Small crossover SUVs are great vehicles for small families. They can ferry a few kids to school every day, or can be loaded up with a bit of extra luggage for a weekend road trip. To satisfy all sorts of families, BMW offers all sorts of crossovers, in various shapes and sizes, aiming to have one for each lifestyle. The 2015 BMW X1 is the smallest SUV in its lineup, and while the X1 doesn’t offer much in the way of utility, it definitely has "sport" covered. It’s an entertaining option that stands out among its rivals.
It all starts with its engines. You might think the standard turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is the best choice for fuel economy and you’d be right, but it’s actually a spirited engine that delivers swift acceleration. Still, it can’t match the entertainment you’ll get from BMW’s 300-horsepower turbocharged inline-6. Being such a small SUV also helps the X1 feel nimble, whether it’s around town or on your favorite back roads. In this way, the X1 definitely remains true to its BMW badge.
Not everyone is looking for a fun-to-drive SUV, though, and while its diminutive size may make it nimble, it takes away from the practicality one likely expects from a crossover. With only 15 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, its size is more comparable to a hatchback than a small SUV, and you’ll have a tough time carrying much luggage on the family vacation. Backseat space is limited, too. Given this lack of utility, the X1’s price (especially when loaded up with its many desirable options) may seem rather steep.
In the past, the X1 was really without apples-to-apples competitors, as its size and character didn’t really line up with bigger "compact" luxury crossovers that more realistically compete with BMW’s X3. For 2015, though, several similarly sized luxury SUVs have arrived in what is becoming a new segment. The Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and Porsche Macan are comparable to the X1, as is the older, but still desirable Infiniti QX50. None of these is likely to be a great choice for family transport, so if space is a priority, shopping one size up remains a good idea. If you’re looking for sport more than space, though, the 2015 BMW X1 certainly won’t disappoint.
Despite our love for BMW’s fantastic turbocharged six-cylinder, the base 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine is still well suited to the X1’s nimble character. Although the 4-cylinder doesn’t provide the same brute strength or throaty soundtrack as the six, it is smooth, and passing power is more than sufficient. It’s also impressively fuel-efficient. You get an auto stop-start function to help save gas, but it’s annoying in traffic, as the engine doesn’t restart as quickly or smoothly as we’d like. Fortunately, you can manually disable this feature.
While the optional M Sport Line upgrades give the X1 sharp reflexes on twisty back roads, the standard suspension provides enough capability to keep most drivers happy. There’s a fine balance of low-speed drive comfort and high-speed stability, and the X1’s smaller size and lower stance makes it feel noticeably more agile and responsive than the X3. It never quite replicates the sedan experience you’d get in the BMW 3 Series (a notably tough act to follow), but for a crossover, the 2015 BMW X1 is undeniably impressive.
The 2015 BMW X1 is offered in three trim levels: sDrive28i, xDrive28i and xDrive35i. The sDrive designation indicates rear-wheel drive, while xDrive models are all-wheel drive.
The sDrive28i comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, automatic wipers, cruise control, automatic climate control, eight-way manual front seats, "SensaTec" premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary sound jack, HD radio and an iPod/USB sound interface. The xDrive28i adds all-wheel drive and hill descent control.
Along with its more powerful engine, the xDrive35i adds 18-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights, a panoramic sunroof, upgraded interior trim and eight-way power front seats (with driver memory settings). These extra items are all available on the 28i models.
There are additional stand-alone options, including an 11-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, but most available features are bundled into packages. Note that some must be purchased in combination with others.
The Premium package adds keyless ignition and entry, front seat power lumbar support, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery and satellite radio (along with the panoramic sunroof and power front seats in the 28i models). The Cold Weather package includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
The Technology package includes the iDrive system with an 8.8-inch display, a navigation system, iPhone app integration (including Pandora and Stitcher Internet radio) and BMW Remote Services (which allows both Apple and Android users to lock the auto remotely and turn on the climate control, among various other tasks). The Driver Assistance package (which requires the Technology package) adds a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. The Ultimate package includes all the features of the Premium, Technology and Driver Assistance packages.
In addition to those packages there’s a trio of "Design Lines." The xLine and Sport Line are mostly cosmetic and add items like 18-inch wheels, unique body trim and multi-adjustable sport seats. The M Sport Line features enhancements such as an aero body kit, a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, a higher top speed limiter, multi-adjustable sport seats and cosmetic tweaks such as blackout window frames and unique interior trim.
Cabin quality in the X1 is typical BMW, meaning clear gauges, sensible ergonomics and solid build and materials quality throughout. BMW’s optional iDrive electronics interface might seem complicated before you get used to it, but overall, it works quite well for controlling various audio, navigation and smartphone functions, thanks to its straightforward menu design and fast processing times.
The driving position is more SUV than sedan, as you sit high and peer down the X1’s sculpted hood. Yet the steering wheel is chunky and contributes to the sensation that this is a driver’s auto rather than a grocery getter. We’ve found that the base seats in the sDrive28i provide poor lumbar support and lateral bolstering, so we recommend opting for the available sport seats, which solve both of these problems.
The X1 may seem useful because it’s a crossover, but when you look a bit closer, things aren’t as practical as they seem. The rear seat is a bit flat (to allow it to fold down somewhat flat), and legroom and headroom are tight for adults. Parents with small children in particular may want to look elsewhere, as bulky rear-facing child safety seats will likely force you to move the front seats uncomfortably far forward. With the rear seats up, cargo capacity rates 14.8 cubic feet. Fold them down and space opens up to 47.7 cubes. Almost any other small luxury crossover SUV offers more.
Every 2015 BMW X1 comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes (with automatic brake drying), front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints and on xDrive versions, hill descent control. Also standard is the BMW Assist emergency communications system, which provides automatic crash notification, stolen car recovery and on-demand roadside assistance during an included 10-year subscription. Optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera, but one must select both the Technology and Driver Assistance packages to get them.
In SUVS brake testing, the X1 stopped from 60 miles per hour in 125 feet, which is similar to the larger and heavier X3, but about average for the class. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the X1 received the best possible rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal offset, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests. It received the second-worst rating of "Marginal" in the Institute’s small-overlap frontal crash test.
The rear-drive X1 sDrive28i and all-wheel-drive xDrive28i are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is standard, as is a stop-start system that shuts off the engine when stopped to save fuel. EPA-estimated fuel economy is extraordinary at 27 miles per gallon combined (23 city/34 highway) for the sDrive and 26 miles per gallon combined (22 city/32 highway) for the xDrive.
The X1 xDrive35i gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, matched to a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard. In SUVS testing, the X1 xDrive35i sprinted to 60 miles per hour in a quick 5.4 seconds. The EPA estimates 21 miles per gallon combined (18/27), which is actually better than some less powerful compact crossovers.
Strong engines; sport sedan-like handling; quick acceleration; good fuel economy.
The 2015 BMW X1 has sharp handling and exciting performance, which is rare for a small crossover SUV. However, most other luxury crossovers are roomier and can offer more value for the money.