When BMW said it was going to be making the next X1 SUV front-wheel drive-based, fans scoffed at the idea, claiming BMW to have lost its way. We were hesitant at first, too, wondering if the second-generation X1 would lose some of the handling magic that embodied the first-gen. However, when we got our first drive of the X1, we were pleasantly surprised. Is it as fun as the previous rear-wheel drive model? No, but it’s close. Though it makes up for that with better space, comfort and everyday livability. So does CNET’s Roadshow feel like it can stack up against the competition?
Well, very well, actually. The new BMW X1 is certainly bigger than the previous model, with more interior space and a taller seating position, giving it a more SUV-like feel to it. While the new X1 is front-wheel drive-based, it’s only available in xDrive28i spec in the US. This means BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is standard and the new B48 four-cylinder engine is the only engine available. An Aisin eight-speed automatic is the only transmission option as well. While this powertrain isn’t the most enthusiast-friendly, trust me it’s plenty fun enough. BMW’s new B48 engine is fast enough and has enough punch to make it fun, while the Aisin gearbox shifts quickly and smoothly enough to mimic the fantastic ZF eight-speed.
While the new X1’s front-drive-based layout might not sound particularly exciting, it can seriously handle and is actually quite fun to drive. On the X1’s launch, I spoke to some people who worked on the new X1 and said that there’s no sport suspension option because the stock suspension is a sport suspension. So all X1 models have a sporty ride and feel, making it the most fun car to drive in its class. Steering is accurate and sharp, though it’s a bit too light and lacking in feel. However, the latter is kind of par for the course in this segment. But it’s certainly the better driving car than the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Inside, there’s loads more room than in the previous car and it has best-in-class cargo space. So what it loses in handling dynamics, it makes up for in practicality. The interior is very nicely made and the design is fresh. The folks at CNET complain about the seats lacking support in this video and we’d have to agree. They’r a little flat for an SUV that’s supposed to have sporty intentions. However, the rest of the interior is quite nice. The higher seating position might put some enthusiasts off, but it actually gives better forward visibility and a more commanding view of the road, allowing the driver to better place the front end of the car. And, overall, it doesn’t feel tall of big from the driver’s seat and actually feels like a much sportier car than one might think.
All in all, the new BMW X1 is a very good little crossover, one that’s easily best-in-class. We’ve driven it before and were impressed on our short drive. It’s nice to hear some love for it from another publication, though, as most just want to complain about how it isn’t the old model. If you’re a BMW enthusiast with a family and need something with space, the BMW X1 is a very good choice.