Broadening the BMW lineup beyond its well-known cars and appealing to the latest trend of compact SUVs, the 2016 BMW X1 aims to tap into this growing market. It likely would be the best SUV in the segment with its outstanding driving dynamics if it wasn’t so painful to sit in.
While the X1 is technically a crossover, BMW reworked the model to be more SUV like and less wagon-ish. The company also added a host of changes to this model. These changes include raising its height which also netted the benefit of adding more interior space.
BMW also made several new powertrain changes including a significant switch from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. Plus, a new 2.0 twin-turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with 228 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque replaces the six-cylinder engine and a new 8-speed transmission were added. This powertrain helps the X1 deliver fuel economy of 22/32/26 city/highway/combined MPGs.
Ultimately, these changes all add up to basically a brand-new offering from BMW.
One thing that isn’t changed is use of BMW’s distinctive styling. While carrying over the design language throughout a lineup can result in some odd-looking vehicles, the X1 works. From the exterior through the interior, the 2016 BMW X1 features attractive styling lines and premium materials. There are no odd-looking styling features and it is styling-wise an attractive vehicle.
Sitting in the X1 it is clear the main benefit of the raised height (63.5” vs. 60.8”) is driver visibility. The rake of the windshield and the height create a shocking amount of visibility from behind the steering wheel. This visibility combined with the easy-to-reach buttons, 8-way adjustable seats and well-placed gear shifter should create an ideal vehicle to drive except there is one big miss here – the seats.
Now, I’m not a big man by any stretch of the imagination (5’6” and 230 lbs), yet driving around in the X1 was painful to my legs. While seat comfort is a subjective item for all consumers, I was quite shocked by the X1’s bottom cushion. I often found myself sliding off the cushion and fought to obtain a comfortable driving position. Unfortunately, no matter how I tried, the edge of the seats cut into the back of my legs and created an uncomfortable driving experience.
This was a shame since I could tell the X1 carries on the tradition of excellent driving dynamics from BMW. Acceleration was quick, braking was solid and the steering was exceptionally responsive. It also did an excellent job on the snow which arrived via a massive storm a day after I received the vehicle.
In fact, during my week of driving the SUV, it spend 90 percent of the time dealing with several inches of snow, ice and, at times, challenging weather conditions with wind gusts of more than 30 MPH. Driving around with these conditions, the X1 did nothing short than brilliant. Where other vehicles skidded off the road, it felt solid, stopped with minimal issues and accelerated confidently thanks to the xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
The upside of the conditions was my ability to test it out in winter driving conditions while the downside is I didn’t get the chance to test it out on dry pavement that much. I suspect the X1 performs equally well on dry pavement as it did on ice-covered roadways.
Beyond the driving, the X1 offers plenty of cargo room including a good amount of rear cargo space for two car seats. The rear features a 40/20/40 seat split, slide and recline option and 39.4” of legroom. This space allowed me to carry four people (2 adults, 2 kids) around without feeling cramped. With the seats down, the rear cargo space grows to surprisingly good 58.7” of room. Plus, the panoramic moonroof featured in the Premium Package was a big hit with everyone and made the SUV feel larger.
The IDrive infotainment system took some time to get used to with controls located next to the gear shifter and on the 6.5” center screen. It isn’t quite as intuitive as other systems, yet with some seat time, consumers will get the hang of it.
In the end, testing the 2016 BMW X1 was both exhilarating and disappointing. I really wanted to spend more time behind the wheel, yet the seat pain limited my ability to do so.
Model: 2016 BMW X1 iDrive28i
Engine: 2.0L Twin-Turbo Inline 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Fuel Economy: 22/32/26 city/highway/combined
- Cold Weather Package (heated front seats) – $550
- Driver Assistance Package (rearview camera, park distance control, parking assistant) – $1,150
- Drive Assistance Plus (active driving assistance) – $700
- Luxury Package (no items listed) – $1,550
- Premium Package (power-folding mirrors, garage-door opener, comfort access keyless entry, panoramic moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors/rearview mirror, lumbar support, ambient lighting, LED headlights with cornering) – $3,250
- Technology Package (BMW online/Apps, advanced RTTI, remote services, enhanced bluetooth and smartphone integration, navigation touchpad) – $2,550
Price as Tested: $46,395 with $995 destination charge
- Driving Dynamics
- Driver Visibility
- Cargo Space
- Seat Comfort
- IDrive intuitiveness