New for 2020: A facelifted BMW X1 bowed for the 2020 model year, debuting a restyled front fascia with available LED headlamps and BMW’s controversial new buck-tooth grille design. The rear end has also been tweaked, now featuring bigger exhaust tips and tinted LED taillights, and inside the vehicle, a standard 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen replaces the old base 6.5-inch unit.

The BMW X1 is the smallest, lowest-priced member of BMW’s Sports Activity Vehicle lineup, serving as the entry-level option in a portfolio that’s grown exponentially since the first X5 launched in 1999. The current second-generation model marks a significant departure from BMW’s long-established passenger vehicle formula as it employs a transverse–or FWD-based–powertrain configuration. The transverse platform on which the latest X1 rides also underpins vehicles like the Mini Countryman, BMW 1 Series, and BMW 2 Series.

Of course, all-wheel-drive remains an option, and luxury doesn’t much care which wheels the torque is being sent to, anyway. We’re not mincing words here; the BMW X1 truly is a premium offering, despite its un-BMW-like powertrain configuration and its entry-level (for BMW) pricing. Just two trims are offered–the front-wheel-drive sDrive28i, and the all-wheel-drive xDrive28i–and both come standard with premium leatherette seat upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, seven-speaker HiFi audio, and exactly the sort of fit and finish you’d expect from a German premium brand.

Both BMW X1 trims employ a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 228 horsepower, partnered with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission that boasts both Sport and Manual shift modes.

The 2020 BMW X1 sDrive28i starts at $36,195 including destination, while the AWD xDrive model costs an extra $2,000, raising the base MSRP to $38,195.

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BMW X1 Powertrain

The 2020 BMW X1’s single available powerplant is a peach, coupling BMW’s double VANOS variable-valve timing and Valvetronic variable-valve lift to serve up ample torque and efficiency throughout the RPM range. Boosted by a fast-spooling twin-scroll turbocharger, the mill peaks at 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, facilitating a 0-to-60 time of 6.6 seconds in the sDrive28i—more than enough performance for the average commuter.

The only transmission available is a torque-converter automatic unit with eight forward gears, a Sport mode, and a manual-shift mode operated with steering-mounted paddle shifters. Front-wheel drive comes standard, with an optional all-wheel-drive system that vectors torque to the rear axle as needed using an electronically controlled clutch pack.

BMW X1 Features And Pricing

sDrive28i: Starts at $36,195

Like any true premium vehicle, the BMW X1 features plenty of superfluous equipment as standard, including speed-sensitive power steering, selectable drive modes (Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport), 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-like SensaTec upholstery, 205 W audio with seven speakers, and navigation with real-time traffic info on a standard 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment screen. Additional notable equipment includes rain-sensing wipers, a power tailgate, and BMW’s Advanced Vehicle & Key Memory, which recalls the most recently used seat and mirror positions, audio settings, climate control settings, and locking and lighting preferences automatically.

xDrive28i: $38,195

The xDrive28i has exactly the same standard equipment as its 2WD counterpart, but with BMW’s xDrive AWD system and hill-descent control fitted as standard. We don’t reckon too many  X1 owners will be taking the pint-sized utility vehicle off-road, but for those rare occasions where you can use it, hill-descent control is a great feature to have.

Most of the differentiation between X1s happens at the optional package level, and there’s plenty of equipment to choose from. A $4,500 M Sport package transforms the X1’s appearance with an M steering wheel, sport seats, a more aggressive front fascia and aerodynamics kit, LED fog lamps, and exterior trim and roof rails finished in Shadowline. The transmission gets a sportier calibration on that model.

Additionally, a $2,250 Convenience package is also on offer, featuring power-folding side mirrors, lumbar support, auto-dimming mirrors, a panoramic moonroof, and some other goodies. A $5,000 Premium package includes all of the above, along with an enhanced navigation system, head-up display, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and LED headlights with cornering lights.

BMW X1 Recommended Trim

If it were our money, we’d be looking at the 2020 BMW xDrive28i with the Convenience package. The M Sport package looks nifty, but it’s too steeply priced for what you get. Same with the Premium package: the only really notable additions it has over the Convenience package are a head-up display and heated front seats. HUDs are neat, but far from essential, and OE-quality aftermarket seat heating elements can always be installed after ordering.

BMW X1 Fuel Economy

The EPA estimates fuel economy for the 2020 BMW X1 sDrive28i on the order of 27 mpg combined, from 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg highway. Bringing xDrive all-wheel drive into the mix sees city fuel economy drop to 23 mpg and highway to 31 mpg, for a combined rating of 26 mpg. Those figures are marginally better than on the 2019 model, which offered an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive sDrive28i, and 25 mpg for the all-wheel-drive model.

BMW X1 vs Audi Q3

2019 audi q3

On paper, the Audi Q3 is the X1’s doppelgänger. All-new for 2020, the latest Audi Q3 has the same engine displacement and type, with the same horsepower and torque ratings, and the same number of forward gears: eight. But the BMW X1 is some 200 pounds lighter than Audi’s Q3, and the driving experience benefits with superior acceleration and on-road manners. The interior is more nicely finished, too, although passenger space is somewhat more cramped than in the Audi.

With their pretty-much-even MSRPs, we’d say that’s a win for the BMW.

Read More 2019 Audi Q3 Review

BMW X1 vs Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

The question of BMW X1 versus Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a tough one to answer, as an all-new version of Mercedes’s pint-sized crossover will go on sale later this year. The current GLA 250 on sale in the US stands no chance against the X1, its interior dated-looking and cheap-feeling, and its ride surprisingly harsh.

We can’t say whether the new, 2021 GLA 250 will have a better ride, but we can say the interior looks massively improved, with the sort of fit and finish one would expect from a Mercedes-Benz. The engine—a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder—makes only slightly more power than before, but every bit counts given the gulf in acceleration between the GLA and the X1.

This match-up is very much a wait-and-see sort of deal.

BMW X1 vs Volvo XC40

2019 Volvo XC40 Review

Volvo’s spunky XC40 is one of the more interesting vehicles in the segment, both for its plurality of engine options and its un-Volvo-like styling. Both engines are turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinders, one rated at 187 horsepower, and the other rated at 248—more than any other car here.

If it’s driving dynamics you’re after, the BMW X1 is the clear winner, but the Volvo XC40 has plenty to offer, including a standard 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, a striking, atmospheric, and upscale-feeling cabin, and loads of active driver assist features. Plus, it’s just cuter.

Read More 2019 Volvo XC40 Review

Detailed Specs

Engine / 2.0L turbocharged I4
Power (hp) / 228
Torque (lb-ft) / 258
Fuel Economy (mpg, city/hwy/combined) / 24/33/27 / 23/31/26
Transmission/ Drivetrain / 8AT, FWD/AWD
Price Range / $36,195-$38,195

Our Final Verdict

Despite its age – the current BMW X1 has been around in more or less the same state since 2015 – the X1 arguably remains the top dog in the subcompact luxury crossover segment. Its mix of pleasurable driving dynamics, ace fit-and-finish, and overall comfort make it a class leader, although it could do with a higher-performance M version, to take on the Mercedes-AMG GLA45. Pricing is par for the course, and reasonable even with optional extras, with the exception of the $4,500 M-Sport package.

The BMW X1 is commonly regarded as the segment leader for a reason. Who would expect anything less from the builders of the Ultimate Driving Machine?