By on June 11, 2013

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I know a guy who used to own a BMW 318ti. Like most 318 shoppers, he paid way too much because it had a roundel on the front. At some point he realized that 25-grand (in 1997) was an awful lot to have paid for an asthmatic 138-horsepower rattletrap and sold it. Likewise, the fog lifted at BMW and they refocused on volume models. Then came the 1 series, a fantastic little car that hasn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire. The Germans are a persistent people, so for 2013 they are fishing with fresh bait. Click through the jump as we look at the cheapest BMW in America, the 2013 BMW X1.

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Exterior

OK, so BMW would prefer that I called the X1 “the most affordable” BMW in America, but I suffer from political incorrectness. So what is the X1? It’s a crossover of course. While that term has become synonymous with “ginormous FWD soft-roader” the X1 is more of a “true” crossover in that it looks like a cross between a pregnant 1-Series and a mini X5. The result is a handsome BMW version of the Subaru Outback or Volvo XC70. (The X1 is a cousin of the 1-Series (E87) and 3-Series (E90).) Since wagon’s don’t sell well either, BMW stretched the X1 vertically and called it good.

Unlike the X3 and X5, the one thing BMW didn’t do was shorten the hood. As a result, you might almost call the X1 BMW’s latest hatchback. Only that wouldn’t sell as many X1s either. Get it now? Speaking of the X3, the X1 is 6.5 inches shorter and 3.5 inches narrower than its larger cousin.

I should point out a few things before we move on. First up, BMW’s rear hatchback design makes the X1 look less like a Volvo wagon, but also reduces practical load space. My only other quibble outside is that the wheels look a bit small for the X1. What’s your opinion? Sound out below.

 

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

European car companies are accused of making the same sausage available in different lengths. That’s obvious outside as well as inside the X1 where you’ll find the same shapes and many of the same controls/screens found in other BMW products. This parts bin approach pays dividends for the X1 where you get the same shifter and iDrive controller found in six-figure BMWs. (How those six-figure shoppers feel about this is anyone’s guess.) Once you’re done playing with the high-rent knobs, your hands will discover where BMW saved money: plastics. Instead of the soft molded instrument panels used in other BMWs, the X1 gets a hard plastic unit. The black upper portion of the dash has then been coated with a thin layer of soft material to improve feel, while the rest of the dash remains hard. This is an interesting choice when even Buick and Chevrolet have ditched their hard plastic interiors for squishy bits.

Germans car engineers don’t understand America. Sure, they understand driving dynamics and styling, but the Burger King drive-thru is incomprehensible. It’s obvious they are making effort to understand ‘mericans, bless their little hearts, but I think a US field-trip is in order for the guy who designs center consoles in Bavaria. Go to the south, my friend, go to the south. When the X1 arrived, I was starving. Being a lover of convenience, I headed to Taco Bell. It was at that point I noticed I had only one cup holder. Behind my right elbow. After consulting the instruction manual, I found the other one. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see it: a funky little thing that inserts into a slot in the center console to the right of the shifter. When it’s not inserted, you have an odd hole with a springy-cover concealing its depths. When in place, you have a cup holder positioned to splash its contents on your snazzy iDrive knob. You will also have a passenger complain their knee hits it all the time. Want to jam a enormous southern-style Styrofoam drink in your X1? Good luck. BMW: you got the X5 and X6′s cupholders so right, what happened?

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i, Cupholder, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cupholder woes aside, there is little to complain about inside the X1. Front comfort is excellent, even in the base model with an 8-way manually adjustable seat. Our X1 was equipped with the $3,000 M-Sport package which brings aluminum trim, a black headliner, steering wheel mounted shift-paddles and BMW’s excellent sport seats. The optional thrones contort in more ways than I can describe and are one of the most comfortable seat designs in any $30,000-40,000 vehicle. If you can’t find a comfortable position, go see a back surgeon. Something that isn’t standard however is leather. If you want real cow, be prepared to pony up an extra $1,450. If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. Even Lexus is ditching real moo in their latest designs.

Most cars get less comfortable as you move rearwards, and that is certainly true of the X1. Back seats are firmly padded with little bolstering and very straight backs. Thankfully, the seat bottom cushion is not as close to the floor as many small crossovers, although the lack of padding made passenger’s legs just as tired on a one-hour car trip. On the flip side the rear seats recline to soften the blow. Rear legroom and headroom are excellent thanks to the X1′s upright profile and BMW and getting in and out of the X1 is made easy by large door openings. The ever-efficient Germans made the rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 manner allowing you to insert IKEA flat packs and four passengers at the same time. Behind the seats you’ll get 25 cubic feet of cargo room if you load the X1 to the ceiling, and 56 cubes if you fold the rear seats flat. That puts the X1 behind other small crossovers like a RAV4 or CRV but decidedly ahead of a 128i coupé.

2013 BMW X1 xDive28i iDrive, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The X1 gets the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive. The system builds upon the previous versions in small, but important ways. Keeping up with the times, BMW has swapped the CD button for a “Media” button which makes accessing your USB and iDevices easier than in the past. Unlike the 328i we recently tested, the X1 gets a single USB port. Likely because of cost cutting, BMW located the solitary USB port and Aux input at the bottom of the center stack instead of hiding it neatly away in the armrest of glovebox. If you want to know more about iDrive, click on that video at the top of the review.

Unfortunately not all the iDrive fun is standard. BMW is bundling the smartphone apps, navigation and voice command system for your music devices into a single $2,250 premium package, or a $6,150 “ultimate” package which also bundles power front seats, keyless entry, parking sensors, ambient lighting, satellite radio, auto dimming mirrors and a panoramic moonroof. Of course, adding this package increases the cost of your X1 by 20%, but “least expensive BMW” is a very relative term. Still, iDrive’s tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration make this the system one of the finest on the market, and I would buy the $2,250 package before I added things like leather or HID headlamps ($900) to my ride. Since this is the bargain Bimmer, you won’t find radar cruise control, collision warning, adaptive suspension systems, heads-up displays or fancy lane-keeping assistants. For the purists in the crowd this is welcome news, but it’s still easy to option your X1 from a base price of $30,800 to around $50,000. Be mindful of that options list.
2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Engine, 2.0L Twin-Power Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Part of what went wrong with the 318 was the drivetrain. Instead targeting a high fun/dollar ratio, BMW went for “low bottom line” and used an asthmatic 138HP four-banger. Learning from that lesson, BMW fit their new 2.0L N20 turbo engine and 8-speed automatic in the sDrive28i and xDrive28i. Producing 240HP from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 260 lb-ft of twist from 1,250 to 4,800RPM that’s more oomph than the 3.0L inline engine under the hood of the 128i.

More important than the power number is the weight. A base RWD X2 is 3,527lbs, only 240lbs heavier than the considerably less powerful 128i coupé. Even our heavier AWD X1 sports a HP to weight ratio better than the smaller and more expensive two-door 1. As a result, performance is more than adequate with a 6.5 second run to 60 (2/10ths faster than a 128i) but decidedly “un-BMW” in terms of power delivery. The torque “plateau” starts early but drops precipitously after 5,750 RPM is a stark contrast from BMW’s 3.0L that comes alive at high RPMs (and screams like a banshee). Proving that BMW loves America, we get an optional powertrain not available anywhere else. For $38,600, BMW will jam a 300HP 3.0L (N55) twin-scroll turbo six under the hood. Sadly the quick shifting 8-speed transmission is lost in the process (you get the old 6-speed) and BMW still won’t offer a manual X1 in the USA.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The N20 isn’t just 33% shorter than the N55, the whole drivetrain is 165lbs lighter. In addition, the 2.0L sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious on the track where the X1 is incredibly nimble. That nimble feeling is especially pronounced in the RWD X1 sDrive28i thanks to a somewhat unusual weight balance with less than 50% of the weight on the front wheels. In contrast, the AWD xDrive28i BMW lent us for a week has a near-perfect 50.6/49.4% (F/R) weight balance while the more powerful 3.0L turbo model is nose heavy at 52.1/47.9 %.

Since our X1 was an M-Sport model, our 18-inch wheels were shod with grippy 255-width rubber. To put that in perspective, 255s are rare enough in full/mid-sized crossovers and unheard of in the compact crossover segment. With the front wheels turned slightly, the X1 looks like a kid wearing his dad’s shoes but the extra rubber pays dividends when you encounter a corner. The unexpectedly high grip combined with a neutral chassis dynamics makes the X1 predictable and confident on the road. In many ways the manners of the X1 reminded me of the (much larger) X6M. Just a little. In an unusual move, BMW fits AWD X1s with hydraulic power steering while the base RWD sDrive28i uses BMW’s lifeless electric assist. The difference isn’t night and day, but the hydraulic unit does have more steering feel. Be warned however that neither power steering system provides as much assist as the competition, so your arms may get tired after a long trip on a winding road.

2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i Exterior, Wheel, M-Sport, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of the RWD model, BMW claims it will get 23/34/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and adding AWD to the 2.0L turbo drops those numbers to a still respectable 22/33/26 MPG. Over 544 miles, I averaged 22.9MPG, largely due the way the X1 devours mountain roads. That oddly brings me to the Mini Countryman, which is really the only competition for the X1 (since the VW Tiguan doesn’t play in the upper-crust playground). This is a perfect example of the right hand stabbing the left hand. The Mini Countryman is a nice enough vehicle, but driven back to back the X1 is a hoot-and-a-half while the Mini’s FWD manners, less powerful engine, similar MPGs and skinny tires register half a hoot. Now I know why the Mini doesn’t come up as a competitive vehicle on BMW’s website.

The 318 proved, there’s more to life than a low sticker price. The X1 proves that given time BMW can make a compelling entry-level vehicle. The X1 is more than just the least expensive BMW on the lot, it may well have the highest fun/dollar ratio of any modern BMW, especially in the $33,800 X1 sDrive28i M-Sport trim (damn that’s a long name). It’s also one of the few vehicles I would actually buy if my money was on the line.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Most fun I’ve had for $30-large. OK. 45-large.
  • Get a BMW with hydraulic power steering while it lasts.

Quit it

  • Too many hard-plastics on the inside for a car that costs this much.
  • The Germans still don’t know what cupholders are for. Maybe its time for a field trip?

 

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.42

0-60: 6.55

1/4 Mile: 15.08 Seconds @ 92.6 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 22.9 MPG over 544 Miles

 

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96 Comments on “Review: 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i (Video)...”


  • avatar
    jimf42

    Last fall, I rented a 118xd to drive from Munich to Stuttgart and back (Porsche Museum) ….anyway, the 118 was a very good car to drive…even with the smallest diesel, it cruised comfortably at 160-185km/hr. Great nav system too, once we switched it from German to English. Plenty of room and very good driving dynamics in traffic or on the twisty roads through the Swabian hills.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Not exactly a handsome car. The side profile makes it look like a very big, blue high-top basketball shoe. The extra long nose is a real distraction.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    um…is it that much better than a, say…a Subaru Forester with top level trim?
    I am very concerned with any choices for long road trip and rear seat comfort. And your rear seat comfort remarks were not exactly clear.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      I can’t speak for the X1.

      But the Forester is, at heart, a $19,995 economy car and no amount of adding switches to the dashboard will address the underlying numb, noisy and cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      The ride is fairly bumpy in the back seat. The Subaru Forester will be the better tourer. The Subaru Outback will probably be best for long road trips. We have a Subaru Outback and a BMW X1- and the Subaru is definitely the better tourer both in terms of comfort, and also the availability of useable cup holders and storage bins around the driver. The Subaru also has built in cross bars for the roof rack, in case you are carrying skis, bikes, etc.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    “dash has then been coated with a thin layer of soft material to improve feel”

    That well no doubt start peeling within the first 5 years…..

    What’s the tow rate on this? $33k Still seems like a lot for a small crossover, especially if it’s incapable of any real actual utilitarian use. $33K Would buy a base model Grand Cherokee, complete with actual 4×4 system and a very good tow rating.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      Somehow I don’t see the two being cross-shopped. If your main concerns are off-road ability, towing and passenger/cargo capacity, the only thing reason you should be stopping into a BMW showroom is to ask for directions.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        Many people don’t buy a GC for off-road ability. It really isn’t that capable on that front either, but I would like to be able to drive through several inches of snow (on the road) if needed.

        For $30k the GC seems to give you a lot more vehicle, and seems the better buy, unless you specifically dead-set on something small. I really don’t know who would but the BMW, or what demographic they’re going for. I’m thinking young couples who haven’t burdened themselves with children yet, but those who have that kind of money for a new car are few and far between.

        • 0 avatar
          Astigmatism

          I still don’t see it. Other than the fact that they both have four doors and a liftgate and cost about the same, what connects them? A Buick LaCrosse is a lot more vehicle for the money than a Cadillac ATS, too, but only if you want a bigger, softer, floatier, highway-bound sedan. They’re not competing for the same market.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          I can’t imagine an X1 cross shopped with a JGC either. As Alex points out, making this car part of the X series is all marketing. I’ve seen one and thought it was shockingly close to a car. Nevermind the Forester people are mentioning, the Outback is probably a better comparison.

          As for the price, there are all kinds of cars in the low $30k range, or approaching it. An Outback 3.6R limited has an MSRP of $32k, with an engine barely more powerful with much worse gas mileage. An X1 xdrive starts at $32,500. A Verano turbo is just under $30k. How about an ILX with the 2.4L? A Focus ST can hit about $30k.

          An X1 doesn’t sound like a bad deal in comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            baggins

            I dont think the Outback and the X1 are often crossshopped either, altough more often than JGC and a X1.

            Outback much bigger

        • 0 avatar
          Buzz Killington

          If “driving through several inches of snow on the road” is your biggest concern, you don’t need a GC. No doubt the X1 would handle that situation with no trouble; after all, I drove my E46 wagon through several inches (~4″) of snow several times this year (and in my RX-8 last year…winter tires help a lot), and my wife’s old CX-7 handled 14″ of snow with no trouble on its stock all-season tires.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I am sure this beemer is a sweet car but one thing must be made clear – when I sat my 6-2 250 lbs frame in the front and then in the back, Mini Clubman has more space than this X1. It’s very tight inside.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      A buddy of mine has an X1,and I put my 6’4″ 225 self in the X1. Head and leg room were ok, but my left shoulder was hitting the B pillar when I had the seat far enough back for me to drive.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    3.5 inches narrower than an X3– now you can reach out and clean both the side mirrors without having to leave your seat.

  • avatar
    Thinkin...

    From what I recall the X1 rides on a modified euro E91 touring chassis, right? So it’s almost the holy grail of euro 3-series wagon for the States. But no manual transmission over here…

    Anyway, great review. To be honest, this series of TTAC reviews are quickly becoming my favorite car reviews on the web. Amidst a sea of 3-4 minute youtube “reviews” these more comprehensive segments are a godsend.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Sorry, I’ll take the E36 318ti. First off, you get a REAL transmission. You know, one of those funny ones with three pedals on the floor. Secondly, it’s still got a touch of “the ultimate driving machine” left in it. Yeah, the E30′s were the last real BMW’s, but the E36′s hadn’t forgotten their heritage too badly . . . . . yet.

    Finally, the 318ti is a sedan. Something you can bomb on the back roads, do a little autocross, actually drive the car the way the marque’s reputation (used to) says you can do. That x1 Gobbletygook is a CUV. A fake.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    It looks like an anteater from the side. They put the engine completely behind the front axle line, but left the long hood – so if you get the 2.0T four, there is like two feet between the serpentine belt drive and the front of the vehicle – ?

    Make the four the only engine, shorten this thing up and make it a REAL compact crossover. People are not going to buy this for the weight distribution F/R.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’ve had both a 3 series and 5 series and I can tell you that the only similarities between the two cars is that they are both BMW’s and that’s all. I have no personal experience with the X1, but I will say that BMW will never let you forget that you are driving their “starter kit” the feeling is always this is nice, but you must step-up to be truly one with the BMW experience. The design is somewhat awkward and a bit nerdish and unless you opt for the “M” performance is merely ok. For a real world price in the mid-30s a car should be more then a teaser to better things and a reminder that you’re just not quite there yet

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      “BMW will never let you forget that you are driving their starter kit”

      Agreed. You can think of BMW as the old GM- they purposely make their cheap cars crapier to punish you for not splurging on their more expensive models. For example- the base model X1 comes with a manually adjusted seat with no tilt adjustment. The non-sunroof models come with an incredibly cheap looking interior light. All the 4-cyl models come without any kind of temperature gauge or even a cold engine light.

  • avatar
    ash78

    As a big fan of the original European 1-series hatchback, I immediately facepalm when I see this. Not that it’s a bad vehicle…just that I’ve been yearning for a funky 5-door clown shoe for almost 10 years since I first saw them on the streets of London.

    In the meantime, the Mazda3 took off, VW started offering the 4-door GTI, Subie updated the WRX hatch models a couple times, and Audi introduced the A3 to America. BMW never showed up with a 1-series hatch, but now we have it — in a slightly wonky, confused package.

    • 0 avatar
      Sundowner

      funny isn’t it how everyone keeps saying that hatches don’t sell, yet the GTI is a perennial hit. The Mazda3 is very popular and I almost never see them in sedan form, the WRX/Impreza is another hit I rarely see in sedan form, the new Ford Focus I see tons of, I don’t know that I’ve seen the sedan version yet. And Mini. Oh, Mini. the ENTIRE BRAND is hatchbacks and they seem to chug along just dandy. Same is true to a lesser extent for Fiat. Let’s not forget that the Prius is also a hatch sold in large numbers and 4 flavors.

      I would say the same for the Audi A3, but Audi brought it over in 2006, promptly forgot all about it, never advertized it, imported it in small numbers, and still manages to sell buckets of them. Last time I was in San Francisco, I was there for 2 days and counted over 100 of them just in my travels around town. I’d love to see the $/sale spent on A3′s vs something like the A7 or A8.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Coincidentally, I passed one of these X1 thingies on my way to work yesterday and mistook it for a new version of the 1 series hatchback until reading this review.

        Based on my visual perception of the X1 thingy and it’s size my gut was that it’s main competitors should be the VW GTI, Audi A3 or Infiniti EX … Unfortunately I don’t think it wins any of those comparisons based on looks, but pricing doesn’t appear to be BMW-ulous against the Infniti which gives you RWD or AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I wouldn’t call the GTI a “perennial hit” or that Audi sells “buckets” of A3s. I am a hatchback owner too.

        The GTI is a very good car, I owned an MKV, but total Golf sales are one fifth of total Jetta sales in America. The Jetta Sportwagon (I know its more related to the Golf than MKVI Jetta) almost outsells the Golf in America. And its a WAGON. The GTI sells enough to justify its existince, and cars guys/magazines love it, but it isn’t even the best selling hot hatch in America anymore.

        You don’t want to see the numbers about the A3 vs the A6, A7, or A8. While the A3 did move around 1000 more units than the A8 in 2012, I’m guessing the A8 transaction prices are significantly higher. The A6 more than doubled A3 volume, and the A7 outsold the A3 by a few thousand. Its becoming sedan only for a reason.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Alex – One of the more direct competitors in size and performance not mentioned is the VW Tiguan. Maybe not the brand cache but within 2 inches in all dimensions except height. We shopped the X1 against the VW, Q5, etc. The Tiguan in SEL trim with the Premium package won out because of the better compromise of ride, handling, overall performance and road noise.

    The Tiguan was also $10k less apples to apples (at $38k list and $34.5k out the door, the Tiguan SEL had ALL options including the RNS510 Nav, Dynaudio, power folding side mirrors, etc. True, the Tiguan is 1.5-2 seconds or so slower to 60 mph but a much better interior space, materials (almost all soft touch) and the around town mileage has been a genuine 23 mpg – with 28 or so on road trips. As you know, the Germans are conservative with HP and MPG in general, so I wasn’t worried about the less than impressive MPG numbers on paper.

    I’m a BMW fan; I frequent the BMW Performance Driving school due to the company I work for but ultimately I buy something else with my own money (inc a 2006 Audi A4 3.2 MT, 2008 Infiniti G35xS and a 2011 VW GTI).

    Great reviews, by the way. I look forward to each new review and appreciate your real world insight that often goes against the grain of the largest auto publications and sites.

    Keep up the good work and make sure all the trunk releases are glow in the dark…or you know where they are by feel.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The Tiguan is tricky, being 10K less puts it in a totally different class. Then there’s the brand thing, RWD vs FWD, driving dynamics, etc. I thought about the Tiguan, but according to both VW and BMW they don’t see much cross-shopping and I have to agree. You excepted of course.

      • 0 avatar
        xantia10000

        BMW and VW don’t see a lot of cross shopping? How can they: the X1 is just on the market! It takes a few months for that kind of data to be available. What was clear is Tiguan and the old X3 saw a good amount of cross shop, so that would lead me to guess X1 might be on a Tiguan intender’s shopping list. Besides that, I do see these as rivals except for the badge issue you mentioned. I guess that’s the 10k premium :)

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          Our Tiguan SEL, a 2013, has those unheard-of 255 tires, on big 19-inch rims. That’s one of my least favorite features of the car. It wasn’t a week before my wife abraded the two left wheels, parking by feel. The ride/handling equation isn’t really a compromise- this car has the stiffest, roughest ride I’ve ever experienced. Every bump, seam and pebble is amplified. The higher ride height and seating position seems to magnify the body motions. It handles like it’s nailed to the road, but the lack of sports seats makes G-forces less welcome. So be careful what you wish for…

          One thing I don’t wish for is bigger cupholders. The first swig of a fresh, fizzy Coke is the best part, but who looks forward to drinking the second half of a flat, ice-diluted 32 ounce Super Big Gulp? Gimmie a break– Bubba’s going to buy a pickup truck, anyhow.

          When I saw my first X1 on the street, recently, it was the most appealing BMW for me since the 2002. I would consider this as an alternative.

          • 0 avatar
            klossfam

            Wheatridger – Good point on the 19s – that look cool as hell but I’ve heard of the ride issues. The 18s on ours (235/50R18s) provide a class leading ride IMO. The Pirelli Scorpions for the 18″ wheels are also incredible. 34,000 on ours with still 7/32nds of tread. I will be hard pressed not to buy the Pirellis again at replacement time. Word has been that VW when a little too far with the suspension and wheel changes on the newer SEL Tiggies with 19s.

      • 0 avatar
        klossfam

        Thanks for the quick reply Alex…It is funny that VW and BMW say that as EVERY person I know that has a X1 or a Tiguan (at least that has purchased one recently) looked at both vehicles. Most were shocked by 1) How MUCH room in a Tiguan based on footprint and 2) How LITTLE room in a X1. Most also looked at the higher trims of the standard small CUV warriors (CR-V, RAV4, Sportage, etc) but also looked at the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, Acura RDX and some looked Santa Fe or Sorrento. Of course, there is up to a 10″ difference in length between some of these, so a lot of ‘class crossing’ in both size and badge going on.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I know the 3.0 turbo is a wonderful engine, but it doesn’t belong in this car-it’s too small and frankly chintzy. Too much power that will affect the long-term performance of the tires and various other parts. They are probably laughing in Europe thinking “why do Americans need that much power?”

    • 0 avatar
      Snavehtrebor

      Ah yes, those thrifty Germans. They would never think of cramming, say, a 6.3L V8 in a CLK, or a V12 in an 8 series, or….

      • 0 avatar
        chiefmonkey

        Ok, but those are actually meant to be sporty cars. The X1 is for young professionals who just got a big bonus and don’t know anything. You seriously think anyone is going to race in this thing?

        • 0 avatar
          Snavehtrebor

          No, but I don’t think anyone raced in their AMG SLs/CLs or 850is either. My point was simply that Germans are fond of (excessive) power just as Americans are.

          Funny how things evolve. 20 years ago a German exchange student friend expressed wonder at how most Americans had automatics. He said that “only disabled people drive them in Germany”. Fast forward to present day and Porsche offers the GT3 without 3 pedals. Try to find a manual 330i; it ain’t easy.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          To the mall, maybe…

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Great review. On my short list, but:

    1. A bit more road noise than I like, especially when the rear seats are folded flat (the majority of my driving).

    2. Just a tiny bit too small in back for my bike, without really working at it.

    As pointed out above by another, I’d prefer the 5-door 128i HB. I loved my coupe, but just not enough utility, and while the T4/8A combo may be faster, for me, NOTHING tops a normally aspirated BMW i6 mated to a stick shift!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “The Germans still don’t know what cupholders are for”

    Maybe its their way of carrying on…The War?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Yeah, the war against hydration. I used to be a hardline German fan and I bought their “no cups, focus on driving” mantra way too seriously. Then I realized it’s just stupid and lazy. If anything, the world’s best engineers should have the world’s best cupholders. Here in America, we take cars on multi-hour, multi-hundred-mile trips on a regular basis. Not having cupholders is just basic negligence.

      Also, nice to see you. I miss the old Jalop format, so I’m back to my pre-Jalop stoming ground at TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, they’re just weird like that. Keep in mind this is a people who kept toilet paper in a cozy on the rear package shelf, in case they had to poop along the side of the autobahn.

    • 0 avatar

      Only in America do cupholders warrant so much talk.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I finally figured out why the Germans are cup-holder challenged. You see, Germany is so small that on the Autobahn you can get from one end of the country to the other in a few hours, so no need for hydration, you can just wait tell you get there… or, they just spill a lot

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Good to know that whomever designed the platypus-esque last gen Subaru Impreza hatchback is now gainfully employed at BMW.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    No spare tire, no deal.

  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    the 318ti is the bmw everybody loves to hate. Too bad – it’s a fun, well-balanced – if not “Ultimate” – driving machine.
    Alex, nice job on all your reviews. You are a highlight of the current incarnation of TTAC. I hear what you’re saying, but the chance of finding a
    *$33,800 X1 sDrive28i M-Sport trim* in my neck of the woods is almost non existent

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    I’m sure BMW understands that Americans would love big cup holders, but I don’t see how they could have provided space for two big gulps without moving the shifter to the dash. Doing so would have pissed off the purists, so I think they made the right choice. Do what I do in my M Roadster: put a water bottle on the passenger seat. You’re better off having your drink sealed anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      That works until the first turn, when the bottle rolls off the seat and lands somewhere in the far end of the footwell.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      It’s true. It’s a relatively small vehicle – where are two giant cup holders supposed to go? It comes down to iDrive or two cup holders in the center console.

      Certain models seem to have made BMW synonymous with shitty cup holders. The E39′s cup holders were a disaster. Overall, I don’t think BMW is that bad at it though. I actually like the E46 cup holders. Every time I use them I wonder just what the hell people are drinking in their cars that causes them to complain about cup holders. E53 cup holders are fine too.

  • avatar
    SimRacingDan

    I bought one of these a week ago and sold my ’09 WRX hatchback for it. I considered the 3l model but I found the 2l to be quick enough, and I wanted the better transmission and fuel economy. It’s almost the exact same dimensions, but more refined. I was looking for something a little quieter and more comfortable for long highway trips.

    It’s a great car. I’m starting to get used to sitting high up… We’ll see if I lower it or not. It handles way better than it has any right to. I’ve read various people complaining about the plastic but I’ve got no problems with it.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The X1 is a certainly a unique product but it looks awkward and the interior design isn’t BMW’s best (its also somewhat dated as the X1 was launched in 2009). I wish they would just sell the 1 series hatch here.

  • avatar

    Ugly car. Even uglier than the 1 hatch. Of the 1 the best looking to me is the coupe. I like that one.

    About the only thing right on this car is the wheel size. It’s still too big but it’s big enough for the car. Any bigger and it would’ve ruined the look even further.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    Pricing’s a bit strange on this too. It’s built on a 3-series platform with cheaper plastics, but the base model costs $5k-$7k less than the 3-series wagon – which is basically what the X1 is.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Seriously, 45K for this [searching database...] thing?

    Damn.

  • avatar
    threeer

    When I return from my assignment in Saudi Arabia (a few years from now), this might be the one concession I’ll allow my wife in the “Buy American” mantra I’ve developed. As a means of saying “thanks” for allowing me to serve halfway around the world unaccompanied, it may well be a small price to pay. We test drove an X1 a few weeks back and my wife truly fell for it, and she’s tough when it comes to cars sans trunk (whereas I grew up overseas in the land of wagons and honey, she grew up just north of Detroit). Sorely wish they’d offer a manual, but understand the take rate would not warrant the extra effort for them. And yes, the options can add up very, very rapidly. I tested one on my own (base) at the $33k price point and rather liked it…she drove one closer to $38k. It does tend to sit a tad higher than what I’m used to in Bimmers, but the crux of things that make a BMW, well, a BMW were there. While 6.5 seconds to 60 is hardly ground breaking anymore, for a vehicle to be used hauling dogs around (I work many dog rescue sites) and loading up for an occasional trip camping, it’s plenty quick. And I found the handling more than adequate..actually quite entertaining. Sure, you have to do a double take to realize you aren’t seeing an X3, but maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing. Only when parked next to an actual X3 do you see the differences. Ironically, the dealership I tested the X1 at had a new 320i in the showroom…more money for less performance (granted, at least the 320i can be had with a manual tranny). As far as being the “least expensive” BMW around, it isn’t a bad wag at all. I’m sure my wife will be looking fgrward to hers in a few years…parked alongside what I hope to be my Wrangler by then. Great review! Confirms what our “seat of pants” test drive discovered.

  • avatar
    sightline

    I had one of these as a loaner for a few days when my 135i was in the shop for the battery lead recall. Was thinking about buying it to replace my wife’s current car, but decided against it for a couple of reasons:

    - The sightlines were awful. Like dangerously poor. I never changed lanes on the highway without feeling a little anxious, especially with the thick D-pillar.

    - Of course it felt slow after my car, but the engine was probably enough for the weight of the car. I really hated the sound, though – it sounded like an economy 4-cylinder.

    - It had the typical BMW RFT road noise which got on my nerves during my 100 mile r/t commute (280 SJC-San Francisco). Wind noise was merely adequate.

    - The interior was…not great, as Alex alluded to. I was fine with a fairly cheap interior on my 1-series since it really is an economy car with a large engine, but it definitely felt like a step down compared with that, although that might be subjective.

    All in all, I thought it was a good car, just not quite worth the $45k that it would be optioned out. We ended up ordering a Q5 instead.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Whenever I see one of these, I think that’s a cute BMW 3-series wagon. It looks tiny and low to the ground if you’re in a truck or SUV.

    Audi’s bringing over the Q3 to compete with this, and the Tiguan is in the same size category already.

  • avatar
    kychungkevin

    I own the xdrive 28i and love it. Yes the engine sound is far off from the good old inline 6 but it is so much better than most 4 pots including the Audi/VW 2.0t. I think it’s a bad value when you load up this car past $40k; but for $33.5K that I paid it is a great deal. Ford Escape 2.0t or Forester XT Turbo is about the same price and size; yes it has more features but not as refine, less performance, less friendly dealer experience, no free maintenance and less mpg.
    The design does look weird but with a oversize 19″ wheels and tires it fixes everything!
    Here’s the pictures:

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8529/8593630700_f006581b39_b.jpg

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8107/8593630318_9d65d55f59_b.jpg

    http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8368/8592529777_2706803771_b.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      socaldrvr

      Wow! You nailed it. Best looking X1 I’ve ever seen. Which wheels are they? OEM? Solves everything.

      • 0 avatar
        kychungkevin

        They are Breyton Race GTS wheels with oversize (for the front) 255/40/19 tires; it is so large the front is ribbing the inner fender a tiny bit when turn. But it looks so much better now I don’t mind the rib at all. But for the next tires I may try 245/40/19; I am sure that won’t rib at all and hopefully still fill up the wheel well nicely.

        PS I said less mpg it should be better mpg…

  • avatar
    ScottE5

    I bought one last October and am loving the analog, retro vibe the thing puts out. From the communicative steering to the slightly upright angle of the expansive windshield, it’s a real pleasure to toss around. At 7K miles in, I’ve yet to have anything blow up or fall off.

    And yes, it does look a little homely from some angles, but then again, so do I.

  • avatar
    socaldrvr

    Terrific review, thanks Alex. Other reviews seem to favor the hydraulic (xDrive) steering more, suggesting the xDrive 28i is the ‘driver’s choice.’ You suggest there isn’t that much in it? I have this question: Which X1 would you recommend for a DRIVER: xDrive or sDrive? I would be looking at an sDrive 328iT 6MT (wagon) if they still offered it – as I live in Santa Monica (no need for AWD) and like to DRIVE (albeit with occasional toddler and surfboards to transport). I’ve resigned myself to the 8-speed (which sounds almost good enough – although a BMW MSport not holding gears???). sDrive would make more sense (being less expensive and thirsty), but steering feel is a priority. Please advise. Thanks

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      That’s something of a trade off and a personal preference. With the AWD you lose the RWD dynamics of the car which I prefer, but gain steering feedback. With the sDrive you get better economy, the lively RWD dynamics and the slight rear weight bias but you lose some steering feel. You should drive both back to back on the same roads and see if the loss of feel is enough to compensate.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      I’m driving an 07 328i 6MT wagon, and had an X1 as a loaner when they did a recall repair. I liked how the X1 drove and steers, but I wasn’t crazy about the engine note, and the tinny sound it makes when you close the doors. Just kinda cheap sounding.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That removable cup-holder thing is the same solution (or lack-thereof) that BMW resorted to with the E63/64 (previous-gen 6-Series)…and I think the current 6-Series as well. For the 6-Series, this was a matter of form over function and preserving the swoopy line that marks out the center stack, but the X1′s center console could have housed another cup-holder if BMW had gone for an electronic parking-brake.

    Of course that probably would have brought the base price up by a couple grand, so there you have it…

  • avatar
    Power6

    Seems like this thing outdoes the EX37 but is similar in that it is a wagon masquerading as an SUV, low ride height and all.

    I am curious if the BMW has the tiny rear seat problem of the EX35? For some reason Infiniti thinks if you want the EX37, which is basically a wagon version of the G37, you want 3 inches less rear legroom.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    I’ve yet to see one of these things, but I’m sure it’s OK. But, OK for 45k is a bit much. That’s what I paid for my Audi Q5 Permium Plus. At least BMW is including some of the bits from the better cars. My first BMW was an ’85 325E 2dr. And it seemed that I got just a smaller BMW in that car, not a cheaper one. The seats, radio, etc, were the same stuff you got in a 5 or 6 as I recall. What really gets me about BMW though is the handling “shtick”. This is a friggin little crossover and 99.9% of the buyers will never see an Autocross course or a track day just like never go off road either. BMW (as well as some others) sell the high performance, super handling crap and remarkably, status conscious folks buy it like ice cream. I’d venture a serious wager that more 3 series and X5s are driven by little ladies than anyone else simply because their hubbies and boy friends sell them a bill of goods. This X1 is simply an overpriced parts bin car built on an aged chassis.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I do have an issue with the fact that BMW is using parts that are being replaced on other cars, like the HVAC, instrument panel, key and door-handles.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    The X1 is the best value on the BMW lot considering you get 328i power for (less than) 320 money. I was shocked to see my local dealer had one with leather and an appearance package that still rang in at under $35k.

    If you’re leasing, of course, an X1 won’t be much (if at all) cheaper than a decent 328i, but the $5k+ you’ll save if you’re buying is substantial.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Who in Germany thought that “Xdrive28i” sounded like a good car name?

    I swear these new BMWs have to have the most convoluted nonsensical names I’ve ever heard.

  • avatar
    socaldrvr

    Has anyone compared Servotronic steering vs. standard? Several reviews talk of heavy low-speed steering on the X1 (including Alex here) – I wonder if Servotronic is a necessary option.

    • 0 avatar
      kychungkevin

      I test drove the standard and it is very heavy at parking lot but it’s fine once it is about 25mph. I purchased the Servo since my wife may drive it and we drive (and street parking) in city a lot. It is much lighter at low speed, but weight up on hwy; the steering feel is still there. People who used to drive the older BMW love the standard; you really have to test drive them and decide your own.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m sorry but at 45K (and this thing is easily optioned into the 50s) there are other compelling options out there. I saw an X1 in black (no window tint) and it looked both like a rental, and an obvious base model. The Allroad or Q5 come to mind. Both are more capable, have nicer interiors, more room, and more cred than this thing. Hell, you’re within range of the XC90 at that point. The styling from the front is A-OK, and looks good and aggressive. From the side it looks bloated, and I hate the indention behind the rear window. The rear looks dumpy, and like the tailgate between the lights was bent unintentionally.

    I can see very little reason for choosing this over… something better.

    • 0 avatar
      kychungkevin

      Easily optioned into the 50s? Are you from Canada cause maybe the price is different there. In US the 28i Alex tested here is already the fully loaded version; the 35i would be around $50k. I like the Allroad too but it started at $40k which at that price you can almost gets the loaded x1 28i without M sport. I got mine at $33.5k and that’s with few options.

      I do think it’s crazy for people getting the loaded up BMW (any model) cause all those options are crazy expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      How can you compare an X90 to this car? Other than both having 4 wheels and originating in europe, I am not seeing the similarities

  • avatar
    RobAllen

    I had an x1 xDrive28i with the M Sport package for a weekend when my D was getting some work done. It felt considerably quicker than the numbers would suggest and I didn’t notice the quality of the plastics, and the passenger side cup holder was already in place (when I traded seats with my wife, that went into the glove box). My wife loved the X1 so much, its the only item on her shopping list for when we replace her aging xB.

    My only complaint, which is true with all of the 2013 Bimmers, is that the engine auto-off feature is extremely crude. One passenger thought the car had a transmission issue from the jerk-start when I let off the brake. You can disable it, but it defaults back to on when you restart the car or switch from Comfort (or Sport) mode back down to Eco.

    All in all, its a great, versatile ride and the fun is close at hand. I can only imagine the hijinks you could muster in the xDrive35i or an x1 M

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      The BMW dealer can change the auto-start stop such that it will stay whatever setting you left it on last, instead of having to disable it every time you start the car, which gets annoying.

      BTW, my wife also bought a BMW X1 to replace her 2004 Scion xB!She enjoys it a lot.


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