[REVIEW] 2020 BMW X1 M Sport

Over the course of its six year lifecycle, the previous generation BMW X1 clocked up an astounding 730,000 worldwide sales. Built in factories across the globe, Germany, China, Russia, and India, the X1 sold surprisingly well despite the fact that it was rather plainly finished in-and-out, and the handling was nowhere close to that of Munich’s best.

Nonetheless, the enduring power of the BMW brand prevailed once again and sales were strong. Hoping for lightning to strike twice, when redesigning the X1 for the 2017 model year, BMW made its premium compact crossover SUV wider, roomier, more technologically advanced, and more fuel efficient.

Based on BMW’s compact UKL model platform, also shared with the MINI Countryman, the vehicle was fitted with a transversely mounted engine for the first time.

With the new iteration, some auto scribes complained that some of BMW’s magic was missing from the redesigned X1. Given that it was no longer based on the 3-Series’ rear-wheel-drive platform, it wasn’t as pure from an auto enthusiast standpoint.

However, the customers have spoken once again as the X1 continues to be one of the companies’ top selling vehicles in the fierce premium compact crossover market.

What’s new for 2020

The facelifted second-generation BMW X1 carries over its shrunken X3 chunky look, offering plenty of space inside for transporting families around.

While the car carries over the exact same dimensions as before (4,448 mm long, 1,821 mm wide, 1,598 mm high), the bulk of the updates have to do with bringing the front and rear ends of the vehicle more in line with the revised BMW corporate look.

The M Sport trim lives up to its branding, with body coloured exterior trim and an extended bodykit, lowered suspension, part-Alcantara seat trim and LED headlights.

Up front, new LED headlamps have been fitted along with integrated LED foglamps. The air intakes have been increased in size, as have the kidney grills. Easily the biggest apparent change, the new grilles are now made of one single united component rather than two separate bodies as before.

Their new sculptured design is more than just for appearances alone. The larger openings also allow for improved airflow.

At the rear, the main change is an addition of an inlay in the body-colour rear bumper and a slight increase in size for the exhaust tips, from 70 mm to 90 mm. New tinted LED taillights with L-shaped light bars extenuate the wider appearance of the exterior.

New metallic colours are also offered, along with four new wheel designs. My test vehicle, painted in a stunning Misano Blue (one of the new colours), was unmistakable amongst the sea of conservatively painted silver, white, blue, grey and black BMWs around town.

For me, perhaps the most noticeable physical change to the interior is the welcome addition of the corporate BMW gearshift lever as opposed to the pre-facelift X1 that had a rather awkwardly tall looking shift lever with a leather boot. That design reminded me of the long throw manual transmission shift lever from a 1990’s era Japanese family sedan.

The good stuff carried over

This second-generation version of the X1 continues to be roomy, fuel efficient, and brimming with enough technology to keep entry level luxury buyers happy.

The X1’s 228 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers more than reasonable acceleration for the class of entry luxury XUVs. This powerplant is paired with a fantastic Aisin-sourced Steptronic eight-speed automatic transmission. The latter has been updated for 2020, with revised gear ratios for improved performance and comfort.

BMW’s engineers have continued to exemplify why they’re one of the best in the business; the engine revs freely with barely any turbo lag. The well-sorted transmission delivers smooth and impressively quick upshifts and there’s always plenty of power on tap should you require a burst of speed to squirt through an opening in traffic.

The engine’s 258 lb-ft of peak torque is available in the low and mid-range where the majority of daily driving takes place. Acceleration from 0-100 km/hr is now accomplished in 6.5 seconds.

New design 18 inch Y-spoke bi-color and black wheels replace the previous Y-spoke wheel design. A new 19 inch Y-spoke bi-colour wheel replaces an outgoing 19 inch Y-spoke wheel design.

As fitted to my test vehicle, 18 inch M Double-spoke bi-color wheels with either all-season run flat or non-run-flat tires are standard when selecting M Sport Package. Additionally, M Sport vehicles can be upgraded with 19 inch M Double-spoke bi-color wheels with 225/45R19 performance run-flat tires.

What’s new in the interior?

Aside from the new electronic gearshift lever, not much has changed visually on the equipment front.

When opening the front doors, the driver and passengers are greeted by a new two-tone LED “X1” welcome projection. Inside the cabin, occupants are now greeting by the standard 22.4 cm (8.8 inch) central control display screen with iDrive 6, GPS Navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility.

The instrument panel and floor mats feature new, decorative contrast stitching. Choosing the optional Dakota leather interior adds colour-matched lower dashboard and door handles surfaces.

Equipped with the Premium Essential Package, my X1 M Sport test vehicle included all of the modern conveniences that one would expect including a panoramic moonroof, parking assistant, heads-up display, and BMW’s ConnectedDrive system.

BMW has also taken the plunge in adopting the newer USB-C plugs, which is a good or bad thing, depending on how much of an investment you have in USB-A cables like yours truly.

The M Sport package also includes the choice of Brushed Aluminum Trim with Pearl Chrome Accent or High-Gloss Black Trim with Pearl Chrome Accent, and a wonderfully meaty M Leather steering wheel.

Behind the wheel

The X1’s UKL platform’s steel monocoque underbody is significantly stiffer than that of the previous generation X1. Unusual for a transversely engine car it allows for near-perfect 50/50 front/aft weight distribution.

All Canadian X1s continue to be fitted with BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system, delivered via an electro-hydraulic clutch situated on the rear axle. Just don’t go off thinking you can take your X1 too far off the beaten track though. While hill descent control is included, this is more meant for the ski hill versus the off-road track.

One quick drive behind that meaty M sport steering wheel of the X1 and you’ll find that the X1 offers weightier steering and less body roll than most rivals. As with most other BMWs these days, there are different drive experience modes available.

With the adaptive dampers connected to the toggle switch that selects these different settings, the X1 feels alert in Sport mode. Thankfully, the ride is never as crashy as in some rivals even in this stiffer Sport setting.

In Comfort mode, the X1 is surprisingly absorbent even with the larger wheel options offered by BMW. The suspension filters out suspension movements with finesse and keeps things level. This means it’s more comfortable around town and on the motorway than most rivals, while the engine isn’t quite as noisy, either.

Is the X1 as pure of an ultimate driving machine as the company’s BMW 3-Series? Well no, perhaps not. It delivers satisfying enough handling that BMW is famous for, but it’s tough to have all your cake and eat it too.

Final thoughts

With its refreshed styling, the 2020 BMW X1 continues to be a small luxury crossover that offers a premium feel in an attractive package that offers style, fun driving, and the cache from the legendary BMW brand.


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