2016 BMW X1

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Bigger and better than the original

Date Posted: February 11, 2016
By Zack Spencer

BMW was ahead of the curve when it decided to not only introduce the X3 compact crossover but also the X1, a slightly smaller alternative. BMW is now on its second version of the X1 as some manufacturers are just trying to crack into this hot market

Being the first to market often has its advantages. This is true with BMW. At the Detroit Auto show, way back in 2003, the Bavarian automaker was the first to introduce a compact utility in the premium market with the X3. This decision was well ahead of the curve, seeing the market moving to smaller compact utilities instead of big, heavy traditional SUVs. Today, in 2016, this compact utility space is the fastest growing segment of the Canadian market and BMW is poised to dominate on two fronts. Yes, the X3 was the originator but BMW also saw an opportunity with an even smaller utility built on the BMW 3-Series wagon called the X1. The original X1 was introduced, in Canada, back in 2011. Some automakers are just entering this competitive segment now; BMW already has the second versions of the X3 and X1 on the road today.

What BMW did to build the original X1 was take an older 3-Series wagon platform, raise the ride height, add some body cladding and give it a more rugged look and ride. By tweaking a station wagon, the X1 helped quench the endless thirst for utility products. This new X1 differs a lot from the original; even though you might be forgiven for thinking the X1 looks exactly the same. Under this latest 2016 model is a platform shared with BMW’s Mini brand. By co-developing a platform to be used by both companies, shares the expense and can also simplify the parts and production methods. Because the Mini is a front wheel drive (FWD) car, the engine under the hood of the X1 now sits side-to-side, not running along the length of the vehicle. This greatly improves the packaging of the cabin, providing a massive bump in space. For BMW purists, not to worry, this is an all wheel drive (AWD) car not FWD car like a Mini.

You could be forgiven for not noticing the differences between the first X1 and this all-new model. The styling is similar but on closer inspection there are some details that make this new version a better product. First, the roof sits slightly higher, providing larger side windows and improving headroom. The second is the rear hatch is larger and squarer for easier access into the bigger cargo area. Also, the rear hatch is power operated, something the original didn’t offer.

Inside, the biggest change is the amount of space this new cabin offers. Because the engine sits side-to-side, the engineers could then push the dash and windshield forward, and the dash lower, allowing a more open view out the front window. In addition, because the roof is higher, the seats sit up, providing a commanding view out the bigger front window. The front and rear legroom has been improved dramatically and the rear seat has a slide forward feature allowing for more space in the cargo rear or maybe the driver would like the rear seat closer if a child was in a car seat. Even with the seats in the normal position, the rear cargo area is 85 liters larger than before.

BMW certainly sticks to a theme with styling both outside and inside. The dash has familiar BMW controls and switches, including the iDrive controller, but this shared platform allowed the centre console, between the front seats to sit much lower, providing an open space. Compared to the older X1, this is a much more spacious feeling cabin.

BMW has gone with a one-engine strategy, for now. Unlike the X3, that can be equipped with a three engines, this new X1 has an all-new 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as the only power plant. Even though both the X3 and X1 have a 2.0L 4-cylinder, the X3 motor has more power at 241hp. This new X1 version has 228hp and 258lb-ft. of torque. But this new engine is a star. It has plenty of acceleration, thanks a very usable torque over a wide range, plus a lighter platform. Both the X1and X3 can make a run to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds, so the less powerful engine isn’t a factor. What the owner will find is fuel economy of 10.7L/100km in the city and 7.4 on the highway. Unfortunately the diesel engine found in the X3 is not offered. It’s too bad because it gets much improved fuel economy of 8.6L/100km in the city and 6.9L on the highway, and the X3 is a larger, heavier vehicle.

A main pillar of both the Mini brand and BMW is handling. This new platform delivers a lot of fun-to-drive factor. This is because the steering is much lighter feeling than the last car and the engine and transmission are always up for some fun. The driver can even choose different drive modes to suite the driving style, from comfort the sporty.

With a starting price of $38,800, this new X1 is less expensive than many compact utilities like the X3, Audi Q5 or Acura RDX but more expensive than the new Mercedes GLA or Audi Q3. What this X1 offers is a level of experience in the smaller-than-compact utility space that the other just don’t have yet. Being first to market has advantages and BMW is exploiting them now.


Power: 2.0L 4-cylinder with 228hp

Economy: 10.7L/7.4L/100km (city/highway) 

Sticker price: $38,800








Being first to market has advantages and BMW is exploiting them now.
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