The BMW X1 crossover may be a subcompact by definition, but it looks and feels much bigger because it’s tall and relatively roomy. It was last redesigned in 2016, with few changes since then. For 2019, it gets a suite of active safety features as standard equipment: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warnings, and automatic high beams. It also gets a free year of Apple CarPlay service.
It uses a quick 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 228 horsepower. It’s mated to a sharp and smart 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and comes with either all-wheel or front-wheel drive.
An X1 with all-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined, or 1 more mpg with front-wheel drive, on premium fuel.
The NHTSA gives the X1 five stars overall for safety. The IIHS rates it as Top Safety Pick+, with its top ΓÇ£GoodΓÇ¥ scores on its crash tests.
With a base price of about $36,000, the X1 comes with synthetic leather upholstery, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, a USB charge port, power-adjustable front seats, 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay for one year. All-wheel drive costs $2,000. A $2,500 package gets keyless ignition, a panoramic moonroof, and satellite radio with a one-year subscription. Heated seats are another $550.
There’s also an M Sport package with adaptive dampers, upgraded infotainment, leather upholstery, wireless smartphone charger, sport seats, navigation, and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen.
The X1 has a pert, compact shape that’s equal parts hatchback and utility vehicle. Its twin-kidney grille is wide and expressive, bordered by cat’s eye headlamps, with sculpting that stretches along the doors to the high taillamps.
The cabin is bright and well-trimmed. The optional wood and leather trim liven it up, as do the optional head-up display, and the 8.8-inch touchscreen that is mounted on the dash. It dominates the instrumentation, which looks smart, with big round analog gauges.
Forward vision is good, and front seats are high, and offer a good driving position. Sport bucket seats are a $400 option.
The back seats are comfortable for two people. There’s good head room, thanks to the height, and generous leg room in the rear for a subcompact. The rear seats are easy to climb in and out of, thanks to wide door openings.
The X1 is considered a five-seater, but the rear seat is only wide enough for two passengers to be comfortable. Reclining and sliding rear seats are an extra-cost option.
The X1 has 27.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, or 58.7 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
The X1’s powertrain is as good as they come in small crossovers, with a responsive and powerful engine, and a paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission with mind-reading programming. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 228 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque; it’s able to drive the X1 from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds with all-wheel drive, a bit slower with front-wheel drive.
The 8-speed automatic is even better, especially with manual control in the shift gate or paddle shifters. The transmission resists shifting down during uphill acceleration, in any mode other than Sport.
The Driving Dynamic Control modes are Sport, Comfort, and Eco Pro. They change the sensitivity of the steering, throttle, and transmission.
BMW’s all-wheel-drive system uses a clutch and hydraulic pump system that can shift 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels in a small fraction of a second. The X1’s ride is composed but firm, as it takes bumps more rigidly than rivals. The standard 18-inch wheels are more comfortable than optional 19-inchers, but the best ride comes after swapping the standard run-flat tires for regular tires with more sidewall flex.
We’re pleasantly surprised by the car’s agility, with speed-sensitive electric power steering that’s quick and weighted on the firm side. We’d call the handling pleasant. You can run the X1 on twisty roads harder than rivals. The good brakes complement such conditions.
The 2019 BMW X1 feels like a compact car ready to grow into its adult clothes. The strong turbo-4 engine and flawless 8-speed automatic transmission are its strongest feature, but it handles well and can seat four comfortably.