Usually, when automotive critics prattle on about “right-sizing,” they mean the current model is unnecessarily large, inefficient and ungainly. BMW designers decided fairly early in the life of the X1 subcompact sport-utility vehicle that it needed to be a little bigger, not smaller. That decision placed a much improved X1 in our driveway last month.
For 2016, BMW enlarged the X1 enough to make its passenger quarters, especially the rear seat, more spacious. Thanks to the car’s larger dimensions, combined with the firm yet comfortable imitation-leather seat cushions and the knee spaces in the front seat backs, most drivers and passengers will find the X1 roomy enough. The split rear seat also comes with an optional slide-and-recline system for greater comfort, as well as a more versatile cargo compartment.
Our well equipped test car, a 2016 X1 with all-wheel drive, had a sticker price of $43,945. At 22 mpg city and 32 highway, it was more fuel-efficient than the larger, similarly priced Nissan Murano and Hyundai Santa Fe we test-drove recently. Unfortunately, BMW’s turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine requires premium gasoline, which costs at least 10 percent more than the regular gasoline the Japanese and Korean models consume.
Built in Regensburg, Germany, the X1 is the smallest of the automaker’s five sport-utility offerings (or, using BMW’s preferred parlance, sports activity vehicles) that range in price from $33,100 for a front-wheel-drive X1 to more than $100,000 for the X6. But thanks to BMW’s right-sizing of the X1, it doesn’t look or drive small. Among competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3, it has the most cargo and passenger room. We especially liked the large, concealed tray under the cargo compartment’s deck.
Premium Japanese models by Acura, Infiniti and Lexus are competitive, too, but the X1’s sporty handling places it in a class by itself.
As is typical with BMW, the X1 doesn’t boast big horsepower figures. Its inline Four, the only engine available, puts out 228 horsepower. It’s not overwhelming or underpowered; it’s just right. The car feels impeccably balanced in all road conditions. Road noise is moderate, but there’s virtually no wind noise. While the ride is consistently firm, the X1 handles the worst road surfaces – such as Route 22 in New York State, just north of Interstate 84 – with more composure than more softly sprung SUVs.
The test car came with several option packages that added more than $8,000 to the price. These included a Technology Package that would be the delight of any tech-savvy driver. Curiously, no blind-spot warning system is available, and the rear-view camera – standard equipment on a number of lesser cars we’ve tested – is offered only as part of the optional $1,150 Driver Assistance Package.
The 2016 X1 has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2017 model essentially is unchanged from the previous year.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2016 BMW X1 xDrive28i SULEV
Engine: 2-liter turbocharged inline Four, 228 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,660 lb.
Ground clearance: 7.2 in.
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Wheels: 18×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P225/50R18 all-season run-flat
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 27.1 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 58.7 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 16.1 gallons
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline