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Review: Why the 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i Is One of Our Favorite BMWs Right Now

The lowliest BMW crossover is one of the marque’s best efforts these days.

Rory JurneckaWriter, Photographer

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: Not So Lonely at the Bottom

We remember when things used to be so simple. There was a BMW 3 Series, a 5 Series, and a 7 Series, all sedans. If you felt sporty, you chose an M3 or M5, or more simply tuned "is" (eye-ess) versions of said models if you were on a budget. If you didn't need the extra doors, there was a 3 Series coupe, 6 Series and, for a short time, an 8 Series (which has since been relaunched). Today, BMW's lineup covers more than 20 different models, and it ranges from sports convertibles to two-door coupes to four-door "coupes" to sedans to crossovers to full-size SUVS, plus electric cars. It's a dizzying array of vehicles and the BMW X1 is at the very bottom of the enormous heap.

With the second-generation BMW X1 having been on the market for several years now, the marque's product planners thought it was time to revise their entry-level offering. New for the 2020 model year are mostly cosmetic changes, including new front and rear bumpers, a larger front grille, LED taillights, a revised 8.8-inch infotainment display, and new wheels. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine still makes 228 horsepower, and front-wheel drive is still standard on base X1 models. We recently got behind the wheel of the baby BMW crossover, which shares a platform with the not-so Mini Countryman, to see what's what.

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: But What Does It Cost?

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The BMW X1 may be the entry level vehicle in BMW's lineup, but it's no lightweight when it comes to price. Our all-wheel-drive 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i tester arrived at our door with a base price of $38,195 ($2,000 more than the front-drive variant) and an as-tested price of $48,645. That 25-percent markup included extras like the Premium Package ($4,950) that included a panoramic moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, LED headlights, navigation, a $1,200 coat of Storm Bay Metallic paint, $1,450-worth of Mocha Dakota leather upholstery, $600 19-inch Y-spoke wheels, a $1,000 active drive-assist package, and a few other options.

Good thing the 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i feels like a premium product, then. While sadly, there are few BMWs that impress this author any longer, the X1 is one of the lineup's strong points. The packaging is excellent, with plenty of room for not only front passengers, but second-row riders as well. The rear bench seat doesn't even feel like a penalty box, with nicely sculpted seats that provide excellent support.

The cargo bay is spacious to boot and the interior materials feel nice enough for this price point, something that hasn't always been true of less expensive BMWs in the past. In fact, our single biggest gripe inside of the X1 is that having only one USB port up front is simply one too few to keep two devices charged up. Luckily, there are two more in the second row you can use in a pinch, should rear-seat occupants not need them. Most of the X1's instrumentation is still analog, with digital instrument panels reserved for models further up the food chain.  

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: But How Does It Drive?

On the road, the 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i is stable, solid, and damped on the sportier side of things, with less body roll than we've come to expect from this segment and strong, torquey punch from the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine.

New for the 2020 model year is a revised eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission which BMW says shifts smoother and quicker than the previous iteration. That may be true—we don't recall any major gripes with the previous X1's gearbox—but the latest version is smooth up and down the 'box. And in Sport mode, it has decent intuition for which gear the driver wants to be in. That makes up for not having paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, though you can still shift manually by tapping the gear lever if you think you can do better than the computer. We didn't bother.

Speaking of driving modes, the X1 has far fewer modes than pricier BMW products. You'll have to make do with Eco, Comfort, and Normal, and none are configurable like the dizzying options in, say, the X3M Competition. That said, we left the X1 in Normal for 95 percent of our driving and didn't feel like we were missing out on much. The 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i, capable as it is, is not especially the type of car you'd go for a drive in simply for the sheer joy of driving.

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i: What's the Verdict?

Were it our money, we'd seriously consider the 2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i against its primary competitors, mainly the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3. Of the three, the BMW's mini-X styling and tall body make it the most spacious and most like a conventional SUV in terms of profile. It doesn't seem to suffer in the handling or performance arena because of this, but it does make the X1 more livable when filled to capacity than either of its competitors. Just keep an eye on those options. At nearly $50,000, our tester seriously encroaches on more modest vehicles a size or two larger, and if you need the space more than you need the premium look and feel, you just might be better off taking a look below the premium market segment.

2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i Hits:

  • Feels like the premium product it is marketed as
  • Excellent packaging means big space in a small crossover
  • Sporty-ish driving and all-weather capability

2020 BMW X1 xDrive Misses

  • Careful with the options, they add up quickly
2020 BMW X1 xDrive28i Specifications
ON SALE: Now
PRICE: $38,195/$48,645 (base/as tested)
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,450-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD crossover
EPA MILEAGE: 23/31 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 175.5 x 71.7 x 62.9 in
WHEELBASE: 105.1 in
WEIGHT: 3,713 lb
0-60 MPH: 6.3 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph