Compact crossovers (or in BMW terminology, Sport Activity Vehicles) are the best-selling vehicles on the market today. Vehicles like the X1 provide a varying degree of functionality, acceptable fuel economy, all-wheel-drive, a higher seating position that’s easier to slide into than a sedan and balanced space for all occupants.
The X1 is as modern and fun to drive as a compact crossover can get. Featuring a handsome exterior revised for 2016, the sheetmetal lines now look proportional and sleek. It looks like a smaller X3 and aligns with the rest of the Bavarian family.
Our test model was equipped with the optional LED headlights, which did an excellent job of illuminating the roadway at night and providing much-needed illumination in turns thanks to cornering lights that illuminate at low speeds or when reversing.
Inside, the modern interior is adorned with wood, leather and piano black trim. The designers have perfected the art of mixing certain materials, colors and textures to create a look and feel that is just beautiful.
At night, red (or soft white) LED ambient lighting glows from the front and rear door panels, dashboard and overhead console. It’s hard not to smile when approaching the illuminated exterior door handles or simply waiting at a traffic light. The attention to detail is impeccable.
Room all around is bountiful, especially headroom on a sun-filled day with the panoramic glass roof open.
An optional head-up display projects speed, nav and music info onto the windshield directly in front of the driver, with various adjustments to the contrast, content and positioning of the projected info all customizable in the iDrive vehicle menu. The software team designed so much vehicle customization and info at the driver’s fingertips to satisfy even the most OCD drivers.
The iDriver controller knob spins and nudges in all directions, and now the top surface is a touchpad so that text and numbers can be inputed with a fingertip. We found it worked very well except for the inability to recognize our lowercase “e” and ultimately causing us to take the voice input route, which performed flawlessly on the go, at highway speeds.
The map displayed is one of the most well-designed and informative we’ve tested, displaying in HD-like quality thanks to high-res hardware.
Under the hood, a 2.0L 4-cylinder twin-scroll, turbo engine produces 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at just above idle. One turbo responds to low engine RPMs while the other works at the higher end. The result: the X1 thrusts its occupants into their seats.
Whether it’s a straightaway or winding roads, the xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is constantly monitoring various sensor inputs and rerouting engine torque to the appropriate wheels. This is part of vehicle calibration, and those engineers deserve a round of applause.
Automatic start/stop of the engine is standard but can be switched off with the press of a button adjacent to the ignition button. We found it operated relatively smoothly, with just a tad vibration upon start-up to let everyone inside know that the X1 has auto start/stop.
But it BMW’s EfficientDynamics pays dividends in fuel economy, with our average across a week of daily mixed driving (much of it more spirited than usual), at around 29 MPG. Impressive for not even trying.
After a week, we managed to do a lot with the appropriately named “sport activity vehicle.” From moving a twin-sized mattress to grocery getting at Costco, this is an all-around impressive piece of machinery.