Auto123 reviews the 2020 BMW X1 SUV
Is there a more misunderstood luxury car out there than the BMW X1? I guess you could make a case for the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLE/C-Coupe models or BMW’s own X4 and X6, but I kind of chalk those up as somewhat adventurous experiments that aren’t really meant to be understood. They’re meant to be unique, and people like unique so they go there.
The X1 is a little different in that it’s not all that unique, especially when stacked up against its X3 and X2 stablemates. The situation is a little less nebulous now that the 3 Series Touring (read: wagon) is gone, but still – how do all of these fit together, and how big a piece of the pie does the X1 occupy?
Well, on the sales front, it sits just as it does on the size front: right smack in between the other two. The BMW X1 also the least expensive of the three, even though it’s a little bigger than the X2, which is newer. And – much as this might surprise considering its size – it actually shares a platform (and transmission) with the Mini Cooper Countryman as opposed to the BMW 3 Series.
And so the picture becomes a little clearer: the X1 is part of BMW’s ever-expanding Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) lineup, but it’s also a type of perfect conglomeration of three different vehicles. With me so far?
For 2020, The X1 also gets a new wardrobe in the form of a larger kidney grille, new headlights with hexagonal bulb inserts, taillights with LED inserts (a lovely feature, it must be said) and some great new colours, including the gorgeous Misano Blue metallic finish seen here.
The interior is less inviting. It’s quite dark in its charcoal-ness, and things aren’t helped by the fact it has the older iDrive 6.0 version as opposed to the big screens of iDrive 7.0 found in the larger X5 and X7 SUVs. The gauge cluster here is a more traditional two-gauge set-up, whilst the main display screen doesn’t get the modifiable - and brighter - tiled look of the new system.
Luckily my tester did have the optional full-length moonroof so a whole lot more light was allowed in. You can always elect to go with a lighter-coloured interior, too. It may get dirtier, but it might be a little more inviting.
Since this is a BMW, it should come as no surprise that the front seat is well-tailored for the driver, especially if you have the deeper sports seat that I did. Those also add lumbar adjustability, which the standard seat does not have and that’s a bit of a kick in the pants as adjustable lumbar support is almost standard fare at the luxury level these days. Like other BMWs, the centre stack is nicely angled toward the driver, making for a more cockpit-like feel that I’ve always appreciated in products from the manufacturer from Munich.
The rear seats are fine and while they could use a little more legroom in front of them, the overall dimensions of the X1 are really that of a compact-plus car, so you kind of get what you expect. Less expected is the rear cargo bay which, thanks to the wagon-like dimensions of the X1, is nice and tall and while you don’t have as much length here as you do in an X3, there’s a large underfloor storage bin that’s perfect for items you want hidden from prying eyes or wet gear on the way home from the ski hill. Speaking of the ski hill: the rear seats split 40/20/40 so you can slide longer items through without costing a full-sized seat in the back.
On the road… and a little bit off it
While the X1 comes with xDrive AWD no matter what, the extent of the “off roading” it’s going to do probably won’t reach far past that ski hill or camp site. For its part, xDrive acts as a full-time AWD system, though most of the power is sent to the rear wheels in normal circumstances. SAV or not, the X1 is, after all, a BMW, and BMWs have always been about the drive. The best way to get the best, most-athletic drive? Get as much power to the back wheels as possible. Of course, it takes only milliseconds to get 100% cent of power to the front axle if slip is sensed, so you get that added peace of mind in adverse conditions.
I didn’t experience much beyond some rain-slicked roads during my week, but considering that there were still some squelchy downed leaves remaining on the road, I did have the chance to try and unseat the X1 a little bit, but it really would have none of it. There isn’t a huge amount of power (see below), so anything like getting the rear to step out would take some really snowy or gravely conditions. Rain isn’t going to be enough to outsmart this AWD system and for most drivers, that’s probably a good thing as I can’t imagine seeing that many X1 drivers try to drift their way up to the cabin with any regularity. Not saying it wouldn’t be fun to try; just saying that this is one capable little crossover.
Power is provided by a single source: a 228 hp, 268 lb-ft turbo inline-4 mated to an 8-speed single-clutch auto. There is no manual option, but you can spec a pair of wheel-mounted paddle shifters and I made use of these quite often. They’re properly responsive, and do a good job of handing you the reigns when it comes to metering out the power yourself. Even with this most entry-level of SAVs, BMW has not forgotten that it’s a company that builds driver’s cars.
Indeed, when you think about it, that’s kind of key for the X1; now that the 3 Series Touring has been banished from North America, it’s on the X1 to provide the practicality of a wagon, but the performance and handling of a compact car. Which is something it does well, and merits some consideration based on that alone.
Practicality of wagon, performance of compact sedan
New style additions
40/20/40 split folding rear seat
We like less
Snug rear seat
Previous-gen infotainment tech
A more powerful option wouldn’t go amiss
Audi A4 Allroad
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon
Mini Countryman ALL4