Capsule Review: 2015 BMW X1 28i

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

At a base price of $30,900, the BMW X1 is the cheapest new vehicle you can buy with a Roundel. That price tag, as well as the crossover body style and a lack of a manual transmission, hasn’t endeared the X1 to the BMW faithful, or the enthusiast crowd.

When a friend of mine asked for suggestions for a compact CUV, I initially suggested segment favorites like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. She ended up stopping by the BMW dealer, drawn in by the heavily subsidized lease deals and the idea of driving something with a roundel on the hood.

She ended up walking away with the X1 shown above: a 28i xDrive model with the Technology Package, Driver Assistance Package, Panoramic Moonroof and heated front seats. A $32,700 CUV (base price for an AWD X1) suddenly rang up to $41,720. A backup camera, front and rear parking senors, navigation, Satellite radio and wood trim are just some of the items that you have to pay extra for – and you still don’t get real leather (though the Sensatec leatherette is quite good). Of course, you have to pay to play if you want a German luxury vehicle (specifically, the badge that comes with it). At least the X1 has a value add. It’s still quite good to drive.

With its roots in the outgoing 3-Series, the X1 still feels, well, like a proper BMW, and not like the reasonable facsimile of a 3-Series that is the defining vehicle for this generation of Bimmer. Hydraulic power steering is still present on the all-wheel drive X1, though it’s not as heavy or direct as the E90 3-Series. Nevertheless, its far ahead of what one could expect from the F-Series 3 and 4-Series cars, which feel like a video game force feedback wheel in comparison.

The now-ubiquitous 2.0L turbocharged I4 and 8-speed automatic transmission are present on the X1, and while the N20 engine may lack the character of the much-loved I6, it delivers plenty of power. 240 horsepower is on tap, but with 260 lb-ft available from just 1250 rpm, the X1 never lacks forward motivation. The 8-speed transmission is a great match for this motor, delivering great fuel economy (on a trip from Indianapolis to Nashville, we just touched 29 mpg despite doing 70 mph on the Interstate) while also reacting with verve when a downshift was called for.

Dynamically, the X1 doesn’t seem to suffer from a slightly higher ride height and center of gravity. The culprit here appears to be the Goodyear Eagle LS run-flat tires, which I suspect impose an artificial ceiling on the car’s dynamic envelope. But for the target buyer, they do the job just fine. The ride is quiet and comfortable, and those interested in something more performance oriented can opt for the Sport package, which comes with a brawnier wheel and tire package (and likely, a harsher ride).

As this graphic from Car and Driver shows, the X1 is dimensionally similar to the 328i wagon – but that doesn’t seem to insulate it from verbal barbs from the enthusiast community, which regards it with the same kind of disdain it tends to reserve for the Nissan Rogue. I’m not one to talk – I held that view until I actually drove the X1 and realized that it’s basically a wagon, but not marketed as such, lest the X1 become a commercial failure. I know that my friend feels the same way. She was all set to buy a Volvo V60, but as a new immigrant to the United States, she had no credit, and was thus given no lease or financing options. If that weren’t the case, she might have been one of a handful of people who bought a new Volvo station wagon. But now she’s behind the wheel of a BMW wagon, marketed as a crossover and sold for thousands of dollars less than a comparable 328i wagon. She’s as happy as I am impressed by the least expensive Bimmer. If only it had a manual.

The owner provided this vehicle to TTAC for the purposes of this review.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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5 of 96 comments
  • Itsfred Itsfred on Nov 11, 2014

    Another BMW X1 owner here - 28i X-Drive M-Sport I think the power, transmission, and steering of this car are basically excellent, and the features/quality are "perfectly good enough" if not state-of-the-art. However, if I had it to do again I would NOT buy the M-sport. After all this is a CUV or a wagon, not a true sports or rally car. Perhaps there are some handling benefits that accrue from the M-Sport features, but you pay a BIG price in ride quality - the car is unacceptably harsh on our irregular local roads and the engine quite buzzy. We also have a 528 with same motor and it's amazingly smooth for a four, so I really didn't expect the crudeness of the implementation in the M-Sport.

  • JGlanton JGlanton on Nov 11, 2014

    I just checked my car buying service and the base X1 S-drive is $27,380. X-drive is $29,035. That is typically a good indicator of what anyone with good negotiating skills can buy this car for. That is one inexpensive BMW. In comparison: A Forester XT Premium (AWD 2.0 Turbo) is $27,050. An Escape Titanium 4WD is $27,795. Pretty close!. For my own buying decision, I would choose the Forester for it's interior utility: it's the only one big enough to hold my stuff. I would have to get an X3 to get close. Then we reach the $40K threshold...

  • Amwhalbi I agree, Ajla. This is theory, not reality - hence my comment that Americans don't like hatchbacks. But one of my neighbors bought one of the last Regal hatchbacks that were available for sae, and it is a darn nice car. I still think the idea makes sense, even if history is proving me wrong. And my sister does have a Legacy, which rides a bit higher than my Sonata, and that also is an excellent driver. Even if the general public doesn't concur with me.
  • Hermaphroditolog The tycoons and Nazis hid the IMPLOSION ICEs and propagated the compression ICEs to consumers.GEET engines are more IMPLOSION than compression. Also the ICEs of the Shell-ecomarathon. Classic hot-bulb ICEs are more IMPLOSION than compression - Ford assembly lines do not accept to produce tractors with these simple ICEs.
  • Sobro I have 2200 songs on micro SD in my phone when I'm in the mood for my ripped CD collection. If not I would just scan the FM dial. I recently added I Heart Radio app and aside from College and NPR stations, their radio station members are plentiful. In a new city you just search the city name and get a list of all of their local member stations with descriptions and listen via whatever device you prefer.
  • Dirk Why is everyone pretending like Chevy malibus aren't a terrible 98% bulky plastic Fischer price car? People actually like driving malibus and impalas? We used them as work vehicles and they spent more time in the shop than on the road
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X More wagons.