BMW’s X1 — Marking Its Place In The Sun

The odd design of the previous X1 didn’t hurt its sales one bit and it went on to be a best selling model. BMW has improved its design and more. Will it be another hit? SIX-SIX.COM finds out.

The previous X1 was remembered for being an oddly shaped attempt at a crossover by BMW. Based on the 3-series, it had the ride and stature of an executive sedan. But the rough exterior didn’t gel well with the ride height. Not that it mattered though.

Despite the odd pairing of ride height and exterior design, the model went on to become one of the brand’s most successful with 730,000 units sold worldwide.

That success has perhaps encouraged the brand to keep its ear close to the ground — especially with the wide audience the model has captured.

The latest generation has benefitted from a more proportionate design. And with larger body panels, the progression from the larger X3 to the X1 is a lot less profound. In fact, when viewed head on, the taller stature and larger kidney grilles help it to pass off as the larger X3.  

Based on a whole new platform, the car is now front wheel drive, which is peculiar for a brand that predominantly makes rear wheel drive cars. Naturally this fundamental design change has had an effect in the handling department.

Traditionally, the roles of the front and rear tyres of a car are clearly defined. The front takes care of steering while the rear puts power to the ground. In a front wheel drive car, the front wheels are tasked with both roles.

Due to this reason, the X1 doesn’t quite offer the normally spirited handling of a BMW. The steering also feels heavier because of this but accuracy remains a hallmark of the brand. Under heavy acceleration, the steering wheel can get away from you, which can startle drivers not used to it. Especially on wet roads where wheel spins occur more frequently. 

Despite the loss of some handling prowess, the entry-level crossover has gained in refinement. Ride quality is remarkably smooth due to its wider stature. Power from the engine is better managed by the slick shifting eight-speed transmission.

BMW’s extra effort can be seen on the interior where wider dimensions improved comfort levels dramatically. The rear seats are now spacious compared to the cramped dimensions of the previous generation.

Compared to the Audi Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the X1 enjoys a much larger boot. The sizable space beneath the false boot floor allows you to hide sensitive items like handbags and laptops away from prying eyes.

The X1 costs just $11,000 more than the entry-level 3-series but offers much more in practicality. 

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