This compact crossover is not so much the Ultimate Driving Machine, but is more down to earth.
Based on BMW’s uber-popular 3 Series sedan, the first-generation X1 was arguably the most fun to drive of all compact SUVs. Alas, gen 1 is gone, replaced by an X1 that shares architecture with the Mini Clubman. A significant change in the base version is that it now has FWD rather than RWD. And no longer is a 6-cylinder engine an option; a turbo 4-cylinder and 8-speed automatic are the only engine/transmission combo offered.
The upshot? The latest X1 is less the Ultimate Driving Machine but is more practical. A little taller and wider, it’s quite roomy for a compact SUV. The interior is upscale and well-crafted, except for the front-seat cushions, which are uncomfortably short and flat. A cross-mounted engine allows for a shorter hood, giving excellent visibility forward. There’s now more drivetrain weight over the front wheels—good for traction on slippery pavement, not so good for super-responsive handling. Still, handling is safe and secure. And the engine is silky smooth and plenty spunky.
A FWD X1 is the least expensive BMW—SUV or sedan—with a base price at $36,000. AWD adds $2,000, and option packages can drive the price tag crazy high. But happily, even the base model comes with plenty of standard goodies, including a power liftgate and streaming Bluetooth. Stick to the basics and you can park this BMW in your driveway for not a whole lot more than you’d pay for a compact SUV from a less prestigious brand.