Small cars were once BMW’s forte, which means the 2019 BMW X1 ought to be in the brand’s wheelhouse. The X1 is the cheapest way into the BMW family, and some compromises are apparent. The powertrain and utility are strengths, but we’re not convinced by the X1’s value.

Best Value

It’s easy to let price get out of control in BMW’s configurator – even exterior colors other than black or white cost extra – so we’d try to keep things relatively basic. An X1 sDrive28i should be enough for most buyers, and adding all-wheel drive would be a pricey $2,000.

Instead, we'd add the $2,500 Convenience package for some important features.The X1’s seats feel too flat for long trips, so we’d cough up enough for sport seats (and heat them while we’re at it). It’s definitely worth swapping out the run-flat tires for conventional rubber, although BMW will require you to buy a spare for $150.

So equipped, our X1 still sneaks in under $40,000:

  • Model:2019 BMW X1 sDrive28i
  • Engine:2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:228 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Eight-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy:23 City / 32 Hwy
  • Options:Convenience Package ($2,500, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry, XM radio, universal garage opener, ambient lighting, lumbar support, power-folding side mirrors, panoramic moonroof), Heated Front Seats and Steering Wheel ($550), Sport Seats ($400), Space-saver Spare ($150)
  • Base Price:$35,945 (after the $995 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price: $39,545

Performance

BMW X1

The powertrain is a highlight of the X1, which puts BMW’s corporate turbo-four to excellent use. The engine delivers 228 horsepower to either the front or all four wheels, and with the latter, the X1 goes from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. A capable eight-speed automatic transmission uses multiple drive modes to change personalities, but it’s smooth in all of them. The ride is composed, and the X1 turns in with more vigor than you might expect.

All the same, the X1 doesn’t live up to the drivability of BMWs past. Big wheels and run-flat tires hurt the ride, although swapping to normal tires helps slightly. Steering is firm but communicates very little. At an EPA-rated 26 miles per gallon combined (for front-wheel-drive models), the X1 lags rivals by a hair in the efficiency race.

Style

The BMW X1 bucks the aggressive styling cues of many crossovers in favor of a more toned down approach. The effect isn’t particularly inspiring, but it’s also not offensive. Simple shapes and creases send eyes toward the classic kidney grille, while a gently sloping roofline helps hide the X1’s taller ride height. Inside, a central infotainment screen dominates a low dash. The extra height makes ingress and egress easier, and cargo capacity is a competent 27.1 cubic feet. Safety is another strong point, with good crash test ratings and decent active safety technology.

Next to swoopy rivals like the Mercedes GLA-Class, however, the X1 looks a bit pedestrian. While the cabin is spacious enough for four adults, the base seats aren’t very comfortable, especially for longer trips. Low-budget materials poke through more than we’d like on a luxury crossover. And BMW can’t seem to shake the habit of squeezing its customers for every last drop of cash – they’ve even moved Apple CarPlay over to a subscription model.

The Best and Worst Things

RAM 1500

Small, zippy BMWs are always welcome, especially when they’re safe and practical. But the X1 fails to excite in either looks or handling, and affordability only counts for so much with an option list like BMW’s.

Right For? Wrong For?

The X1 is right for buyers looking for an affordable and practical entry point into the BMW range. It may not feel quite as premium as more expensive models, but it’s competent and spacious – and it has the roundel on the front.

The X1 will disappoint value-minded buyers, or those who need full SUV capability. It doesn’t take much for an all-wheel-drive X1 to break $40,000, which puts it perilously close to the territory of the established and likable X3. Driving enthusiasts hoping for more 3-Series magic may also be let down.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 BMW X1 is likely a shrewd business move from the brand as buyers flock to crossovers and affordable luxury. With a strong powertrain and plenty of cargo space, the X1 has what it takes to compete. All the same, the X1 comes with notable compromises. The cheapest BMW may not always be the best bargain.