2016 BMW X1 crossover shakes its wagon roots for small SUV style – CNET

Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2016

The outgoing generation of BMW’s X1 compact crossover was a favorite of mine. Though marketed, perceived and sold as a small SUV — or “SAV” (sports activity vehicle) in eye-rolling BMW-speak — the vehicle actually looked, stood and drove more like a slightly enlarged hatchback or a small wagon. Its handling and performance are ultimately what wowed me, but I have to admit that the novelty of this covert wagon infiltrating the rapidly growing compact SUV market really cemented the X1’s place in my heart.

BMW says that its buyers felt differently. They wanted more space, a more commanding seating position, and perhaps most importantly, they wanted their new small crossover to, well, actually look like a small SUV. Can’t have the neighbors calling it a wagon — eww. So, the BMW X1 has been totally redesigned for 2016. It’s got a shorter wheelbase, is taller overall, and now boasts the more SUV-like design that buyers in this segment are looking for.

And though I’m sad to see the North American wagon die just a little bit more, even I have to admit after my drive that the new 2016 BMW X1 xDrive28i is better than before.

As a fan of the old X1, I doubted the new SUV-like profile, but even I was won over by the improved performance and space.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The more upright stance and some clever interior design affords the new X1 more interior volume than before. Its cabin has more room for people than the Audi Q3, and to boot, there’s more boot space for cargo out back. In a three-way comparison with the Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA , the X1 is the most spacious. A generous greenhouse with large windows, capped by an optional and massive panoramic moonroof, goes a long way toward making the X1’s cabin feel even more airy and bright.

At 228 horsepower for the xDrive28i trim, it’s also the most powerful. The new X1 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs a tidy 258 pound-feet of torque. Despite having the same number of cylinders and the same displacement as last year, this is an all-new engine from the automaker’s modular series. Essentially, this latest engine uses the same core design as BMW’s new inline-six that’s found in the new 2016 340i, but with two cylinders lopped off. (OK, maybe it’s not exactly that simple.)

The new mill feels even more responsive than the one that won me over in 2013; the new eight-speed automatic transmission, on the other hand, somewhat dulls the fun in its standard setting. Fortunately, there is a Sport drive mode setting that puts the entire powertrain on edge and allow the engine to shine. There’s also an Eco Pro setting that does the opposite, smoothing out acceleration for improved efficiency.

Inside, the BMW boasts more space for people and their stuff than do the Audi Q3 or Mercedes-Benz GLA. Its iDrive tech is also better overall.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Speaking of efficiency, at an EPA estimated 23 city, 34 highway, and 27 combined mpg, the BMW is has the same thrifty combined estimate as the Merc-Benz GLA250 4matic (gaining ground on highway efficiency, but losing it in the city). Across the board, the Bimmer sips less than the Audi Q3 Quattro, which is surprising considering the Audi’s power deficit and claimed focus on efficiency.

In the new dashboard, just above the new asymmetrical center console, is a new generation of BMW’s iDrive infotainment, which is to say that’s it’s the same software that we’ve grown both to love for its robust feature set and loathe for its complicated menu structure, but with snappier hardware underpinning it.

BMW’s optional, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system sounds quite good when fed a reasonably high-quality digital source, such as Spotify streamed over Bluetooth or a broadcast received by its standard HD radio decoder, but it falls flat when asked to reproduce lower-quality sources such as satellite radio. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are “coming soon” to future BMW models but, for now at least, the X1 isn’t one of them.


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