The 2016 BMW X1 slots in at the bottom of the X range, and competes with Audi’s Q3 and the Mercedes GLA
BMW’s smallest SUV takes a big step forward. (2016 BMW X1 xDrive28i)
A confession: I drove the 2016 BMW X1 for a night without realizing it was a totally new car on a totally new platform. There were improvements, but I guess I unconsciously wrote them off as part of a comprehensive refresh. Small not-quite-a-wagon crossovers occupying a sort of personal automotive blind spot, I forgot that the 2016 model was all-new simply because I didn’t much notice the outgoing model, or any of its competitors, at all.
Well, the 2016 X1 merits a second glance, and a full-weekend follow-up behind the wheel. It’s not just that everything is a few percentage points nicer here — it’s that BMW seems to have addressed all the quibbles and all-out gripes we had with the previous car in what I can only assume was a highly organized point-by-point Germanic matter.
One of my biggest complaints about the old X1 was that the interior felt dated and, if not exactly cheap, then at least decidedly non-premium. For 2016, the circa-2005 backlit orange LCDs are gone, and there’s even chic open-grain wood trim sweeping across the dash! Further, from the nearly flat-folding rear seats to the removable luggage covers, everything felt well-engineered and solidly executed. As things should in a German car.
The switch from a RWD-based platform to an AWD-only version of a FWD platform shared with the Mini Countryman (confused yet?) feels like a lateral move. If anything, the new X1 corners a bit more sharply than I’d have expected, bordering on darty. The electric steering leaves a little to be desired, with notable numbness, even ropiness, on center, but you can actually push this thing pretty hard before it starts to push back.
Ride is also improved. It’s nowhere near as crashy as some recent Minis have been, likely a combination of suspension refinements and improvements in those run-flat tires Raynal is always griping about.
No, you can’t get a six-cylinder anymore (part of me wonders how many customers actually sought one out in the previous X1) or a manual transmission (ditto), but what did you expect in this segment?
The reality is that this is not designed for enthusiasts — there’s a superficially similar 3-Series Sports Wagon on the market that fills that role. Whether anyone actually buys those is another matter entirely.
I am comfortable recommending the new X1 to people in the market for a premium small, not-quite-a-wagon crossover, though, which is much more than I could say about the first-gen take — and that’s meant as a genuine compliment coming from someone who has a blind spot big enough to just about hide this entire segment.
–Graham Kozak, Associate Editor
This vies for my most-improved award. Last time I drove an X1, a 2014 model, I said the exterior looked weird, the interior wasn’t up to German standards, that the doors clanked shut like a ’72 Olds Cutlass and the ride was too harsh on the runflats.
Round 2: All good here. The interior is hugely improved in terms of materials and quality, and fit and finish; controls are well placed and easy to use.
The driving experience is much better. The engine is transverse (the old one wasn’t) and makes for more interior room. The powertrain/chassis mix is nice, with enough power and nice, light road manners. The steering is light when you need it and firms up when you want. Most surprising was the ride: I thought it was fine. I’ve gone on record 590,348,446,288,570 times about my runflat hatred — how they screw up the ride and make it too harsh. I was pleasantly surprised with this X1’s ride on Detroit streets to the point I suspected it might not use runflats. There’s no spare, so …
Overall it was better to drive than the old one — stable and predictable. The cockpit is now much better and roomier. BMW did a nice job on the redo.
–Wes Raynal, Editor
‘ll second those claiming the X1 as a “most improved” player — the previous generation belonged back in the 1990s, whereas this version feels thoroughly up to date in terms of comfort and convenience features, infotainment and interior design. I’m a little concerned about the front seats being too narrow for the, ahem, “average American” — they look and feel like they’re straight out of a Mini Cooper.
With one notable exception, there’s a lot to like with the chassis and powertrain, too; this is, after all, a transverse-engined, fundamentally front-wheel-drive BMW is a major paradigm shift for the Bavarian automaker (at least as far as BMW-badged products go). There’s lots of power at all rev ranges, and thanks to xDrive you’ll neither know nor care which direction the engine points.
But dear God, what’s with the off-idle throttle response? Coming to a fast stop, then getting back on the gas, the powertrain takes an eternity to deliver thrust; even when you’re not engaged in rapid transitions, there’s a full beat of delay from a standing stop to forward momentum. I can’t tell if it’s the turbo or transmission or just some funky software, but it disqualifies the X1 from my consideration set.
So, most improved, but more improvement needed; the new X1 still isn’t quite good enough to knock the Lexus NX 2.0t out of my compact luxe SUV top slot.
–Andrew Stoy, Digital Editor
Premium package, including power-folding mirrors, universal garage-door opener, comfort access keyless entry, panoramic moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, lumbar support, ambient lighting, LED headlights with cornering and satellite radio with one-year subscription ($3,250); luxury package ($1,550); navigation business ($1,200); driver assistance package, including rearview camera, park distance control and parking assistant ($1,150); harmon/kardon premium system ($875); driver assistance plus, including active driving assistant ($700); Mediterranean blue metallic ($550); cold-weather package including heated front seats ($550); fine oak trim ($300)