2020 BMW X1 XDrive28i Review - German Wagon, German Luxury Price Tag

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i Fast Facts

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,450-4,500 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
23 city / 31 highway / 26 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
10.3 city, 7.7 highway, 9.1 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$37,200 (U.S) / $42,100 (Canada)
As Tested
$48,645 (U.S.) / $55,404.73 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,580 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 bmw x1 xdrive28i review german wagon german luxury price tag

Crossovers often get mocked by auto journalists as “tall wagons.” These scribes – and there are many, myself included, who have used this term – don’t understand why people don’t buy actual wagons.

Indeed, just the other day, the section of the Twitterverse reserved for auto writers had a discussion about why the public likes the much-loathed crossover so much.

There’s the obvious reason, of course – most of the people in the car-buying public are either not car enthusiasts, or they’re enthusiasts forced into crossover life by budget and life needs. We’ve been over this before.

Ride height and the availability of all-wheel-drive were also tossed out as reasons for the crossover love. One thought that I didn’t see – perhaps today’s Gen X and older Millennial buyers remember the shitty wagons of the ‘80s (the same ones that give Radwood attendees funny feelings in their pants) and just don’t want anything to do with the word?

That’s not a shot at those who like old wagons. Like what you like, I won’t judge. But perhaps the 42-year-old accountant who has kids and pets and stuff to haul has only bad memories of the Ford LTD his parents dragged him to Boy Scouts in.

I bring this up not because the conversation about crossovers seems never-ending in car circles, but because the 2020 BMW X1 I’m about to cover straddles a weird line. BMW would call it a crossover (actually, in their brand speak, it’s a “Sports Activity Vehicle”), and most likely you would too, but the ride height, or at least the seating position, felt lower than most.

And of course, it’s all-wheel drive.

I’m not here to debate whether it’s a crossover or wagon, but rather, to state that to this reviewer, it felt closer to the latter than the former. And that’s fine, unless the word wagon makes you make the same face I make when confronted with broccoli. Which for many people, it does.

It’s more than fine, actually, because while it has some flaws (a couple that seem unusual for BMW), it’s not a bad little grocery-getter, should you have the means.

[Get BMW X1 pricing here!]

The biggest flaw was the steering – it felt a bit stiff and artificial, and any road feedback seemed to be too easily filtered out. BMW steering may be, in general, a little heavier and more artificial than it used to be, but typically the car/crossover in question still feels connected to the road in a way that backs up the Ultimate Driving Machine marketing spiel. Here, it’s disjointed.

The 2.0-liter turbo-four also struggles a bit at lower RPMs, but if you kick the spurs, you can get the X1 moving. It’s a weird driving experience – the X1 is a small crossover/wagon, but it feels heavy. It rides stiffly, to boot.

Where the X1 is stronger is in its luxury game. Yes, BMW sticker prices have a tendency to get ridiculous, and we’ll get there in a bit, but even if BMWs feel a bit bloated, in terms of both content mix and actually physical use of space, these days, the cabin still has enough of an upscale feel – and enough space, comfort, and quiet – to make John in middle management glad he stretched his payment budget.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that iDrive is not nearly as confusing as it once was.

Driving the X1 for a week gave me mixed feelings – it didn’t perform quite as well as other Bimmer crossovers I’ve driven, at least not until you pushed it, at which point it came alive a bit. But it was nice and pleasant all the same.

Style-wise, the updated-for-2020 X1 looks a bit like a shrunken version of the brand’s larger crossovers. It carries traditional BMW trappings such as the modernized version of the twin-kidney grille, and the shape (narrowing towards the grille) of the headlamp gives it an angry look. The lamps themselves are now hexagonal in shape. A gently sloping roofline tapers off towards the back. Other changes include larger grille openings and different bumpers with “sharper” lines and larger openings, as well as larger exhaust-pipe openings. The rear lights are also updated.

New interior trim bits, including different stitching, new wheel designs, and three new available colors are also part of the updates, along with the option of a lower dash that color-matches the leather.

The inside is familiar and handsome, marred only by a tacked-on infotainment screen and a mass of too many buttons for audio and climate controls.

As is often the case with German luxury, eye-popping options pricing is a problem. While the base price for the xDrive 28i was a reasonable $37,200, it quickly shot up to $48,645 as-tested. The $4,950 Premium Package had a lot to do with this. The package included power-folding mirrors, keyless entry, moonroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto-dimming side-view mirrors, lumbar support, ambient lighting, heated front seats, satellite radio, LED headlamps and fog lamps, navigation, satellite radio, and a head-up display. This replaces a Convenience Package you’re saddled with when you choose the Mocha Dakota leather ($1,450), and it adds a few features beyond what that package offers. Also, some of the features can be added without ticking the box for premium.

These pricing games are annoying, and they’ll continue as long as luxury-brand buyers continue being laydowns. Why tack on nearly 5 grand for features that are standard in many non-luxury vehicles, and require that the buyer spend at least over 2 large on the Convenience package if he or she wants to already drop more than a g-note on a nicer interior? At least the two packages, and an even higher-end Luxury package don’t require you to spend more on the interior to get them. Same for the individual options.

Other options included the paint job – $1,200 for a metallic light blue/gray – and 19-inch wheels ($600), sport seats ($400), adaptive cruise control ($1,000), wood interior trim ($350), sliding and reclining rear seat ($300), and parking assistant ($200). Standard features included automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay, forward-collision warning with collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, speed-limit info, automatic high beams, USB, Bluetooth, and a power tailgate.

If you could live without satellite radio and navigation and a moonroof, you could equip an X1 at a reasonable price. Go for the no-charge paint, interior, and interior trim, and select judiciously from the option list. Live in the South? Ditch the heated seats. Use CarPlay to provide you with nav and your own music and skip XM. Save a grand by not using adaptive cruise. Drive the old-fashioned way.

By skipping the metallic paint and higher-end interior materials, I built a sub-$40K X1 with all-wheel drive online. You could add one feature, such as heated seats, and be at or just over $40,000 with D and D, depending on which feature you pick. Even if you pick most or all of the features offered individually, you can keep the price under $45K.

At the price, the X1 would be a reasonable entry point to the brand for the well-heeled family buyer. And that buyer would get a decently performing, upscale errand-runner.

But as is, BMW’s pricing strategy sours the experience.

And whether you call it a wagon or a crossover or whatever, that’s disappointing.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Join the conversation
2 of 50 comments
  • Legacygt Legacygt on Aug 14, 2020

    I know you can do this with any premium-priced product but, in this case, it's really eye-opening if you expand the class to include non-premium brands. Is the X1 really better than, say, a CX-5? Is it worse?

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 23, 2020

    That's not a BMW wagon. This is a BMW wagon: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/vellum-venom-vignette-bmw-328-328/ And it is just as delightful today as when I picked it up in Munich nine years ago. As reliable as sunrise and sunset too. That said, the X1 is perfectly fine for what it is, a MINI Countryman in adult clothing. Of course it's overpriced - all of these silly crossovers are. But it's no wagon.

  • Mncarguy I remember when the Golf came out and all the car magazines raved about it. I bought an early one in the mid level trim, brown with a beige vinyl interior and a stick. I must have blocked out a lot about that car, because the only thing I remember is one day with my wife and infant in the car, the brakes went out! I could use the parking brake and made it home. There must have been other issues (beside an awful dealer who felt like they were doing you a favor even letting you come in for service) because I swore I'd never buy a VW again. I did get a new Beetle and later a Passat. That's another story!
  • Oberkanone The Chrysler - Plymouth - Dodge Neon's racing successes - SCCA and elsewhere (allpar.com)Inexpensive racing.
  • Kwik_Shift My brother inherited his work travel 2013 Ford Escape 1.6L EcoBoost to be replaced with a 2019. It is now used as a beater vehicle primarily to take my mother out for shopping/appts, etc. Just right seat height for her to get in and out of.Right now it has 420,000 (HWY) kms still on original engine/turbo/transmission. Impressive, but doesn't mean I'd intentionally buy any Ford EB combination vehicle. I've heard lots of bad things as well.
  • Analoggrotto You forgot something.
  • MKizzy We can pretty much agree at this point that all Ford ecoboost engines regardless of displacement are of trash quality.