2018 BMW X1 review

Does BMW’s smallest SUV live up to its name?

When the first-generation BMW X1 first made its debut, many wondered if the marketplace was ready for yet another BMW model, let alone another BMW Sports Activity Vehicle.

When the second-generation X1 made its debut in Spring of 2015, BMW proudly announced that more than 730,000 units of the first-generation X1 had been sold globally. Therefore this provided irrefutable evidence that the world’s audience was indeed ready for yet another premium-badged compact utility vehicle in the marketplace.


Despite being the smallest BMW SUV, the BMW X1 treats the premium compact segment with a potent shot of the company’s Sports Activity Vehicle DNA.

The original X1 was based on BMW’s 3-Series, and hence was rear-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive-based. However, the current model X1 is built on BMW’s compact UKL platform, also shared with the MINI Countryman and Clubman.

The UKL platform was designed to be front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive right from the get-go, therefore offering significant packaging advantages when it comes to roomier interior dimensions.

Good things come in small packages

In this segment where consumers want big interior space with a compact exterior, intelligent packaging is everything. In almost every dimension, the X1 is considerably larger than its rivals inside. There is loads of luggage space, and the double-level floor means that there is even more hidden cargo space for odds and ends under the main cargo floor.

Thanks to the front-wheel-drive layout, the rear seats have significantly more legroom than the first-generation X1. A sliding rear seat adds even more flexibility should you need it.

What are the X1’s rivals you might wonder? Well they include the brand-new and very good Volvo XC40, the Jaguar E-Pace, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, and the Audi Q3. Even BMW itself has a competitor to the X1.

No it’s not the MINI Countryman, but in fact the slightly less roomy, but more “stylish” and newly launched X2. Mind you, the X1 is supposed to appeal to the more practical-minded of the two target audiences.

Performance and Handling

At 1,677 kilograms (3,697 lbs), the X1 relatively svelte. Equipped with our X1 xDrive28i press car’s 228hp 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the sprint from 0 to 100 km/hr is accomplished in a spritely and smooth 6.3 seconds.

While the engine is not the most powerful in the segment (for example, the Jaguar E-Pace P250 has an extra 18 hp), it does have a flat and broad power band. Max torque peaks at 258 lb-ft starting at a low 1,250 rpms all the way to 4,500 rpms.

With these facts and figures, the seat of the pants feel is that the X1’s performance is still more than punchy enough, while still being frugal at the pumps.

Compared to its stiffly sprung and unforgiving predecessor, the X1’s forté has got to be its much improved handling. Over bad pavement, the X1’s shorter wheelbase and suspension dialled-in for sportiness may result in some chassis unsettledness over really rough roads. Yes, the ride is still solidly Teutonic and stiffer than the small SUV norm, but handling is consequently above average as well.

Overall, the X1 is in keeping with what you’d expect from BMW and very comfortable enough most of the time.

Aided by its efficient and effective xDrive all-wheel-drive system and Dynamic Stability Control, the X1 goes where it’s pointed, whether the road is wet, dry, or snowy. It is still set-up for safe understeer when pushed hard, but xDrive proactively distributes the engine’s power front or rear, left or right as the situation requires. It’s truly one of the more sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems out there in the marketplace.

Credit for the X1’s handling also has to go to the electronic power steering system, which is weighty and precise with a reasonable amount of feedback. There are also a few different drive control models (Eco, Comfort, Sport) should you feel the need to tweak the level of responsiveness of your compact luxury SUV.


Overall, the X1 offers excellent visibility all around thanks to its higher than average driving position compared to a typical family sedan. The low-mounted dashboard also gives a decent view over the hood. The front seats have excellent adjustable lateral support, and the extendable thigh supports are very welcome on longer drives for taller occupants.

Thanks to the switch to the UKL platform and its transverse engine configuration, there is plenty of space front and back for lanky adults to get comfortable. Generous headroom abounds all around, and even a couple of six-footers will be more than comfortable on long journeys. Sure, carrying three adults in the back of the X1 is a bit of a squeeze, but that is the case for all compact SUVs in the segment.

The rear seatbacks also split and fold in a 40/20/40 configuration, allowing longer items to be fed through the folded centre rear portion through to the front. Happily, the cargo load floor is flushed with the cargo opening’s lip. This means that there is no annoying need to lift or drop down heavy items during the loading and unloading process.

Like the latest BMWs, all the dashboard controls are laid out in a logical manner. There is plenty of soft touch vinyl, chrome trim, and wood inlays to lift things up. Fitted with a heads-up display, sports seats, and the obligatory iDrive system with BMW’s advanced traffic-aware GPS system, the X1 has enough bells and whistles to satisfy almost everyone.

The large 8.0 inch display with BMW’s ConnectedDrive is certainly one of the best infotainment systems in the marketplace.

Overall, the X1 has the kind of solid build quality, well-oiled precision, and premium feel that its buyers will demand from a premium-badged German car.

Final Thoughts

The compact luxury SUV class is probably one of the most competitive segments in the automotive landscape today. By going to a transverse-engine design, the X1 joins its rivals in the marketplace, therefore losing some of its distinctiveness.

However, the vehicle’s strength is not in one particular area, but rather as the sum of all of its parts. Indeed, the X1 doesn’t excel in any one area, but yet remains very capable and probably the best all-rounder out there.

Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as, since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.