Can get pricey. As the baby of BMW’s seven-model SUV range, the 2022 X1 represents the most affordable way to park a blue-and-white propeller badge on your driveway. That in itself will attract many potential buyers, but they should avoid the options list, or else they might as well upgrade to a higher model.

Add a couple of packs and the M Sport trim, and you’re looking at paying $45,000 for an X1. The same money will buy you an X3, which offers more of everything. Go mad with the extras, and you could end up spending $50,000, which is approaching X4 territory.

If you politely hand the options brochure back to the dealer and view the X1 on its own merits, there’s plenty to like. This baby Beemer offers good cargo space, with 58.7 cubic feet once the rear seats are dropped down. The kids are all right in the back, but tight door openings and a narrow bench make it a claustrophobic place for adults to sit.

Built to a budget. Back in the Eighties, BMW gave you seats and a steering wheel, and that was about it. The X1 is more generous, but there’s still evidence of penny-pinching throughout the cabin, from hard plastics to cloth seats. It’ll cost you around $6,000 in first-this-then-that options to add adaptive cruise, and by that point, your $36,395 starting price is long gone.

What you do get for your money is a strong infotainment system, including BMW’s still-market-leading iDrive interface, allied to an 8.8-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. A degree of smart crash avoidance technology includes automatic emergency braking, while visibility is decent without giving you boundless confidence in parking lots. Every X1 comes with power front seats and navigation, plus dynamic cruise control and multi-zone climate.

A responsive SUV. It was regarded as heresy when BMW first launched front-drive cars, but nobody will be surprised to learn the X1’s power goes to the front wheels by default. AWD is an option if you want extra grip, and every model is fitted with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox that applies power evenly across the rev range.

Speaking of power, the turbocharged two-liter gas engine offers strong performance, and there’s some BMW DNA in the X1’s grippy handling and responsive steering. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of a firm ride, which only gets worse on wheels bigger than the stock 18-inchers. This is a further reason to avoid the options list, though you’ll undoubtedly find better ride quality in a Volvo XC40 or a Mazda CX-5.

Substance over style? There was scope to make BMW’s smallest car look distinctive and cool, in the same way that the aforementioned XC40 stands out in Volvo showrooms. BMW clearly didn’t bother with that, since the X1 is…well, forgettable. It’s got the trademark twin-kidney grille and Hofmeister kink at the C-pillar, but the overall effect is of an X3 that’s been boil washed.

Again, X1 customers are probably more concerned about badges than aesthetics. And while this might represent a missed opportunity to carve a niche in a largely generic SUV market, there’s nothing out of proportion or offensive beyond those chromed nostrils. The cabin is a sea of gray functionality, but it’s well-assembled and easy to acclimatize to if you’re stepping out of another marque.

Final thoughts. The X1 delivers exactly what you’d expect. It’s a fairly basic but well-engineered compact SUV, marketed at a moderate price with a basic specification that could easily swallow $10,000 in upgrades. It has enough BMW dynamics to please brand loyalists, without offering anything sufficiently captivating to elevate it above its many European rivals.

On the road, the X1 is punchy and refined, with plenty of grip and a silky transmission that dovetails neatly with AWD. If your state has crumbling roads or lots of concrete, be aware that the ride can be unforgiving, especially on optional 19-inch rims. Mind you, if you’re thinking about spending almost $5,000 on the M Sport pack, you could probably afford a bigger and better Beemer altogether.

Check prices for the 2022 BMW X1 »