2016 BMW X1: First Look
Smallest “Sports Activity Vehicle” Gets Bigger, More SUV-Like for 2016
Although it’s only been on sale in the U.S. for a few years now, BMW is giving its X1 subcompact crossover a full makeover for the 2016 model year. Gone is the outgoing X1’s low-slung sports-wagon physique, supplanted by “a body design typical of a Sports Activity Vehicle,” according to the company. Indeed, the X1 looks like a shrunken X5, with upright proportions, sculpted bodysides, and taller, wider windows than the outgoing model.
The form factor change was likely motivated by complaints about the current X1’s interior space, which for rear passengers is generously described as “cozy.” Indeed, BMW claims that the X1 will be the most spacious vehicle in its class. Additional head and legroom compared to the 2015 X1 and a low, more horizontal dashboard will endow the new one with less confining accommodations. Higher seats (1 inch up front, 2.5 inches in the rear) will provide drivers and passengers with a more commanding view of the road, further alleviating claustrophobia (likely at the expense of some of the current crossover’s sporty feel). An optional adjustable rear seat improves legroom back there by up to 2.6 inches, but all 2016 X1s get at least 1.5 inches more rear legroom.
A 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat adds versatility to the X1. In one of the promotional photos, a long item slips in between the upright outboard seats through the folded center section, giving the Sports Activity Vehicle flexible space for up to five passengers and their related cargo. BMW also claims that the X1 will be the most cargo-friendly, versatile car in its class, but that’s a hard statement to quantify.
For a vehicle whose company tagline is “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” you’d expect substantial performance levels. Comparatively speaking, the X1 shouldn’t disappoint. Initially only available as the xDrive28i, the subcompact crossover should do quite nicely, with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque coming from its twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0L I-4. Again, BMW is claiming best-in-class standard power. A lightened, efficiency-optimized eight-speed automatic transmission (with BMW’s Steptronic manual shift control) comes standard, as does xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive. However, unlike the previous X1, there are rumors abounding that this one is front-wheel-drive–based. The press information says that the X1 can shuttle "up to 100 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels." That suggests that the power is sent primarily up front.
The whole package has been scrutinized for internal efficiency and weight savings. An aluminum crankcase and cylinder head, forged crankshafts and connecting rods, and lightweight pistons are just a few of the engine’s improvements, while the new transmission’s weight-loss program and wider gear ratio spread improve efficiency further. Powertrain losses for the all-wheel-drive system have been reduced by 30 percent in regular driving situations.
New available features like BMW ConnectedDrive, Driver Assistance Plus, and BMW Head-Up Display plant the X1 firmly in the modern era, with functions like Active Cruise Control making stop-and-go traffic a foot-free affair. City Collision Mitigation will also help prevent or reduce the severity of low-speed accidents thanks to a system of forward-monitoring cameras. The Head-Up Display will provide navigation information and lane recommendations, among other functions, to a panel in the windshield, allowing the driver to keep her or his gaze high and forward, where it belongs.
Overall, the 2016 X1 will likely be an even bigger success for BMW than its predecessor. While it has less edge in its design, it is larger and more practical, while maintaining competitive numbers in terms of performance and efficiency. Pricing and fuel economy info will be announced closer to the car’s fall 2015 launch. There’s also no word on a successor to the high-performance xDrive35i or cheap, two-wheel-drive sDrive28i, but we bet at least the former will get a direct descendant. And we predict BMW will continue to sell as many of the little crossovers as they can make, as the luxury subcompact vehicle segment shows no signs of stagnation or recession. We’ll know more later this year.