The BMW X1 is the top crossover in the small-luxury segment. It's zippy, agile, and roomy, plus it's got that upscale feel. It's got sporty handling and powerful performance, but it still gives you plenty of cargo and passenger space. That's why we put it on our 10Best Trucks and SUVs list for 2017.
This year, BMW didn't change much on the X1, which was fully redesigned in 2016. The old model had an inline-six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, but the new one comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and front-wheel drive. That's your only powertrain option. It's a smooth 228-hp turbo four with an eight-speed automatic. FWD is standard, but you can always get AWD. Our test X1 with AWD did 0-60 in 6.3 seconds - one of the quickest times in the segment. The ride is firm, but it's still got great cornering.
The interior is spacious, with nice leather, wood trim, and easy-to-use controls. Some parts feel kinda cheap, like the glovebox and the seat bin, but you can upgrade to sport seats for better support. It's packed with features, but you can't get heated rear seats. The X1 has the most cargo capacity in its segment, too.
The iDrive infotainment system is easy to use, but it's slow and there's only one USB port. You can get an 8.8-inch screen with nav, a head-up display, and a touchpad on the knob, but some menus can be tricky.
When we recently compared subcompact, premium-brand crossover SUVs, we referred to them as "haughty hatchbacks" - and that's still an apt description. But with crossovers now more popular than sedans, this class is the new way to experience luxury. To create its latest baby SUV, the X1, BMW used a transverse engine and a front-wheel-drive-based chassis, which is quite different from the brand's other offerings and its historical tradition. BMW did try to adapt its traditional-style layout to this genre with the first-generation X1, which was built on a rear-drive platform and offered (as an option) an inline six-cylinder engine. But this blueprint was too cramped and space inefficient for the X1, so it switched to a front-wheel-drive platform shared with the latest Minis.
It's a daring move for BMW purists - and we understand why - but it's also a great success. The X1 is one of the few subcompact crossovers with a genuinely spacious passenger compartment and a versatile cargo hold; it offers just as much interior space as the larger X3. Plus, its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger is at or near the top of the heap in output and fuel economy, thanks to an excellent eight-speed automatic.
But it's the X1's chassis that really stands out. Although it's BMW's first front-wheel-drive architecture, the Mini brand - which shares this platform - has plenty of experience making lively, sharp-handling cars, and that shows here. The X1 corners energetically, yet its firm ride never gets punishing. It also has BMW's best steering - perfectly weighted and ultra precise.
Finally, the X1 avoids the terminal dorkiness that's rampant among these vehicles. It looks much like a BMW in the X3 and X5 mold, and its interior has a BMW-characteristic control layout and design. The materials may not be 7-series quality, but the X1 isn't hampered by the gimmicky complexity of many top-end BMW offerings.
Delivering excellence in the nascent subcompact-luxury-SUV segment is no small feat, but the BMW X1 lives up to the badge on its hood.