Sometimes it’s hard to point to exactly what you like about a thing.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Output: 228 hp, 258 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG) 22 city, 32 hwy
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 10.5 city, 7.4 hwy
US Price: Starts at $36,895
CAN Price: Starts at $42,445/$52,240 as tested
Popcorn, for instance, isn’t all that nourishing, isn’t all that salty (a pretzel would put it to shame), and the little kernel shells get stuck in your teeth. But when this light, buttery, just-salty-enough snack comes together, it’s alchemy. The 2018 BMW X1 is kind of the same. It doesn’t excel in one area, but rather it’s pretty good in a lot of areas. It’s elegant, it interacts with the driver in interesting ways, and it’s a really good ferry.
I’ll come back to that last point later, but let’s start with luxury. The world has become awash in little crossovers that are supposed to appeal to Millennials even though we don’t actually have any money to speak of. As a result, many of these CUVs, despite their luxury-promising badges, are austere. Austerity may be Germany’s favorite hobby, but if Spain and Greece should have taught German carmakers anything, it’s that Millennials aren’t fond of austerity. The X1’s interior isn’t ugly, it’s just boring and desperately needs some color. But what it lacks in sheer ebullience, it makes up for in mature grace.
There’s a place for childish glee and that place is inside a MINI (with which the X1 shares a platform). BMW has wisely decided to keep the X1 reserved, but not joyless. The mocha brown seats are classically good looking, but the hint of red that shines through in certain lights gives the interior a little flair. On top of that, all of the materials are of excellent quality and are arranged in a simple but visually pleasing way. On this score, BMW will soon face stiff competition from brands like Volvo with the XC40, but for now, the result is an interior that makes adulthood feel good.
That’s where BMW has been the smartest. It has noticed that selling a product as youthful doesn’t mean that youths are necessarily the ones buying it. Young people, as we’ve established, don’t have money. Slightly older people, who do have money, want to feel young but without all the inconvenience of youth. The X1 walks that line beautifully.
ALSO SEE: 2018 BMW X3 Review
And just like BMW knows its customers intimately, it also understands people. A lot of cars go on and on about how integrated they are and then offer Apple CarPlay and call it a day. The X1 offers that but goes above and beyond by also giving you a really handy place to put your phone, making it easy to connect, and then having it tell you about all the interesting places you’re driving past.
With a really fascinating Wiki lookup feature, your infotainment screen quickly becomes a treasure trove of local information. The function uses GPS to look up points of interest around you and then brings up the Wikipedia article. It’s surprisingly easy to use and anyone who has listened to the 99% Invisible podcast will immediately understand the appeal of learning about all the little wonders that surround us every day.
It’s a dangerously interesting feature because anyone with an ounce of curiosity will find looking at the screen irresistible even if they’re, say, driving. The reason I like it, though, is that it shows that BMW is really looking to actually do stuff with all this connectivity we’re being promised. A lot of modern infotainment is, frankly, unnecessary. You get a lot of big screens, giving you not much more information that we had access to before the iPadification of vehicle interiors. Sure, seeing the album cover of the song I’m listening to is fine, I guess, but it’s not particularly enriching. The X1, though, actually does something with that screen. And the Wiki info feature does help pass the time when you’re stuck in city traffic, which might be what this car does best.
Easy Driving Dynamics
Even though the X1 is based on the same platform as most MINIs, of which I am an avowed fan, the drive isn’t particularly engaging. But for the task of ferrying humans to and from work, it’s peerless.
BMW has designed its little crossover to be as unsporty as possible and that was bold. But the result is a smooth, easy-driving car whose only concern is doing daily tasks comfortably. The throttle progresses easily, the steering is light and effortless, and the bakes work confidently but don’t grab needlessly.
The Verdict: 2018 BMW X1 xDrive28i Review
The BMW X1, put simply, is nice. It has the right combination of pretty enough, inexpensive enough, and fancy enough to feel like the kind of compromise you want to make. The updates to the exterior have also made this crossover genuinely handsome. And to top it all off, it’s very forgiving to drivers and passengers, but driving enthusiasts will not be enthused by its dull demeanor. The X1 is not a totally compelling package, but like the popcorn, if you have that particular craving, it will satisfy that need nicely.
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