BMW X1 vs. BMW X3

By

Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - January 16, 2018

Over the years, BMW’s lineup of crossovers and SUVs has grown like crazy. Initially, the automaker had its X3 and X5. Then, the crossover and SUV segments exploded, and BMW has joined in on the fun with the compact X1 and X2 crossovers, which offered a nice balance of SUV roominess and off-road capabilities with sedan-like handling.

So, how does the newer, smaller X1 stack up against its big brother, the recently redesigned X3? Does bigger always mean better? We ran through both models, feature by feature, to find out which is the better buy. Continue reading to find out what we suggest buying.

See a side-by-side comparison of the X1 & X3 »

What the X1 Gets Right

Being the smaller of the siblings, the X1 comes in at a lower starting price of $34,895 ($895 destination fee included), which leaves $8,650 in the buyer’s pocket to add more equipment or simply save for a rainy day. And though you’re saving money, you still get the brand cachet that comes with driving a BMW along with some nice features, like 18-inch wheels, a 6.5-inch infotainment system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera, and leatherette upholstery.

Under its hood, the X1 boasts a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that churns out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. While this is no match for the six-cylinder version of the X3, the smaller X1 comes close to the base X3 in terms of acceleration. The smaller footprint also makes the X1 easier to zip in and out of traffic. This smaller crossover also delivers better standard fuel economy at 23 miles per gallon city, 32 highway, and 26 combined – that bests the X3 by one mpg city, three highway, and one combined.

Despite being the smaller of the two, the X1 has more leg room and headroom than the X1 at 37 and 39.4 inches, respectively – the X3 only offers 36.4 and 39.1 inches, respectively.

What the X3 Gets Right

While the X3 is significantly more expensive than the X1, its extra features make it feel almost worth the additional cash. Buyers get standard all-wheel drive, a roomier cabin, more tech features, and more.

The X3 also has more powertrain options than the X1. Its base four-cylinder delivers 248 hp and a six-second 0-to-60 time, while the more performance-oriented (and much more expensive) M40i model makes use of a six-cylinder engine with 355 hp that hits 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and has chassis upgrades to better carve up those mountain roads. Additionally, the rear-wheel-drive platform that underpins the X3 rides on is set up like a more traditional BMW, delivering a sportier feel than the front-driven X1. Both models offer all-wheel drive as an option.

Though it falls to the X1 in rear leg room, the X3’s rear seats have 0.8 inches of additional shoulder room, and the cargo area’s 28.7-cubic-foot capacity bests the X1 by 1.8 cubes. With the seats folded, this area expands to 62.7, beating the X1 by 4 cubic feet.

On a Budget? Go X1.

These two BMWs are very closely matched, despite their MSRP gap. That said, the X3 has the goods to shoo its little brother away this year. However, if you’re on a tighter budget, the X1 is a great option, as it’s small but still roomy and has most of the BMW touches buyers expect.

Verdict: BMW X3

The X3 reigns supreme once again, beating its little brother by a narrow margin. What really sets the X3 apart is its larger cargo area and its additional powertrain options. Plus, its available all-wheel drive and rear-wheel-drive-based platform delivers a traditional BMW feel the X1’s front-wheel-drive platform can't match.

Take a closer look at the BMW X1 »

Take a closer look at the BMW X3 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Google+ | Website