BMW X1 shows why it’s a segment-leader

The latest version of the BMW X1 Sports Activity Vehicle receives more modern, updated exterior styling to reflect the design details found in its newer, larger siblings, such as the X3, X5 and X7. New, optional, LED headlights with hexagonal iconography are complemented by new LED fog lights. The BMW kidney grills feature a new, sculptured design with larger openings. Changes to the front and rear bumper design are highlighted by sharper lines and larger openings with integrated LED fog lights. Metro News Service photo

Hopefully I’m not too predictable with my vehicle reviews. Sure, I have likes and dislikes that show through, but I also want to break the mold sometimes. And this week, you might be surprised to hear me sing the praises of a subcompact SUV.

Recall, that I’ve nicknamed this growing, but oh-so-bland segment the “bubble” cars. They are round, bulbous and generally lack personality. And I just don’t get the mass appeal of this segment. That is until now, when I got behind the wheel of the 2020 BMW X1.

Sure, it helps to be seated in a luxury version of a subcompact SUV, but there’s more than just that Bimmer nameplate to make me appreciate it.

On looks, the X1 actually has personality. So many vehicles in this segment just don’t stand out, but the X1 does – from the well-proportioned front end that is neither aggressive nor dull, but just right, to the profile that feels bigger and longer than others in this segment. If most in this segment are “bubble” cars, the X1 is longer, sleeker and looks to be a real SUV, instead some small, squatty, crossover mash-up.

You expect a BMW to have some level of enthusiasm when it comes to performance, and the X1 does not disappoint. Its brisk performance is thanks in part to the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. As such, the X1 makes 228 horsepower and 255 lbs.-ft. of torque. The crossover outperforms and over-delivers on those output numbers, as it’s quick off the line and offers smooth shifts.

In twists and turns and in the lower RPMs, the X1 really excels. That’s where this becomes a small crossover that is actually fun to drive. For this alone, BMW deserves a lot of credit in creating a vehicle in this segment that is enjoyable and memorable from a performance standpoint.

The five-passenger X1 focuses on touchpoints and comfort. Once again, the X1 breaks the mold when it comes to these things within this segment. Legroom and even headroom are ample for two passengers in the back. Add that third person and things get a little cozy.

In the front, there are niceties all around with excellent touchpoints and comfortable seats. An 8.8-inch touchscreen is a new feature this year. While the organization is excellent with a clean, aesthetically pleasing presentation, the infotainment system disappoints. It is cumbersome at times, and the iDrive system lacks intuition and can be categorized as “over-engineered.”

Cargo room is impressive for such a small vehicle. There’s 27.1 cubic feet behind the second row; overall there’s 58.7 cubic feet of cargo room. These are impressive numbers for this segment. It indicates that just as the X1 looks longer and bigger, inside it really is bigger, too!

For a BMW, the X1 is really well-priced. This is meant to be an intro vehicle to the brand, and it succeeds in that regard. My tester had a base price of $37,200 which is less than some non-luxury brand vehicles within this segment.

My tester had the M-Sport package added which brings 18-inch wheels, performance controls and other performance-oriented features that really made the X1 fun and memorable. Additionally, there are other appearance features to go along with the M-Sport including roof rails, power tailgate, sport seats, LED foglights, aerodynamic kit and Anthracite headliner. All told, my tester had a final MSRP of $45,245.

The X1 has an EPA rating of 23 mpg/city and 31 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mixed driving between highway and suburbs, I averaged just over 26 mpg. While I wasn’t overly heavy-footed, I did enjoy the turbo a little bit and could’ve probably squeezed out a few more drops of fuel to up the average had I really wanted to.

So, there you have it. A compact SUV that I actually liked. They’re not all forgettable. The BMW X1 left a good impression and helped redeem the segment somewhat.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.


  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $37,200/$45,245
  • Mileage..........................................23 mpg/city; 31 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 228 hp/255 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Regensburg, Germany

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