1 just looks like a small BMW SUV but, it does. On the surface the X1 is most comparable to the X3 and X5, which carry the same sort of utilitarian luxury styling that appears off-road capable. Other X models, including the X2, X4, and X6 are more like high-bodied hatchbacks. The X1 isn’t unattractive, especially with the orange paint job my tester came in.
Under the hood of the X1 is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder power plant that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The model yields 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. While those numbers are significant, the power the X1 exudes is underwhelming most of the time, especially when it’s in Eco Pro mode. Move the car into Sport mode and you’ll truly feel the power but still the car is missing the low-end torque that makes you feel comfortable getting on the gas in a hurry.
The X1 is easy to drive, but not fun. Its drivability reminds me more of how the antique cars on the track at Six Flags steered than the sprightly subcompacts the model competes against for buyers. Mostly, the drive experience of the X1 feels unrefined.
If it weren’t for the typical BMW design language inside the X1, you could easily mistake it for a Subaru based on materials alone. Nothing about the interior looks or feels like luxury. It’s closest to a Mazda CX-3, which is half its price. The driver information screen is a small display so low on the dashboard that I wasn’t tall enough to view it during everyday travel. Analog gauges are fine for this class, but given the X1’s price tag, I’d expect to have a fancier setup.
The small touch screen infotainment system is a non-starter for me. Again, it comes down to price. If Hyundai, Mazda, and Nissan can offer better, bigger screens, there’s no reason why BMW has to confine itself when it’s double the cost to buy.
Where the X1 shines brightest is in passenger and cargo space. The model feels positively roomy and has plenty of room for a long weekend’s worth of cargo for a family of four.
The X1 is thankfully devoid of many of the nanny systems you’ll find in luxury sedans. In that respect, it wins my attention.
The 2018 BMW X1 is overpriced, not compared to the X2 or X3, but compared to other subcompact crossovers and SUVs. Unless you’re dead set on getting the X1, do yourself a favor and cross shop. You’ll be surprised at how good the competition is.