2020 BMW X1 Review & Buying Guide | Efficiency and comfort, but not much excitement

Byron Hurd
·8 min read

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Like others in its class, the 2020 BMW X1 blurs the line between a traditional hatchback and a small crossover. It’s small and efficient, like the former, but has extra ground clearance and a high seating position, nudging it toward the latter. Available all-wheel drive seals the deal. At $36,195, it’s also the cheapest model BMW sells in the United States, beating out the small 2 Series coupe by a mere $100.

Since its redesign half a decade ago, BMW’s entry-level crossover has defied company tradition and enthusiast expectations with its front-wheel-drive layout. Sharing most of its underlying architecture with offerings from Mini, the X1 repels BMW purists, but buyers who care more about everyday practicality and a small, city-friendly footprint can find quite a bit to love about BMW’s baby utility vehicle. It's one of the most compelling vehicles in its class, especially given its above-average interior space that lets it err more on the crossover side of that blurred line than rivals like the Audi Q3 and Lexus UX. It's more like the impressive new Mercedes GLB in that regard and we think both that and the X1 are two of the segment's strongest entries because of it.   

What’s new for 2020?

The BMW X1 received a mid-cycle update for the 2020 model year. BMW took the opportunity to bring its styling more in line with its larger siblings, adding LED fog lights and taillights to go with its new, optional LED headlights. The M Sport package also gets revised aerodynamic elements for a sportier look. A set of walk-up puddle lamps with “X1” graphics round out the exterior updates.

Inside, the X1 now boasts a standard 8.8-inch infotainment system, contrast-stitched leatherette and leather interior elements (depending on package), and those who opt for leather will also get color-matched trim on the lower dash and door panels. BMW also updated the X1’s eight-speed transmission, which sports a new gear selector as a result.

What’s the interior and in-car technology like?

The X1 may be a BMW, but it’s still the cheapest BMW. Fortunately, the interior doesn’t drive that point home. The X1 makes use of premium plastics and imitation leather on base models, and loaded-up examples get premium elements such as Dakota leather upholstery and wood or aluminum trim. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are also available as stand-alone options.

The standard infotainment system ships with an 8.8-inch screen paired to BMW’s iDrive 6 system (more recently redesigned BMW models feature iDrive 7.0). Apple CarPlay is standard and works wirelessly (often with difficulty), but Android Auto is not yet available. That feature is slated for introduction to BMW’s lineup later in 2020.

How big is the 2020 BMW X1?

The X1 rides on a compact, 105-inch wheelbase. Inside, it feels almost the same size as a typical compact hatchback. In practical terms, the X1 is about 8 inches longer and 4 inches taller than a Volkswagen Golf. Unlike the mechanically similar X2, which BMW calls a ‘Sport Activity Coupe,’ the X1 prioritizes utility, and it’s one of the more comfortable and practical options among smaller luxury crossovers. It’s much more comfortable and spacious than the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Lexus UX.   

Thanks to its front-wheel drive layout, the X1 makes the most of this relatively small form factor, offering reasonable front- and rear-seat room along with plenty of cargo space behind the rear bench. Additional space is freed up by lifting the cargo floor, but this is eliminated if you opt for the available space-saver spare tire (run-flat tires are standard).

BMW chose a high-riding seating position for the X1’s seats, offering a commanding view of the road considering the crossover’s small footprint, but the seats themselves are firm and somewhat cramped. The back seats are adjustable, and a $300 option adds sliding bench bases and reclining backs, giving rear passengers more room at the expense of hatch area cargo space or vice-versa.

The X1 is equipped to seat five, but the center rear seat is really only suitable for emergencies, and if cargo space is a priority, the forward-most position of the rear bench bases will severely restrict legroom.

What’s the performance and fuel economy?

The 2020 X1 is still available with just one engine: a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With standard front-wheel drive (sDrive), BMW says it’ll do 0-60 in just 6.6 seconds; with the $2,000 all-wheel drive option (xDrive), that figure drops to just 6.3.

sDrive models are rated at 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 27 combined. xDrive models are rated at 23 city, 31 highway and 26 combined.

What is the X1 like to drive?

The X1 may have the bones of a hatchback, but the extra ground clearance, high seating position and relatively soft suspension take their tolls. There’s perceptible body lean in corners, and even with its drive mode set to “Sport,” the X1 never rises to the level of feeling like a hot hatchback, even if its numbers might suggest the capability. If you are looking for something zestier and can sacrifice interior space, the mechanically related BMW X2 is a better choice.

Neither are as luxurious as one might hope from vehicles wearing a luxury badge. The X1's large, heavy wheels and extra suspension travel of a crossover can make for an unpleasant ride over imperfect pavement.  The firm, somewhat narrow seats also detract from its luxury aspirations, leaving it somewhere in the middle in terms of drive comfort.

There are no complaints under the hood, though. The X1 may only offer one engine choice, unlike the X2, but at least it's a good one providing more than enough punch for both around-town driving and highway merges. The brakes also pack enough power to bring all 3,500-pounds of curb weight to a stop in a hurry.


What else can I read about the 2020 BMW X1?

2016 BMW X1 First Drive | A Crossover To Make Money, Not Brand Evangelists

Our first look at the then-new, front-wheel drive X1. 

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2020 BMW X1 xDrive25e brings plug-in power to the subcompact crossover

Not announced for U.S., yet, but it would probably be easy to bring over.

BMW X1 xDrive25e PHEV
BMW X1 xDrive25e PHEV


2020 BMW X2 Review and Buying Guide | Big style in a small package

The X2 is mechanically related to the X1, but trades practicality for more eye-catching style, a slightly more engaging driving experience and the option of a more powerful engine.


What features are available on the X1 and what do they cost?

In addition to the items mentioned above, the $36,195 X1 sDrive28i comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a power liftgate, parking sensors, power-adjustable front seats, and other items mentioned above. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option.

In lieu of additional trims, BMW offers most of the X1’s options either in packages or as individual add-ons. Adaptive cruise control, a Harman Kardon audio system, wireless charging, LED headlights, the M sport suspension and sport seats are all stand-alone options.

A $2,550 Convenience package adds a sunroof and proximity, among other features, and the $5,000 Premium package expands that to include niceties such as integrated navigation and a head-up display. The $1,550 Luxury package adds Dakota leather and aluminum trim and allows buyers to choose additional color and material options. M Sport is for those who prefer a sportier look, and it includes body-colored trim elements and unique wheels.

This arrangement allows for a fairly simple initial trim and pricing structure for the 2020 BMW X1:

  • sDrive28i: $36,195

  • xDrive28i: $38,195

What safety equipment does the X1 offer and what are its crash test ratings?

The 2020 X1 comes standard with a suite of active driving assistance features, including forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.

Adaptive cruise control is a stand-alone option and includes a higher speed automatic emergency braking system. Parking sensors are also a stand-alone option, but the X1 lacks the more comprehensive and advanced suite of driver assist systems offered on other BMW models.

The U.S. government awarded the X1 five stars in its crash test regimen. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet fully evaluated the 2020 model, but it performed well in crashworthiness tests, earning a “Good” rating in every category. It standard forward collision warning system received the second-highest "Advanced" rating.

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