BMW X1: An improved, more luxurious crossover

Car guy Mike Parris says the BMW X1 is a well-rounded, small crossover with a more luxurious interior.

WASHINGTON — Small crossovers are big business for car manufacturers, and the luxury version of the pint-size rides seems to be the new entry level for luxury rides.

The X1 was around for a while and the original version was more sport than utility, with not much space to be a family car. So last year BMW redesigned the popular, X1 making it bigger and more family friendly, but did it lose what makes a BMW special?

I spent a week with the X1 xDrive28i; it’s AWD, which runs you about $2,000 more than the FWD model. Still the X1 with AWD starts around $36,000, which is not a bad price for a BMW. With the added options, the X1 becomes a small luxury crossover with a price hike. My tester came in at $46,300. The optional Canberra Beige Dakota leather sport seats are heated; with such a light color, they might not be the most kid-friendly.

Space is where the redesigned X1 shines. While the original model was tight, the new one is open and airy inside. Rear seat head and leg room are usable for adults. The cargo space is large for this class of small crossovers, making loading items in the power rear hatch easy with the lower floor height.

Something that I thought I would never say is that the iDrive interface was easy to use, menus were easy to navigate and you can write with your finger on the control pad, too. That control pad feature eliminates the hunt and peck for letters and numbers like before. Overall, this interior is more in line with more expensive BMW models and less entry-level than previously.

So there must be catch: this newer X1 flips from RWD to a FWD platform, which I’m sure some drivers are not fans of. It’s also true that this new X1 isn’t as razor sharp in the handling department, but in this class of small crossovers the handling is still tops. With the AWD there is now torque steer and it helps out when the weather turns bad. There’s some road noise on the highway; it seems to be quieter than it used to be but it’s still not the quietest in the class. It also rides and takes bumps much better than the previous model. My tester had the standard 18-inch wheels, which tend to take bumps better than the larger optional 19-inch wheels.

One engine is it for the X1 and the 2.0L turbo four with 228 horsepower really moves this small crossover smartly. It feels quick and the engine doesn’t sound bad either; it’s pretty smooth for a four banger. The eight-speed automatic will shift quickly when pushed or be a smooth operator when in normal driving. I managed a good 27 mpg for my week of mixed driving, beating the sticker by 2 mpg.

BMW calls its crossovers “SAV’s” or Sport Activity Vehicles and the X1 looks more like the larger family member now and less like a slighter, taller sedan like the first X1. The redesigned X1 sits taller, and the body has a higher roofline. The twin grills remain with a more modern, rounded front end. Cool LED headlights add to the modern look of the front end, as the light housing shows off cool designs of the usual boring headlights. This X1 looks “activity” ready with more ground clearance and lower body cladding in a black plastic that gives this X1 an off-road look. The matte chrome trim pieces nicely accent the optional Chestnut Bronze paint. The trim is just bright enough without being shiny. I even liked the Y Spoke wheels; not as much as the larger wheels, but I could deal with them. Out back, you get twin tail pipes and a back end that looks like the larger BMW SAV’s but in a smaller package.

The BMW X1 is a well-rounded, small crossover, especially with a larger, more luxurious interior and an improved ability to haul small families in this latest X1. There’s another real bonus with BMW Ultimate Care: owning the X1 is easier with no scheduled maintenance cost for the first three years.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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